I just melted a man from ten metres, Clancy-style. No flames, just a dull sizzle from my level 2 portable microwave transmitter. It looks like a backpack that extends over my shoulder, periscope-style. But surprisingly my Heat ability is almost realistic: “We use the YouTube rule within the dev team – if you can go to YouTube and find a working prototype, it can go in the game,” explains Theo Sanders, Ghost Recon Online's creative director. Invisibility, EMPs, force fields – this is the new generation of warfare. You're a future soldier getting drip-fed tomorrow's tech as you duke it out for control points in competitive third-person matches.
GRO is the evolution of free-to-play. Players can use real world cash to accelerate unlocks, but will always be restricted by their experience level, which can only be gained by playing online. Theo explains his influences: “I feel respected by the developer when I play League of Legends. I don't feel like there's a thousand tricks trying to con me out of my money.”
Unlock a hat or armoured vest in Recon and it's yours to keep, the same as LOL's legends. Over time, you'll customise your sight, stock, magazine, barrel and more. And buying things is fun. Especially if those things are F2000 rifle scopes and red berets. Eventually you'll end up kitting out your armour with subtle stat boosts – just like League of Legend's runes.
GRO has taken some hints from MMOs: dauntingly thorough levels of customisation might have been too much to take if it wasn't for the numbers popping off your enemies as they suck up bullets. It's a mechanic that aids customisation without breaking the visceral combat.
My victim's cremated. I switch to my rifle, slap into cover by pressing [space] and peek round a corner. It feels just right, like an evolution of Rainbow Six: Vegas's system – intuitive, satisfying and perfectly suited to GRO's third-person tactical skirmishes.
And 'tactical' is the key word. GRO will feature six maps, all asymmetrical. These rounds aren't dominated by head-tracking snipers, even though they get to go invisible. Cover is vital, but breaking your opponents' position equally so.
Another spawn. A Specialist stands ten metres to my right – he complements my Assault build perfectly and and has my flank covered. I like the way he used his Aegis system to bounce away bullets with a red forcefield earlier in the match. His passive ability is feeding me ammo as I buff his armour stat. We're accidentally best mates.
My Blitz ability strengthens our bond. I take a shield from my back and sprint into two opponents, sending them flying, then my Specialist cleans up with a few wellplaced shots. I feel like a badass. The Specialist feels like a badass. And we both get experience to spend after the match. It's a massive win-win.