Ghost Recon Online OB Review
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG Journalist
The Tom Clancy series is now heading into the world of F2P with their latest entry to the series: Ghost Recon Online (GRO) and it features all the tactical shooting mechanics that the series is known for. Along with three playable classes and modern FPS features such as weapon customization, GRO is set to offer something unique compared to most other F2P shooters out there.
I recently got to try out GRO during its closed beta phase, and created an impressions video detailing the games strengths and weaknesses. Now with the game in Open Beta, it’s time to see if all the kinks have been ironed out.
GRO uses a traditional FPS game set up: WSAD for movement, mouse to aim, shoot, etc. You can also use iron sights by pressing the right mouse button, which switches the game from 3rd person to 1st person, and the transitions between them is quite smooth. The spacebar key here isn’t used for jumping in GRO. Rather, it’s used to make use of the game’s cover system, where players can cling to walls and slide under obstacles. The system works very well, allowing players to move from cover to cover effectively, even though players may find themselves clinging to walls and objects when they don’t want to from time to time. The only time you can jump is when pressing the E key to hop over obstacles.
Guns handle with a fair amount of realism, so you’ll have to fire shots in short bursts to maintain accuracy and make use of cover effectively to reduce recoil. Anyone that has ever played any kind of military FPS game should have no problem handling GRO.
Gameplay and Features
The three character classes available in GRO include Assault (frontline solider), Recon (Sniper) and Specialist (Support). Each class has a role to play in battle, and any well-coordinated team should have no problem covering up for the weaknesses of other teammates. Still, I would have to say that Recons are the most dangerous due to their sniper rifles that can take most enemies down in one to two shots, and their oracle devices that can detect hidden enemies.
GRO stays true to the core gameplay of previous Ghost Recon titles by making combat very tactical and team-focused. Players will have to cooperate with their teammates in order to win, since this isn’t a game for lone wolves in the slightest and run & gun moments are very few and far between. When all the bases are covered and teammates are cooperating, action in Ghost Recon Online can lead to some pretty amazing gunfights.
However, for a game that focuses on team play, it only offers one solid form of player-to-player communication, which is voice chatting. GRO offers built in VOIP for players with microphones to discuss battle tactics and strategies on the fly, and it works very well. However those without a microphone will have no other options other than old fashion way by typing their messages flat out on their keyboards, which generally takes up valuable time that could be better spent on objectives and killing enemies, or just not getting sniped.
The available game modes in GRO include Attack & Defend (Onslaught), Conquest (Point Capture) and nothing else. I’m not quite sure why they couldn’t include something as simple as team deathmatch or capture the flag mode, because GRO really could use some extra modes to give the game some much needed variety. With only two modes and two maps for each mode at the time of my review, most players are bound to grow tired of GRO’s content sooner than later.
Matchmaking is still somewhat of an issue in GRO, as players will still end up getting matched with players that are completely new to the game, or players that have plenty of experience. The amount of player activity is still a bit low, so players may end up getting placed in matches with unbalanced teams.
The biggest issue with GRO is the lack of any kind of co-op mode or story to help things along, which may not be such a big deal in your average F2P FPS shooter, but given that Tom Clancy games are generally focused on some kind of story-driven narrative or scenario, it’s a huge disappointment for GRO not to have one.
Customization also plays an important role in GRO, as options for both primary weapons and armor are fairly deep. Tweaking primary weapons such as assault rifles, sniper rifles, machine guns and shotguns allow players to swap out different stocks, barrels, muzzles, scopes, Etc. While there are only two kinds of armor sets available (one of which increases defense while decreasing movement speed, and one that increases movement speed while decreasing defense), armors can be customized with different inserts for increased health, health regeneration speed, toughness and critical evasion.
The customization for everything else is either weak or non-existent. For instance, you can only customization your soldier’s looks with only a handful of face and skin types, no customization for secondary weapons and only two kinds of combat and squad support devices for each class type.
As far as F2P balance goes: Players must play through matches and level up their character classes separately in order to gain access to new equipment locked at different levels, and then must be purchased using RP (Requisition Points/In-game currency) or Ghost Coins (obtainable with real money). Players can purchase high level equipment early, but can only use that equipment when they’ve reached the required level, so there’s no chance of players buying their way to victory.
Graphics and Presentation
GRO looks very similar to recent Ghost Recon titles with a “not-so-distant future” theme, with solders that are equipped with high-tech gadgets and augmentations. Textures are nicely detailed, and environments are very rich with several different locations such as subways, construction buildings, malls, and abandoned city streets. The sound work on the weaponry is solid, with gunfire from each weapon sounding distinct and close to their real world counterparts.
GRO is a game that emphasizes teamplay, and many players in the community encourage this as much as possible. Many GRO players are very supportive when it comes to helping out teammates, and even most non-microphone players do their best to communicate to others on the battlefield. One issue that runs rampart in the GRO community is dealing with dropouts and rage-quitters. When one player on a team ends up quitting in the middle of a match, they’re putting that team at a huge disadvantage. One leaving player is all it takes to make the match un-fair and unbalanced, and this tends to happen fairly often. Also to mention: there isn’t any kind of auto-balance to sort things out, so expect matches that end with steamrolling from time to time.
As far as community features go, there are chat lobbies and a friend list function, but no clan support. They all work as intended, but it’s quite a shame to see a modern online game come equipped with such bare minimal social features.
While GRO offers unique gameplay that makes it stand out from the crowd, the lack of content and options for core gameplay really bring the enjoyment and replay value down a notch. Along with no story/scenario driven co-op, it’s really hard to even call GRO a Tom Clancy title, but it’s worth a try if players are willing to look past the flaws.
Controls – 3
Customization – 3
Graphics and Presentation – 4
Community – 2
Overall – 3