PC Gamer

Ghost Recon Phantoms, the free-to-play online shooter that debuted in 2012 as Ghost Recon Online, is closing for good on December 1. The decision was made following a slow but steady decline in users over the past couple of years that left its average concurrent player count for the last 30 days at just a little over 800.

After more than four years of battles, fights, deaths and a lot of fun, we have made the difficult decision to close Ghost Recon Phantoms. It s a tough day for our studio and indeed the team, some of whom have been working on this project since its inception some 7 years ago, Ubisoft wrote in the closure announcement.

GR Phantoms has been a tremendous undertaking and we really relished the opportunity to bring to you a different take on the GR franchise. We are proud of what we have achieved but of course, a game like this would be nothing without its community. We d like to sincerely thank you for your support, enthusiasm, patience and above all, your loyalty. For the hours played, the fun in your company, the never ending deaths at Balaklava Sub-Pen, the fights to control Tomsk-9, the sounds of shotguns and the fear of the P90 SD WAR, we are grateful.

The message doesn't mention why the plug is being pulled, but Ubisoft said in the shutdown FAQ that Ghost Recon Phantoms was not as successful as we had hoped for.

A game always has different factors that influence its success, internally as well as externally. We can't pinpoint one or more reasons that easily, it says. In the end the game reached the last cycle of its development. As for a possible follow-up, Ubisoft said that Phantoms has been developed as far as we could take it, and a sequel or successor of any sort is unlikely to happen.

Ghost Recon Phantoms, and the in-game shop, will remain online until December 1, but Ghost Coins will no longer be available for purchase. There will also be no refunds offered on leftover virtual currency, or conversion of that currency to a different game, so if you've got it, you might as well spend it.

PC Gamer

Electronic Arts has given up on its attempt to trademark the word ghost, which caused something of an uproar when it came to light in January.

EA wanted to trademark the word for its Ghost Games studio, the maker of the new Need for Speed game, while Ubisoft, publisher of the Ghost Recon games, not so spookily opposed the move. But in a filing dated February 24, EA formally withdrew the application, without prejudice, with Opposer's [Ubisoft's] consent.  

As NeoGAF points out, the withdrawal filing only applies to serial number 86568854, for Computer game software; Downloadable computer game software via a global computer network and wireless devices; Video game software. A second application, under serial number 86568852, for Entertainment services, namely, providing an on-line computer game; Provision of information relating to electronic computer games provided via the Internet, remains in place but will presumably be withdrawn soon as well.

No specific reasons for the withdrawal of the application were given, but an EA rep indicated that the matter has been concluded to everyone's satisfaction. "We now have an agreement with Ubisoft to carry on with our respective trademarks," he said. "Nothing will change with respect to our use of the Ghost Games studio name."

PC Gamer

Ubisoft and Electronic Arts appear to be caught up in a low-level but interesting beef over a trademark filing for the word ghost. Back in March 2015, EA applied to trademark the term for its Ghost Games studio, currently working on Need for Speed, relating to entertainment services, namely, providing an on-line computer game [and] provision of information relating to electronic computer games provided via the Internet." Ubisoft, naturally, is against the idea.

Ubisoft first published opposition to the trademark application in August 2015, but the legal action was only filed on January 29. In it, Ubi's lawyers point out that the publisher has been using the Ghost Recon mark since November 13, 2001, long before Applicant [EA] filed the Applications on March 18, 2015 and long before Applicant's November 19, 2013 claimed date of first use. Furthermore, the goods and services covered by the trademark—the providing an on-line computer game and so forth—are identical and highly related to the goods and services offered by Opposers [Ubisoft] in connection with the Ghost Recon marks.

Applicant's Mark so resembles Opposer's Ghost Recon marks alleged herein as to be likely, when used in connection with the goods and services identified in the Applications, to cause confusion, to cause mistake, or to deceive, the opposition filing states. Consumers are likely to believe, mistakenly, that the goods and services Applicant offers under Applicant's Mark are provided, sponsored, endorsed, or approved by Opposers, or are in some way affiliated, connected, or associated with Opposers, all to the detriment of Opposers.

This is actually the second bit of trademark trouble EA has run into recently; in January is came to light that it had abandoned a trademark filing for the upcoming puzzle platformer Unravel, because of a conflict with a children's tabletop game called Beary's Unravel Games. Despite not being granted that trademark, EA said Unravel's title will not change, and I suspect that Ghost Games will remain so named regardless of how this all works out. EA has until March 9 to file its answer to the opposition.

Thanks, NeoGAF.

PC Gamer
ghost recon khyber strike dlc launch

The Khyber Strike DLC for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has now launched, bringing with it several new maps, a new game mode, new achievements, a 10 point raise to the level-cap and a new trailer to show these very things off.

The new maps are: Switchback, a close-quarters deathtrap of twisting alleys; Palace, a palace; and Transit, a Moscow metro station with hazardously mobile trains. Meanwhile there's an additional sniper-friendly map for the Guerrilla game mode, called Village, plus Takeover, a game mode in which your regular kills are multiplied by territorial possession.

I was quite keen on Future Soldier. It's not really a return to the hardcore Tom Clancy tactics of yore, back when the games were about crawling on your belly through a half-mile of grass texture before finding a bullet in your skull. But despite the turret sections and slow-motion explosions that seem to have infested the series, Future Soldier also introduces a neat Full Spectrum Warrior-style sightline puzzle, as you orchestrate synchronised takedowns with other members of your squad. And the multiplayer isn't too shabby either.

PC Gamer
Ghost Recon Future Solider review

This review originally appeared in issue 243 of PC Gamer UK

It may be the future, but the Kevlar-padded embrace of the Clancyverse feels much the same as ever, with its geopolitical gibberspeak of Zambian warlords, Bolivian gunrunners, PMCs, coup d’etats and Russian rogue spears.

In other ways, too, Ghost Recon seems to have gone forward to come back: recent console outings have seen the military shooter series regress to a bro-squad arcade gunblam rollercoaster, all slow-mo exploding helicopters, tactical nukes and fist-bumps.

With this latest instalment, however, there are substantial concessions to its more subtle, tactically-minded origins. Sure, it resorts to gruesome-looking cinematics, tired turret sections and bombastic slaughter, but when it’s at its best, Future Soldier discards the pop-up scripted corridors that have recently maligned the series and becomes a sandbox of sightlines and sentries, a battlefield puzzler solved with well-timed bullets.

You are one of four shadowy operatives dispatched on a global killing spree, tracking international ne’erdowells across multiple continents and, very often, blowing them to bits. Infiltration usually precedes the pyrotechnics, however, so you’ll need to eliminate or circumvent threats without raising the alarm. Lucky you’re invisible, eh? In this near-future setting, optical camouflage now shrouds the US army’s elite forces. Crouch and your camo activates, turning you into a translucent smear – subtle enough that you can scamper past the unwary, but not so perfect that you won’t be rumbled if you dawdle in front of them.

Although you control just one Ghost, you can mark up to four targets at a time. Not only does this track their positions on your HUD, but your fellow operatives reposition to ensure they have a bead. When a buddy’s crosshair is locked on someone’s skull, their sightline is marked for you too, indicating which enemies are taken. Then either at your command, or in synch with your first shot, the team drops their targets. It’s thrillingly empowering, all the more so using the aerial drone, which lets you select enemies from on high. In some missions, I elected to stay plugged into the drone the whole way, ordering the other Ghosts to whittle down the foe three silent takedowns at a time.

Such missions become a puzzle, unpicked by establishing who can see who, and by killing the lonely and unobserved first. There’s a delightful action element, too: when a four-man sync shot goes down, time slows, enabling you to plug a few more before the alarm goes up. Your teammates are quick to call and describe threats, and do so with some detail – describing enemies as beside shipping containers or on walkways.

That said, it’s never clear if they’re calling threats you’ve already marked, nor is “on the left” a useful designation when you have no idea of your squadmate’s orientation. On a couple of occasions they got it dead wrong, too: urgently insisting on an enemy presence when there was none, and, another time, happily declaring the all-clear while I remained under heavy fire.

Fortunately, the campaign is almost entirely enabled for four-player co-op, so you can replace your CG companions with fleshier friends, should the game’s many connection issues permit. There’s no guarantee your team will become more effective, however. If anything, coordinating the flighty attention spans of game journalists proved a lot harder than ordering AI around, but when a plan comes together it makes for unsurpassed triumph.

This patient elimination of threats creates an entrancing methodical vibe – oddly more reminiscent of the earlier Splinter Cells than Ghost Recon. In fact, a late level in which you infiltrate a prison without the assistance of your team feels almost like an off-cut from one Sam Fisher’s adventures, albeit lacking his lethal acrobatics. It’s probably my favourite mission in the game, too, because the stakes are higher and stealth your only redoubt. Another high-point sees you shadow a local warlord as he saunters through a refugee camp. Though much more reliant on scripting than most missions, the tension between stealth and pursuit is deftly staged. Scurrying after your quarry, you suddenly spot sentries who must be toppled from their lookouts, and improvise rapidly, working out how to silence a guard post moments after the warlord wanders through.

Unfortunately, being spotted can often be blamed on the game’s many acts of self-sabotage that undermine the consistency of its stealth system: enemies visibly pop into existence when a script triggers reinforcements; bodies (which you are unable to drag away) sometimes vanish into thin air and sometimes don’t. Since a spotted body triggers alarm, it seems odd that something so critical is handled so carelessly.

While many missions fail you instantly for indiscretion, most eventually let you ‘go loud’, and barrel your way to a sky-high body count. Though the variation of pace is mostly welcome and its climactic action spectacles offer well-intentioned catharsis, there’s something a tad disappointing in the way the stealth game shatters, and reforms as an altogether more anodyne stop-and-pop shooter. There are boss battles in which you fend off the attentions of enemy choppers or tanks, or simply hold out for rescue against oncoming waves. Turret sections see you climb aboard a vehicle and rattle off a gazillion rounds into a mindless horde of foreigners. Then there are the ‘diamond formation’ set-pieces, where the game temporarily transforms into a rail-shooter. All adequate, but overly-familiar.

Once battle starts, your optical camouflage peels away, as though suddenly embarrassed. Everyone now knows where you are, and they aren’t the convenient amnesiacs of other stealth games: when the fight is on, they don’t let up. But despite their good memories, these AI goons still aren’t high-achievers in the videogame badguy league tables. They flank and pressure you, but they often skip gaily into your gunfire too, or take up useless cover-positions where their comrades have been freshly felled.

All the same, gunplay offers an ample selection of tools and tricks. Different visor modes and gunsight attachments enable low-light vision, heartbeat sensors and a short-range X-ray. Your normal HUD also erratically picks out enemies and paints them with a distracting coloured overlay – orange at first, then red when alerted. Since this makes them visible through walls, it can be unclear if you actually have a shot on them or not. I still don’t understand quite why it highlights some enemies and not others, nor why this highlighting flickers on and off. When it does, the soldier’s model disappears entirely for a moment, before popping back.

It contributes to a pervading low level crumminess. On more than one occasion I found my deadeye shot catching on some invisible barrier, or a hapless teammate stuck in a perpetual run-cycle. It’s not always a pretty game either. Though the proprietary YETI engine stumps up slick-looking manmade structures, and lights them well, its attempts at natural landscapes are grim. Helicopter fly-bys of deserts and tundra are dismal low-poly affairs with bleary textures. Even as one detail impresses – a sandstorm sweeping through an aircraft’s crashsite – another strikes you as dementedly terrible, such as the peculiarly wonky animation given to birds. Then there are the monstrous character models, whose faces look like they’ve been inexpertly felttipped onto sack-cloth. Thank God they mostly keep their helmets on.

But these potato-faced creatures seem like a real dish next to the netcode, which at the time of writing can’t hold together a single game for more than a few minutes. It’s a shame, because the tantalising glimpses of multiplayer I’ve been offered showed multiple modes and tactical nuance. Optical camouflage makes it easy for snipers to pick off indiscrete assaults, so positioning and coordination becomes all the more key, while a technology arms-race constantly shifts the power around the battlefield. Take the chance to stun an opponent and hack their comms, and you suddenly have the positions of all their teammates – handy for predicting a massed attack and providing an XP boost for every kill assisted by this information.

Of course, all this effort is for nought if you can’t actually play the game, and elsewhere, Future Soldier’s occasional spasms, glitches and crudities erode its promise of precise, ruthless tactics. Its action spectacles, meanwhile, don’t match the rare exhilaration of its stealth sequences, nor the visual flare of its corridor-shooter competitors.

Nonetheless, there are few other recent games that keep step when it hits its stride: four players working together to cleanly erase an enemy force in neatly orchestrated silence. In a genre at risk of becoming homogenous, Future Soldier’s exceptional stealth is worth going loud about.
PC Gamer
Ghost Recon Future soldier trailer thumb

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is now Ghost Recon: Present Soldier. Except in the UK, where's he's Ghost Recon: Coming Out Tomorrow, Honestly Guv Soldier. Yes the high tech manshooter has finally arrived on PC, after the customary last minute Ubisoft delay. He's brought along his good friend: Private Day One Patch.

The PC version of Ubisoft's near future shooter seems to be encountering some issues, with users on the Steam Forums complaining of buggy WASD controls. Hopefully this patch will fix those issues.

Here are the patch notes, from Blues News

Improved stability in online multiplayer matches.
Improved voice chat quality for PCs running Windows Vista.
Improved navigation through game’s menus.
Introduced 6-man party system in the multiplayer game mode.
Balanced several weapons (assault rifles, SMSGs, handguns, shotguns).
Balanced equipment (grenades, flash bang, EMP, stun guns, number of drones in match).
Adjusted aim sensitivity and quick scope.
Fixed map exploits.
Adjusted melee.
Adjusted XP values.
Several technical / network improvements.

Have you been playing Ghost Recon? Have you encountered any technical issues? Also: which is better, a Future Soldier or an Advanced Warfighter?

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