It’s hard to believe that Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six debuted twenty years ago (1998). It set the bar pretty darn high as far as tactical shooters were concerned. Just as with many genres, tactical shooters have become rather dumbed down as they became more and more commercialized in order to attract the masses of little kiddos out there.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield was a turning point in the series. It was released in 2003 and although it was a pretty solid tactical shooter, it was much more on the arcade-y side. Customization was minimal and players were encouraged to run around more instead of taking their time and using tactics. If you did the latter you’d be accused of “camping.”
Blackfoot Studios’ new tactical shooter, Ground Branch, hopes to reverse this backwards trend by introducing a game that harkens back to the good old days of tactical goodness. No, you won’t find any glowing ammo sacks or stim-boosts, nor will you see any cutesy little pink, tiger-stripe weapon skins.
When I loaded up my first game of Ground Branch I noticed that it dropped me right into a multi-roomed complex which served as a staging area. It contained a room with a bunch of lockers where players can fully outfit their avatars. You can change your ethnic background, head, etc. as well as your basic uniform. You can also choose what kind of primary and secondary weapons you want from a pretty extensive list. There are many assault rifles, battle rifles, shotguns, and sidearms to choose from.
Once you have chosen your main weapons systems you can pick from an assortment of grenades and ammunition types. If you’re going on a night mission, NVGs (night vision goggles) are available to be mounted upon your helmet. You can also customize your primary and secondary weapons with rails with which to mount scopes, lasers, and flashlights as well.
In this regard, Ground Branch sort of reminds me of Escape from Tarkov—another game that features some pretty elaborate customization options. It’s so sad that others games in the shooter genre don’t offer such a wide array of options but I’m at least glad to see this implemented in at least a few modern games.
Once you’ve fully outfitted your character you can swagger on over to the fully-functional shooting range. The range is great because it offers targets at different ranges, allowing you to practice with your guns and test out your scopes and laser designators. I even saw someone toss a grenade at targets but I don’t believe that was the norm (I almost got blown up!).
Whether or not you choose to practice shooting your guns at the firing range, you’ll inevitably end up in the main ops room. From here you and your cohorts can choose from a variety of maps (there are only four on offer so far) and even designate individual fireteams. When everything’s all set you’ll load into your chosen mission.
If you chose to play the co-op terrorist hunt mode you’ll begin somewhere on the perimeter of the map and have to sneak around until you come into contact with the bad guys. If you picked the PvP mode you’ll similarly start off somewhere on a map (PvP maps are smaller than the co-op ones) and you’ll have to seek and destroy other players.
I must say right off the bat that Ground Branch’s AI terrorists are brutal. I’ve loaded into a mission and taken just a mere few steps before getting shot. Similar to more realistic games such as Squad when you catch a bullet in Ground Branch it’s pretty much game over. Players used to sprinting around maps and bunny hopping like some sort of spaz will find themselves D-E-A-D very quickly.
The only way to succeed (and survive) in accomplishing missions is through utilizing sound tactics and teamwork. Communication is also essential for any team of operators because there isn’t any time to type out where enemies are located.
Ground Branch is shaping up to be one of the more outstanding tactical shooters on the market. It has a small but passionate community that is developing around it, and everybody seems relatively helpful and friendly. This game is simply a must-have for any fans of first-person shooters who like tactical play.
Ground Branch features great graphics that make its hardcore tactical gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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