Game Reviews

Review: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (PS3/360/PC)

The Future of Warfare

As we move forward technologically, it’s obvious that new innovations will be used by the military to give troops the edge in combat. Armed with the latest gadgets and gear, the Ghost team in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a small force that infiltrates dangerous territory to get the mission done with minimal losses.  Those who have played past Ghost Recon titles have seen the series’ push to utilizing advanced technology, but it seems that it has reached a point where the team’s advantage is so huge that it makes the experience all too easy.

Too Much of a Good Thing…

The story is simple enough: your team is following a terrorist trail of breadcrumbs across four continents and twelve missions, with all the moment-to-moment macho excitement you’d expect from a Tom Clancy narrative. Preparing for these international expeditions begins with typical mission briefings, but things get a little bit more exciting with the Gunsmith feature, a really cool addition which allows you to customize your firearms’ individual components for certain mission conditions. The firing range is a nice touch where you can test the results of your customization before heading out into the field. Numerous attachments to your weapon are locked and are only made available after completing certain challenges throughout the campaign. It’s a nice way of telling players that you have to work for your equipment. Sadly, the work being done takes no effort at all.

Imagine using this vision for the entire game. It just got easier.

The team’s use of the plethora of gadgets is supposed to show the power of technology, but instead it takes the fun out of missions by making them too easy. The first of these is “magnetic vision” which allows the team to see any enemy that is holding something magnetic, which is obviously their weapons. The visual aid is very reminiscent of Detective Mode in the Batman: Arkham games because of the fact that there really is no reason to turn it off. Are you cautious about moving from one cover to the next or attempting to sneak by an unknown location? If so, equip magnetic vision and all your problems will go away.  Some mission environments do call for the use of the aid, such as a sandstorm in Africa, but it’s accessible far too often and it makes every scenario a walk in the park.

Other tactics include the “Sync Shot” which allows the team to simultaneously take out four enemies at once.  At first, the action feels very satisfying but just like the magnetic vision it makes the game too easy, so much so that there are points in the game where you can avoid firing a single shot and have teammates take out targets in unison for you without alerting other enemies. The Ghosts’ “Stealth Camouflage” – which renders you invisible – stays activated if the player moves while crouching or staying prone, making stealth the easiest way to engage enemies.

While I do love sneaking around and performing stealth takedowns, entering combat in the game is interesting. Telling your teammates where to focus their fire is very effective and they can actually hold their own ground without my constant micromanagement. Useless chatter during combat is quite annoying at times, especially since magnetic vision shows everything you need to know to end firefights as fast as possible. One thing I could do without was the so-called “Diamond formation” where the team surrounds the player while escorting a VIP. During this formation you can only can only shoot with a pistol because you are also holding onto the VIP. The whole thing was obviously on rails but it had potential to be a good tactical situation for you and the team to handle.

In my opinion, the biggest letdown for the single-player campaign is its lack of tactical approach. I feel the player could accomplished some really cool manoeuvres if there were more commands available. Instead we get this rinse-and-repeat formula of insertion, using your gadgets to spot the enemy, utilizing Sync Shot to take out as many targets as possible without alerting others, getting into a big firefight, and then extracting. One of the missions even had a mechanical robot in the shape of a dog that I used for the entire mission because it was large enough to be used as cover and it had unlimited mortars and missiles to shoot. None of the missions are challenging enough, and there were times where I was completely lost on the storyline with no satisfaction or comprehension to be had even as the credits rolled. The campaign was lacking in so many ways and I had hopes that the multiplayer aspect would redeem the game.

Drop In and Team Up

Fortunately, I had a lot of fun in multiplayer. The fact that all the modes require both teams to complete missions as a primary objective is a really refreshing change to manic, free-for-all bloodbaths so characteristic of other modern shooters. The teamwork-driven experience is very exciting and each victory is satisfying because you know that you’ve worked with a solid team instead of being the lone wolf.

Each game mode really keeps you on your toes. Whether it’s in Conflict to complete as many objectives as possible or in Decoy where you have to download data from one of three sites to discover your final goal, playing online in Ghost Recon Future Soldier is very exciting. This is one of those multiplayer games where there is actually a chance to win even if you’re off to a bad start. I recently played a game of Decoy where all we had to do was to plant the bomb at the enemy base to win the game. Despite the fact that opposing players held us off for about five minutes, we were able to overwhelm them and win the match.

That guy carrying the bomb is about to get his head blown by some sniper. It’s his fault for staying in the open.

While it might be too easy in the campaign, using your gadgets in multiplayer against human players can really help to tip the balance in your favor, and enjoyably so. They don’t guarantee a win, but they can be the catalyst for a tide-turning offensive. Sensors to detect enemies are thrown alongside frag and flashbangs grenades. Stunning opponents allows you to data hack their system, which gives you the location of the rest of your opponents for a short period of time. Again, with so many things happening in the map, gathering intel is a must.

Using this never gets old.

The game’s character progression is something to be admired. By winning matches, players garner attachment credits that go towards unlocking numerous parts for your weapons in Gunsmith mode. Additionally, certain player levels unlock visual rewards such as a new mask or the choice between one of two weapons or attachments. It’s a great way to reward players for winning games, as well as restricting weapons from not being too powerful in gameplay.

Guerilla mode is a nice addition for those who just want to shoot down AIs while having co-operative fun with your friends. Just to be clear, this is not a campaign co-op experience. Instead you and your friends must endure 50 waves of enemies in addition to taking and holding the HQ, not unlike Call of Duty‘s “Survival” mode. Players are also rewarded with equipment drops that can give them the edge in combat. This is a great experience and just like regular multiplayer it really stresses the fact that teamwork gets things done. The only issue that I have with it is that you are only allowed to play Guerilla mode through an invite from online friend or through split-screen. If Ubisoft does update it so that I can play through multiple waves with random strangers then I can see Guerilla mode being a wonderful complement to the multiplayer experience.

The Final Verdict

It really is a shame that the Ghost Recon franchise is becoming like so many of today’s shooters, where all the effort seems to go only towards the multiplayer and the campaign feels like an afterthought. There was a lot of potential to make it fun and tactical for single players, but sadly it just wasn’t there. On the other hand, playing online is extremely fun especially when no other game pushes you as hard to work as a team. I like the idea of mission objectives as the priority in each mode, and it really is satisfying to see the victory screen after a match and hear your fellow teammates cheering and congratulating each other. However it isn’t enough to justify buying the game at $60. Buying it when the price drops is your best bet if you want to try it out without feeling robbed of your money. Hopefully Ubisoft can remedy the issues that plagued Ghost Recon Future Soldier so that we can get back the old tactical shooter we know and love.

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