Over many entries in the Ghost Recon series of games, the Ubisoft development teams have always stuck to the "Tom Clancy values" that ensure a plausible storyline punctuated by sequences of intense action. With Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, the plot has been moved to a near-future Mexico City, where the Ghost squad is once again intent on preventing a geopolitical firestorm, while ensuring they make it home alive and in one piece. We spoke with Ubisoft senior coordinator Adrian JF Lacey about GRAW's complex plot, the real-world situations that influenced it, and how the game fits into the fictional Ghost Recon universe.
GameSpot: How did the story of GRAW come about?
Adrian JF Lacey: In terms of level design and visual feeling, we wanted to create a game with a harsh, hot urban environment. But we wanted something different and diverse in terms of landscapes, which would directly affect the gameplay. Mexico City offered the scenery to exploit the visual power of next-generation hardware, as well as exposing the player to dilemmas of both vertical and horizontal gameplay.
The Tom Clancy games universe is rich with possibilities because we're not limited to narratives that confine the concept (for instance, WWII and Vietnam). With the Ghost Recon games, we can always look to the near future in search of potential hotspots for geopolitical conflict and ask... What if?
Today in Europe, NATO and the EC have brought countries together in pursuit of common goals, both for maintaining security and increasing trade. We've already seen the same trend in North America. NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was ratified in '93, but what if a joint security agreement were signed between Mexico, Canada, and the US? Certainly it would be met with opposition, but what if it led to a coup in Mexico, one staged to take place while the controversial agreement is being signed in Mexico City? And finally, what if the US President's ever-present suitcase ("the football"), which grants him access to his country's nuclear launch, disappears as well?
Such a scenario is really an adventure to visualize. We wanted to bring a new sense of focus down to a really tight path, as the player will be thrown into a critical situation and have only days to stop an international disaster.
With multiplayer, we didn't want the player to just play a rehashed SP campaign, with the only difference being live players instead of artificial intelligence. It is in a new location, with new environments and a continuing storyline. Also, the co-op campaign will be set up in four chapters, with new chapters being available as downloadable content, so you can have an ongoing, growing experience with your friends.
The missions are balanced based on the number of players, so you can have as much fun with two players as with four, and the objectives are built around rewarding players who work together and carefully plan their approaches, covering each other and communicating, like a real Special Forces team would.
We are really focused on giving the player the diversity necessary for online MP scenarios. The player first feels the intensity of urban warfare in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world, and then goes on to encounter new challenges within desert, forest, and many other diverse environments, constantly giving players choice and the need to make intelligent tactical decisions.
GS: How does it tie in to the previous games?
AL: Ghost Recon has always remained true to the "Clancy values," and GRAW is no exception. We are an authentic tactical military shooter and pride ourselves on having a keen attention to detail. The "real" Ghosts are sent on many different missions, and our elite team is no different. We are tied in to previous games simply by time scale, and follow Summit Strike, which took place in 2012.
In GR2 we saw the first "Integrated Warfighter System" in lone wolf, and we decided to expand this system in terms of the overall gameplay experience in 2013. This means the player and his elite team have now been fully equipped with the most advanced military technology on the battlefield.
GS: How does it tie in to the Ghost Recon fiction?
AL: As mentioned above, we stay very true to the "Clancy values." From Ghost Recon 1 for the PC back in 2000-01, we have always ensured that there is no gratuitous violence. The enemy is always military personnel and civilian kills will result in a game-over. The game is based on tactics and strategic gameplay, not just running around blowing the heads off things.
We try to depict an authentic version of battle and give the players the same challenges that a real soldier would experience while maintaining a high level of fun and intuitive gameplay; so if you run out into the open, shooting randomly, your enemy will take you out.
GS: How much input does Tom Clancy have these days?
AL: We have been working on Clancy games for many years now, and we always stay true to the "Clancy values" in order to keep the feel and essence of the books and films. Mr. Clancy is not directly involved in the production of our games. The games are original creations of Ubisoft that use the name as a license to convey a certain environment and values. Obviously, we pass everything through him for approval and to make sure that we get things right.