Magazine article National Defense

'Ghost Recon' Tests Tactical Shooter Skills

Magazine article National Defense

'Ghost Recon' Tests Tactical Shooter Skills

Article excerpt

Newly-released computer game simulates small-unit warfare, circa 2008

The notion that a computer game can help teach soldiers how to make tactical decisions on-the-fly may seem farfetched to traditional military planners. But even skeptics must acknowledge that PC games today are more "real" than ever.

During the past several years, the military services have taken advantage of the high-quality graphics and the realism in video games, and have used them to develop training tools. Some games are sophisticated enough--they are played with real-world tactics and codes of conduct--that they are being turned into training aids for the elite U.S. special operations forces.

The company that develops Tom Clancy's video games recently licensed the so-called "game engine" of Clancy's popular Rainbow Six Rogue Spear to a Defense Department contractor, who will develop training systems for U.S. special operations and conventional forces. Clancy's latest game is called Ghost Recon. Unlike Rainbow Six, which emphasized top-secret counter-terrorism, Ghost Recon focuses on covert military strikes and international peacekeeping missions that do not always go as planned.

The best-selling author of military thrillers founded Red Storm Entertainment about three years ago. The company recently was acquired by Ubi Soft Entertainment, based in San Francisco.

Ubi Soft signed an agreement that allows LB&B Associates Inc., a Pentagon contractor, to use the game engine from Rainbow Six Rogue Spear to develop urban-warfare training games for U.S. military personnel.

"They are going to use that [technology] to build simulations to train special operations forces," said Marcus Beer, a spokesman for Ubi Soft Entertainment. He explained that a game engine could be described as "the codes that make the game tick." It determines how the graphics look and how the computer thinks.

The engine, however, will not be used for weapons training. Instead, "the government wants to use the high-tech system to help hone decision-making skills at the small-unit level," he said.

"We've looked at all of the first-person shooters on the market, and no game engine comes close to the realism of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Rogue Spear," said Michael S. Bradshaw, division manager at LB&B Associates. "We need to train the elements of the small-unit on how to prepare for a mission, how to work as a team during mission execution, and how to conduct after-action debriefs, and this engine will let us do that and more."

The engine will be modified to conform to the maps and scenarios requested by the military, said Ubi Soft representatives. They expect that military personnel will begin training within six months. LB&B Associates will have this technology on display later this month at the annual I/ITSEC simulation and training conference, in Orlando, Fla.

In Ghost Recon, players take command of 'The Ghosts,' an elite military squad. The scenario chosen is classic Clancy: Russia has fallen under the control of ultra nationalistic politicians intent on rebuilding the Iron Curtain. This leads to conflict with NATO as Russia attempts to reclaim the breakaway Republic of Georgia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. …

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