Delay after delay may have cause some to worry that Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was a troubled game, perhaps it will even have put a few people off hitting the pre-order button. Well I’m here to tell you that you can wash those worries away, because this latest game in the series is a brilliant tactical shooter and it should be in your collection.
I have to admit that I’ve never really paid much attention to the past games in the Ghost Recon series and to be honest, when I first started up the main campaign in Future Soldier, I wasn’t a fan. The opening scenes are all about holding your hand, stopping you from making your own decisions, but as the game goes on though, things start open up, you are in charge of your own destiny and that of your team and thanks to the technology at your disposal, a pretty kick ass team it is.
Playing through Future Soldier, I couldn’t help but cast an eye forward to the first person shooter releases later this year. That’s because Ubisoft’s game already seems to include most of what these games have already highlighted as main features. Take Black Ops 2 for example, it’s hard not to look at Future Soldier and see some of the main features from Activison’s big hope already staring you straight in the face. It’s the same with EA’s Medal of Honor; when I went to see the game recently one of the main features touted was a solider having a conversation with his wife, bringing home the cold realities of war, but wait, there is a similar scene is in Future Soldier.
All of the above got me thinking about how this game compares to shooters we have seen before it and I have to say that the comparisons are pretty favourable in Ubisoft’s direction. While your Call of Duties and Battlefield’s of this world do provide a decent story, the diversity in battle generally consists of running and gunning or driving some sort of armed vehicle. Here though you have to think about how you will take down the enemy. You can of course run in all guns blazing, however this will almost certainly result in you lying on the floor, waiting for a team-mate to revive you. Instead Future Soldier is all about tactics, therefore if you want to complete a level, you will have to utilise your team, which is done by marking targets and taking the enemy down silently. Occasionally you get spotted, resulting in all out warfare, most of the time though it’s about working out the best way to take out the enemy without being seen.
Being the Ghosts, your squad has all manner of equipment at its disposal for you to make use of. This includes a neat operational camouflage suit which turns your squad partially invisible while in a crouched position, although it’ll stop working if you move too fast; a sensor grenade, which when thrown alerts you to the position of the enemy and also an X-Ray sensor, which shows the heat coming from weapons, allowing you to easily pick out an threat in the area. This equipment is just the tip of the iceberg though, as you have plenty of other items which will help you progress, such as the fantastic drone, which can be remotely controlled to scan the area and tag enemies, allowing you to order your squad to take out threats from a birds-eye view. It can even land and drive around.
Combat in Future Soldier is dangerous, therefore should you be spotted by the enemy you’ll need to find some cover, otherwise you’ll find your soldier lying face down on the ground. Cover can be partially destroyed, so you’ll need to be careful which areas you choose to hide behind, although the same goes for the enemy. Should you be shot down at least there’s the comfort of knowing your squad has your back, with one of them usually running over to revive you. Occasionally they’ll go down too, so you’ll either need to return the favour or request that one of your squad does it. Beware though, you can still die if you are hit too many times, resulting in a restart from the nearest checkpoint.
Progressing in the campaign would be impossible without your squad, which can either consist of friends invited from Xbox LIVE or the A.I. It has to be said that the A.I is fantastic, helping you, rather than hindering you and ensuring that it’s four against the odds rather than just one. It’s a pleasure to play through Future Soldier with this team at your side, be they computer or human controlled.
The single player campaign is around 10 hours long, which is pretty lengthy based on other shooters. The main plot sees you investigating a dirty bomb which took out a fellow Ghost team, following this investigation then leads to you finding a more sinister plot, before going on to find those responsible. It’s a story with plenty of twists and tales, but it’s good enough to keep your gripped, with varied missions and plenty of different environments to visit along the way.
No matter where you are in Future Soldier, the game has multiplayer running through it’s veins. I’ve already mentioned the ability to co-op the main campaign, while also included is the excellent Guerilla mode and of course, the standard Multiplayer mode.
Guerilla is a wave based, survival mode allowing you to play split-screen or over the internet with your friends. The main objective is to take over the enemy HQ as quietly as you can and then hold off the different waves of enemies from the location. After 10 waves you then move onto a different location and do the same again, facing off against another 10 waves of enemies. This will continue until you have faced 50 waves. The main goal here is to get the highest score you can, which can be achieved by killing the enemy or helping team mates by tagging them. The more waves you survive, the more help you’ll get, gaining rewards such as turrets and other equipment which will help you to cut down the enemy.
Already we have a feature packed game and I’ve not even touched on the multiplayer yet. So what about it then? The main difference between Future Soldier and other shooters online is that here you generally have an objective. This works in tandem with the new confidence system, which is something that plays a huge role in the multiplayer side of the game. When playing online, any player near an objective will be informed by an on-screen icon. Usually interacting with the objective can take up to 20 seconds, however if you’re team mates are in range this time will be cut in half. Experience Points will also be rewarded for any squad member in range. This makes working as a team beneficial during objective based matches.
There are three main classes in the multiplayer mode, Scout, Rifleman and Engineer. Each of these classes has its own unique abilities, the Engineer for instance can deploy sentry guns, UAV’s and jammers, while your Rifleman is more of an all-round tough guy. The Scout meanwhile can make use of camo and stun weapons to get info on the other team. Utilising each of these classes seems a smart idea and therefore it’s a good idea to have a mixture of classes in your team so that you can take advantage of their different abilities. One of the most impressive tactics I’ve seen used for instance is the Data Hack, which allows you to stun an enemy and then gather Intel on their entire team. This means you can see where the other team is on the map. Having a good mix will also allow your scout to sneak ahead, or your Engineer to set up a drone to scan the area.
Whatever map and game type (there are many) you find yourself in when online, playing as part of a team seems almost essential, The game rewards you for doing so, and victory usually comes to those who do. Going solo generally leaves you on the floor, nowhere near your team and with no-one to revive you. So don’t be a hero, it won’t get you anywhere.
Kinect and Move support is included within the game, thanks to the Gunsmith section. This allows you to change and manipulate your weapons, although after a while I was reduced to frustration thanks to the Kinect’s usual antics of not working properly, which is what usually happens when you mix me and Kinect. Overall, I guess Gunsmith is a neat idea and it works in principle, but to me it’s a gimmick that the game could do without.
Whatever your take is on Third Person Shooters, it can’t be denied that Ubisoft has a pretty outstanding game on its hands here. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier may have taken its sweet time to get here, but it’s been more than worth the wait. Not only does the game look fantastic, but it provides a solid campaign, the hugely enjoyable Guerilla mode and tops all this off with a feature packed team based multiplayer mode that is different enough stand out from the usual ‘me too’ crowd.
Most seem to think that they’ll have to wait until Santa gathers up Rudolf and the rest of the reindeer’s before we see a decent shooter this year, well guess what? Xmas just got here early.
Rating: OutstandingReview Policy(version tested: Xbox 360)
You can pre-order your copy here (PS3), here (Xbox 360) and here (PC).