Brian Upton, chief game designer on Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, gave us a development update on this anticipated squad-based shooter at Ubi Soft's Gamers Week. Upton, who's been involved in every iteration of Red Storm's Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear series of games, made it clear that Ghost Recon isn't a sequel to Rogue Spear, but a parallel product to those two venerable series. The main difference between this game and Red Storm's earlier series, of course, is that Ghost Recon focuses on military action instead of counterterrorism. The game doesn't force you to perform quasi-police duties like hostage rescue. "Ghost Recon is about chaos and blowing stuff up," Upton explained. "But it still shares a lot of the same mechanics of Rainbow Six like the level of realism and squad tactics."
The game is set in 2008, when ultra-nationalism is rising to prominence in Russia. Hot spots are emerging all along that country's borders, and eventually, war breaks out in areas like Lithuania, Latvia, and Georgia. These countries call upon the UN to protect their independence, and players assume the role of a commander of one of the squads sent out to help. In addition to the war aspect, there are two major differences between Ghost Recon and the Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear series. The first is the sheer size of each map. Whereas the largest level in Rogue Spear was 150 meters by 150 meters, an average level in Ghost Recon is 400 meters by 400 meters in size. These larger levels allow for more varied terrain like mountaintops, fortified caves, and the urban centers of Eastern European cities. The second difference is the role-playing mechanic that's been infused into Ghost Recon. Each character in the player's squad has four performance attributes--endurance, leadership, stealth, and weapon skills--that he or she can distribute combat points to with the successful completion of each mission. Additionally, players will be able to gain new characters at the end of some levels who excel in a field of expertise better than any of their squadmates. For instance, when players complete the Lithuania level, they'll gain a Lithuanian sniper who uses scavenged Russian weapons and gear that would have otherwise been impossible to find or use.
Ghost Recon also feels a lot quicker than Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear. This is largely attributed to the fact that there's no preplanning phase in the game. All the orders that players assign to their squad mates are given out in real time through the use of a maplike interface. Here, players just click on an iconic representation of their squad members and then click on where they'd like them to advance to. Ghost Recon will support up to 36 players over an Internet or LAN connection, and players will be able to compete in team vs. team or cooperative competitions.
Upton said that the game will enter its beta phase sometime next week, and that it should be on store shelves in December. An Xbox version of the game will be released in the early months of 2002. For more details on Ghost Recon, be sure to read our detailed preview of the game .