Going into Ghost Recon Future Soldier, you would not be alone in fearing that the game would strip away the essence of the franchise in order to follow in the footsteps of the behemoths that are Call of Duty and Battlefield. And unfortunately, if this was your fear then you’ll be disappointed to know the game does exactly that. The inevitability of the move to emulate the two most successful shooter franchises in games is disappointing yet not surprising. There is clear inspiration here from both Call of Duty and Gears of War. While the game remains rooted in the traditions established by earlier titles in the series, the influence of Ghost Recon‘s competitors is clear in both gameplay and story.
In Ghost Recon Future Soldier, you lead a quartet of stereotypical soldiers (a gruff black captain and sarcastic private being two of them) as they go on some serious globetrotting in search of stolen nukes. Who, you may ask, is responsible for all this? Well, an army of hard-line Russian nationalists hellbent on global chaos, of course. While a diverse range of locations such as the Arctic Circle are included, the overall presentation here is utterly predictable. Of course, in contrast to Modern Warfare 3 – or any of the recent Call of Duty titles for that matter – this is no mere shooting gallery crammed in between compulsory explosive set pieces. Rather, over the course of the lengthy campaign you are given the tools and the freedom necessary to approach each scenario however you see fit. Stealth is very much an option here, with tactical precision allowing for a true glimpse of the reality of modern combat instead of the usual messy bloodshed and cover-blowing bomb blasts. Naturally, an all-out frontal assault is a viable, if sometimes difficult, alternative.
There are some truly impressive set pieces, certainly more than in any previous Ghost Recon game, yet the game is set up so that they are by no means obligatory. And the writers who crafted the game’s narrative have handled many of these set pieces intelligently, even if the overall plot is mired in a lack of originality. One of the most striking elements in regards to the storytelling (and another example of the influence of Call of Duty) is a section where a major western city is attacked by terrorists. The footage of this attack is relayed through a tourist’s camcorder, and civilians are depicted being cut apart by glass over the course of the lengthy video. Ultimately, it feels utterly unwarranted. The mentality is much like Modern Warfare 3‘s camcorder sequence in London, but it just fails to deem itself necessary.
If you like a game with a challenge, Ghost Recon Future Soldier should appeal to you. Players will be punished for making stupid mistakes such as staying out of cover for too long. The squad management featured in previous entries has been removed, with the AI now determining the best cover for the rest of your team. Occasionally there are AI issues, such as failing to pick up a target even with a clear line of sight or shooting through several seemingly robust walls. Alhough this shouldn’t get in the way of the experience as a whole, it is noticeable enough to mention.
Naturally, as the title suggests, Ubisoft provides you with a range of advanced technology for your mission, such as adaptive, chameleon-like camouflage and motion-sensing grenades. You can also use a drone to target up to four enemies who your team will eliminate upon your command. Pressing R2 will execute the kill order, or you can simply open fire and your team will follow suit. It proves to be an effective tactic in most circumstances, although as you progress, your ability to coordinate will be tested, even if the few seconds of slow-mo that follows usually allows you to pick off more than the few selected targets.
Fortunately, any signs that the game is simply following the lucrative shooter herd disappear in Ghost Recon Future Soldier’s various multiplayer modes. Yes, the online section of the game tilts towards the mainstream, but it follows in the footsteps of other Ubisoft titles (Assassin’s Creed springs to mind) in that it features multiplayer modes appropriate to the game rather than being simply tacked on. Certainly, the fact that you won’t find any sign of team deathmatch is no bad thing. Two teams, with up to six players on each team, can engage in futuristic combat. Just as with the campaign, you will die often if you make too many mistakes, and as always, cover remains your friend. Conflict is the principal attraction in these modes, offering a fluid experience even if the majority of the objectives revolve around capture and defend scenarios, with spawn points shifting if one team begins to dominate.
With ten maps, Ghost Recon Future Soldier has a multiplayer experience more similar to Battlefield than Call of Duty, as all maps are playable in any mode. There’s plenty of value for anyone looking for a solid multiplayer shooter, especially since many of the maps’ secrets are only revealed after several matches. In short, you are meant to explore and discover the shortcuts that can make things so much easier. The co-op in Ghost Recon Future Soldier, which is also an option in the campaign, allows you to play with up to three friends, which truly makes for some of the most memorable scenes in the game, particularly the stealth sections.
Much like the campaign, competitive multiplayer supports the GunSmith gun customization system. This allows players to customize their loadouts, giving them direct control of their weapons. This system is more advanced and in-depth than any other shooter on the market, and with up to 50 weapons and countless components to choose from, you literally have the ability to customize your gun differently to any other player. The GunSmith mode also allows Xbox Kinect owners to utilize motion controls and voice commands to navigate the labyrinth of weapons and add-ons. If you have a Playstation Move, you’ll be able to utilize the motion controls only. Using either peripheral, you’ll be able to break apart any weapon or request specific builds. While this is a flashy system, it fails to prove practical in a combat setting. With so many choices and so little time, this just doesn’t have legs.
In conclusion, Ghost Recon Future Soldier is a game that takes the things its competitors do best and brings them together in one package. Some may look at the changes that have been made and lose faith in the series, but the game is enjoyable nonetheless. While this title never quite exceeds the best of its competitors, it is still a damn good experience with few faults to affect the user’s experience. If you are looking for a solid first-person shooter that offers something different, Ghost Recon Future Soldier may be for you.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier by Ubisoft distributed by Ubisoft