Today's FPS games rarely last long on my hard drive, stuffed as it is with maps, dice and musty tomes of history retold. It's more than a decade since my deathmatch days , which makes me feel indescribably ancient. It's only fitting that it takes a Kickstarter project to rekindle my interest, as Kickstarter so often seems like fertile ground for old roots to sprout new shoots. Ground Branch is a multiplayer tactical shooter with a team of both industry and military veterans working on it, including folks from the original Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon teams at Red Storm, and special ops chaps from [REDACTED]. Authenticity is the key word, with full body modelling from a first-person perspective, realistic reloading and gear, and no unlocks or kill streaks. It's already looking good as you can see for yourself below.
There's a longer video on the project website and watching that and then reading through the feature list just a little further down the page was like hearing and seeing my own thoughts beamed back at me, which is why I'm now wearing a tinfoil stovepipe hat and peering nervously out of the window.
I don't know if I've written about this before but I love being able to look down and see a pair of legs going about their business as I drift around a virtual space. Even in the best of games I sometimes have to shrug off the sensation of being a floating camera, half expecting to see a tripod where legs should be, half disappointed that there's absolutely nothing instead. Ground Branch wants to give me all the limbs a man should have and it also wants to let me lean, which is another of my favourite things to do. Leaning and looking at my own legs. Let me have that and I'm a happy man.
But there's more! The way that a gun is held correctly, with bullets firing from the muzzle, with its length dictating when, where and how it can be aimed. That's great too. It's not just the tactics and the shooting that could impress if done right, it's the commitment to creating avatars that actually exist in the spaces they tacticalise and shoot in. Randomisation of insertion should keep things fresh and tense as well, and there's even talk of blocking entry points and routes on maps at random, forcing flexibility and fluidity of thinking.
It's still a multiplayer shooter though and I'm pleased that not only does the actual movement and shooting sound like a palette cleanser, the approach to the platform and the commercial aspects of the genre seems as refreshing and healthy as the design itself. In the multiplayer sphere, of all the upsetting innovations that have emerged, it's unlockable weapons and traits that bother me the most. I don't want to spend hours or incremental monetary offerings to play with all the toys and I'm highly dubious of the implication that investment can be, by itself, a form of improvement.
Give me systems to learn and make the experience interesting and/or rewarding and I'll happily pay up front, stick around and try to improve my understanding of and manipulation of those systems. It doesn't hurt that there's a promise never to split content in the future, either through DLC or unlocks, and full server and mod tools.
The Kickstarter hasn't had the best kickstart, although it hasn't stalled completely, reaching $53,000 of a $425,000 target with seventeen days to go. There's an impressive amount of detail, experience within the team and compelling evidence that a lot of work has already been done. It could almost certainly wind up being my kind of thing and I'm very tempted by $30 for two copies, although in these austere times I'll have to violently wring the $15 out of whoever I share the second copy with. And then I'll shoot them. Tactically.