John Romero Takes on Ghost Recon

The former id Software designer joins Wizardry designer Brenda Brathwaite to talk about the Facebook incarnation of Ubisoft's popular shooter series.

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Ghost Recon Commander is an isometric turn-based shooter from Loot Drop, the new studio from industry veterans John Romero (yes, that John Romero) and Brenda Garno Brathwaite. What makes Commander different from other titles in the franchise is that it lives on Facebook and is meant to be played as a companion to Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Ghost Recon Online.

What sort of companionship is this, exactly? Think of a quick game you play on your lunch hour, or whenever you're away from your console and PC. In addition to the possibility of mustard on your shirt, that lunch hour will also earn you characters, skins, and weapons for other hardcore Ghost Recon titles.

When we got our hands on Commander we were able to play two of 10 levels, each being broken down into three objectives. You start out at your base camp, which John Romero describes as "WOW armor," where structures act to buff your character before missions. From base camp you can recruit your friends or up to three AI squadmates and go out on missions. The game gives an as-yet-unspecified reward to high-level players for being recruited by low-level players and vice versa in order to help facilitate a sense of community.

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Once we dropped into the first mission, taking place at a South American market run by drug lords, we immediately took notice of the game's hybrid turn-based/real-time design. This mechanic works by keeping the overarching world constantly active, including bad guys moving around the map, but when combat is initiated, the enemy will only move and respond while you are performing actions. Loot Drop built this mechanic to give you time to strategize and also allow you to leave mid-game (presumably because your boss just walked by) without your character ending up a pile of dead pixels.

Besides recruiting and going on missions with your friends, other social aspects come into play in the form of a grenade gifting. As you down enemies, occasional messages appear letting you send the pint-sized explosives to your buddies.

The currency system of Commander takes the form of both skulls and dollars. Dollars are the currency earned in-game that let you purchase gear, health, and base camp items. Skulls are real-world cash that give players with less time to dedicate to headshots a method for catching up. Cross-game unlocks are earned only through the dollar system, which equates to during gameplay.

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Ghost Recon Commander has an ambitious target by trying to sell itself to the hardcore gamer market. The companion gaming aspects should at least entice players to give it a shot in order to unlock goodies for their characters in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Ghost Recon Online. Commander is headed for Facebook in Q2 2012, so keep an eye out if you're interested.

Aaron Sampson on Google+

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