Ghost Recon Phantoms stealthily appeared on Steam recently. Phantoms was known during it’s beta as Ghost Recon Online but was renamed upon release. Honestly I never heard anything about Ghost Recon Online either but since it’s free to play I decided to give it a shot.
After struggling to remember my Uplay login details I was introduced to a quick start guide followed by several minutes of match making. Finally I was injected into a steamy hot match in progress. Surprise! My team was losing hard. That brutal match ended quickly and after a few more minutes of match making I got to play a full round. This time the game matched me with a new set of players and it seemed much more even. I played for a few hours and here’s what I thought.
First lets talk about mechanics. There are three classes to choose from: Assault, Recon, and Support. Assault is the heavily armored, slow, assault rifle toting class. Recon is fast moving with light armor. They mostly stick to sniper rifles and SMGs. Finally the specialist class is geared towards supporting the team with shotguns, light machine guns, and devices. For the few hours I played I decided to stick with assault so I could run in, Leeroy Jenkins style.
Phantoms uses a very close third person over the shoulder camera that zooms out a bit as you sprint. It seemed a little goofy at first but I quickly got used to it. There’s also fancy lines pointing to your teammates which made the screen seem way too busy at first, but the longer I played the more I liked this feature.
The cover system works well and you can slide into cover when sprinting which always makes me happy. You can climb over obstacles or vault over them by double tapping the climb key which makes for really fluid movement. The few guns I was able to try out were a pleasure to use. Even the starter pistol felt good. You can melee opponents but this isn’t your Titanfall magical boots melee. It would probably take 7 or 8 melee hits to finish off a player at full health.
After being killed there is no kill cam, but you get a nice damage report which shows who hit you, what gun they used, where they hit you, and how much damage each hit did. You can also view the same report for how much damage you dished out. The fact that the game records this info and makes it readily available is a really nice touch.
Unfortunately the longer I played the more the microtransaction beast reared it’s ugly head. After being killed a few times with grenades, I realized those were in the game. I didn’t have any to equip on my character screen and I found out that you have to buy grenades. You get those in packs of 10 and they do indeed cost Ghost Recon Fun Bucks. You also use in game currency for things like armor, weapons, weapon upgrades, gadgets, and special ammo. The game does try to limit the extent of pay to win by locking guns based on your overall level. So you can buy a better gun for your level range but not the best gun in the game.
My play through focused on the Conquest and Holdout game modes. In Conquest there are five linear capture points. As a team captures one point the spawn points move and the team is then able to attack the next point in line. Holdout is basically king of the hill and both teams are struggling for control of a single point. The final game mode is called Onslaught where both teams get the chance to attack and defend three objective points similar to Battlefield’s Rush game type. There are no deathmatch style modes or anything that doesn’t involve capturing points.
The game currently features seven maps. At the beginning of each round players can vote between two different maps or a random one. After several hours of playing I really only saw two of these maps. Perhaps it was limited by the game mode I was playing on.
Overall I think there is a pretty decent shooter here. Sadly it seems to be lacking a bit as far as maps and game modes. There’s a very obvious focus on in game purchases so maybe a good deal of the developers focus goes into that. I’m hesitant to recommend any game with microtransactions that are not purely cosmetic. However if you’re on a tight budget and you don’t mind dealing with some of the pay to win aspects of the game it’s certainly worth checking out.