Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Multiplayer Hands-On - The Co-Op and Domination Modes
After five years, Ghost Recon returns to the PC next month, and we had a chance to check out the intense new multiplayer modes.
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Fans of Ghost Recon on the PC haven't had a lot to cheer for the past few years, but that's about to change. Ubisoft is finally delivering a new Ghost Recon game to the PC next month in the form of Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter, and as we noted in our recent single-player preview, don't mistake the PC version for being a port of the Xbox 360 game. The PC version has larger and different levels than those featured on the Xbox 360, as well as a different graphics engine and style of gameplay. It will have a vastly different multiplayer suite, as well. Advanced Warfighter for the PC will ship with two multiplayer modes. There's a cooperative gameplay mode that lets you play the entire single-player campaign with up to four players, as well as a new domination mode, which feels like a nice twist on the conquest mode found in Battlefield 2.
Co-op mode is a big deal, according to Bo Andersson, CEO of Grin, the Swedish development studio that handled work on the PC version. Co-op is by far the most popular mode for hardcore Ghost Recon fans, and judging from what we got to play and see, the co-op in Advanced Warfighter is going to elevate the challenge considerably. Playing co-op will be just like playing the single-player game, though you can have humans controlling each member of a four-man squad, rather than relying on the artificial intelligence to back you up. And rather than run and gun, co-op is for the realistic tactical shooter fans out there who like to take things nice and slow.
In a co-op game, one player gets to play the Scott Mitchell-role of team leader. The team leader can issue orders to the rest of the squad by either using the on-the-fly controls or by pulling down the real-time satellite map of the area. The twist is that if the team leader is killed, then it's instant mission failure. That's right, everyone has to start over, which will mean that you'll want to keep the team leader safe. If you're killed and you're not the team leader, then you're dead and out, unless you had the computer fill in for any of the slots in your squad. If there are still computer-controlled squad members available, then you can take command of those squad members directly. If co-op sounds brutally difficult, that's because it will be, especially since there are no save points in a level, which means that if you encounter mission failure, you have to restart each mission from the beginning.
The campaign levels--used for both single-player and co-op play--are approximately two to three times larger than those used for the Xbox 360 version, which means that there is more room to maneuver on the map. Now you can use side streets and alleyways to flank an enemy from multiple directions. In fact, one tactic that we used during our play session was to send one man wide to hit the enemy from the side, while the others drew the enemy's attention. Our experience with co-op indicates that this will be a slow, intense mode, as it's all about cautiously moving up and scouting the next corner or intersection, as well as using teamwork to cover one another when under fire. Trying to coordinate this could be difficult without practice. It'll definitely help to be part of a good team that knows how to work together. It'll also help if you can talk to one another. Unfortunately, the PC version won't support voice over IP natively, so you'll need a third-party application to provide real-time voice chat between team members.
While co-op mode will appeal to hardcore tactical shooter fans, the domination mode is geared toward more fast-paced, action-oriented players. Domination is a team-versus-team mode, where one team plays as the Americans and the other team plays as the Mexican army. The goal is to capture the other team's base or to be in possession of a majority of the map, which is divided into zones, when time runs out. Unlike the conquest mode in Battlefield 2 where all you have to do is seize certain objective points, to seize a zone in Advanced Warfighter's domination mode, all you need to do is have team members in that zone. The more team members you have in a zone, the faster it turns over to your side. And you want to capture zones because capturing zones, as well as killing enemies, generates tactical points. These points are used for everything from being able to respawn on a squad leader to being able to purchase new weapons and ammo.
In addition to being a team-based game, domination is also squad-oriented. You need to join a squad to capture zones. (Each team can have up to 16 members, and squads can contain up to five members each.) If you're a member of a squad and you're killed, you can spawn on your squad leader if you have enough tactical points, though squad leaders themselves can only spawn at the main base, which means that they have to haul themselves back to the front lines after they die. Finally, the zones are connected by supply routes, and that means that you'll need to make sure that you can maintain a clear line of supply back to your base. If you're cut off, then you'll discover the cost of spawning on your squad leader to multiply by as much as five times. It sounds complex, but from what we've seen of it, domination mode looks like it'll be an intense, fast-paced, and brutal online action mode for those of you who like modern-day infantry combat. There will be five domination maps that will ship with the game, and they feature urban environments. Some have buildings with multiple levels, which means that you have to worry about not only street-to-street combat, but also house-to-house combat in some instances.
While the PC version will ship with two modes, Grin has long-term plans to add new multiplayer content later on. These include introducing new gameplay modes such as deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as possibly porting existing Xbox 360 multiplayer modes, such as siege. The game itself looks great, and the intricate physics modeling seen in the single-player version is still active in the multiplayer version. In fact, it's so detailed that if you have the upcoming Aegia physics card, you'll see sparks bouncing off objects in the environment. Even if you don't have a physics card, though, there are all sorts of other interactions you'll encounter in multiplayer. For instance, aluminum cans litter the street, and stepping on them not only kicks them around, but also creates a loud sound, which may betray your presence to the enemy. We encountered a moment just like that when we attempted to sneak up on someone. It's little things such as this that can spell the difference between victory and defeat, and, put together, it's a big reason why Advanced Warfighter's multiplayer is so interesting.