Ground Branch is a tactical first person shooter video game; designed and developed by Blackfoot Studios. Development of the title was announced in 2007, continuing as an Early Access development title released for Steam on August 18th of 2018. The game is described as deliberate, calculating and unforgiving when discussing its gameplay, owing large amounts of its realism influence to the tactical realism genre of the late 1990s, and early 2000s. The game is planned for release, on Microsoft Windows' systems. The game is considered one of the most realistic simulation experiences.
Ground Branch is an on-going production, and is in Early Access, as such
the game is subject to numerous changes. Having released in early access
via Steam, Ground Branch has enjoyed a niche, loyal following of hardcore
tactical enthusiasts and military gamers, which have in turn helped support
the game through media coverage, suggestions and collective responses.
Ground Branch is a tactical shooter, and focuses its efforts on realistic gameplay design involving the 'Natural Order of Realistic Gameplay' or NORG Philosophy. To emphasise this realism, much of the game involves the careful logistical planning of highly customisable characters, as the player embody's an 'Operator', a specialist field personnel member often ascribed to the special operations community. Furthermore, the game omits non-realistic content, especially with regards to non-diegetic heads-up-displays (HUDs), and encourages cautions play through limited health and ammunition.
The game draws direct inspiration from the tactical realism genre of older games, and as such attempts to reward the careful playing style of tactical teamplay, and punish recklessness. Singleplayer Modes include many commonly known gamemodes such as Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Team Elimination; modes in which the goal is to kill an opposing team of combatants, and differs from Terrorist Hunt in that the former focuses on competitive play, while the latter shows focus on neutralising interactive artificial intelligence (AI) hostiles. Multiplayer, not unlike singleplayer, focuses on the same modes, but in all instances outside of terrorist hunt, the enemy is made up of participating players within servers.
Players have access to all their equipment from the beginning of the game, with careful attention towards customising the right outfit to fit mission requirements. Firearms can be intricately altered to specification, and pouches added onto vests and outfits as required. Unlike similar titles such as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, planning modes often expected in tactical shooters, are currently absent, and the game instead allows for players to enter a team 'ready room', where gear and munitions can be acquired via lockers, and operations deployed from within the map. In-game voice chat is handled both locally via proximity communications, and radio communications for team specific dialogue and feedback.
The player enjoys a wider array of first person shooter (FPS) characteristics compared to other shooters; being able to jump, open and close doors regularly as well as incrementally and hold their weapon muzzle upwards or downwards to avoid friendly fire (as is real-world protocol). The game encourages the player to use ironsights via a lack of any given indicators or crosshairs, while laser sights and strobes help differentiate enemy forces from friendly ones, as is the case in many real-world situations. As such, the game is known for its intense, and highly realistic combat between players.
The storyline focuses on modern, and recent covert military operations. The player assumes the role of an 'Operator', and while non-descript, is inferred they are a part of the United States Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Center, assigned to the organisation's Ground Branch. Currently, there is no storyline per se, but rather a set of modes from which to encourage in-game narrative through play, that is, each individual or team likely emulates real-world unit operations, but no specific plotline, lore or narrative exists. This may be a feature that is later expanded upon in patch.
The game was conceived by former Redstorm Entertainment developer John Sonedecker, who sought to create an entirely new revival of tactical shooters, during an era where the genre was stagnant. Sonedecker's company, called Blackfoot Studios, was intent on creating numerous realism-oriented games, including Sky Gods (a title surrounding active use of parachutists and airborne oriented troopers) and then later Ground Branch, a game focusing on tactics.
Ground Branch itself has struggled with funding, due to its intentionally niche, hardcore approach to gameplay. This however, has not dissuaded the developers who consistently seek the feedback and approval of its fanbase, which they actively support and develop their title around. Currently, the game is in 'Early Access' via the Steam, and is at present still in development. A large portion of the game remains to be completed, but development is still on-going.