Long before the video game world found itself consumed by warfare of the modern variety, it was the team at RedStorm and Ubisoft that helped to pave the way to bring services like Xbox Live to the forefront for console gamers. Ghost Recon was notoriously known to be among the most technical shooters on the market; a dead man’s land for causals. With the new Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, RedStorm’s mission was to rid themselves of that high barrier of entry it’s known for and at the same time try to sustain their core fan base as well. But does this experiment pay off?
As par for the course military shooter campaigns go, Future Solider’s story doesn’t jump off the page with anything unexpected. You’re a part of a Ghost team that is sent on a mission to recover a missing nuclear warhead. Your travels start out in South America and thanks to some sloppy gun runners and warlords, your journey will have you spanning the globe throughout various hot zones in Africa as well as Russia. Unfortunately, with all of that globetrotting and objective changes along the way, the campaign is — for the most part — somewhat forgettable.
While the game’s main story isn’t exactly the most engaging, it’s characters are what make it even less so. During the gameplay, characters are professional and engaging, then through the game’s cutscenes they become total goofballs. It’s to the point that, at times, it felt like a terrible Battlefield Bad Company impersonation. Normally wouldn’t have been a bad thing but it just feels a bit over done here. With such a serious “missing warhead” storyline you would think that the game’s characters would help add weight to the situation, instead we’re left with dialogue and set pieces who seem more to get in the way than anything else. But I digress, luckily no one will play Ghost Recon: Future Soldier for the story, right?
The Ghost series was always known about bringing tactical gameplay to the forefront — it’s what has always set it apart from other titles in the past and luckily it returns once again in Future Soldier. The best part about it here is that since the game takes place in the not too distant future you get some cool toys at your disposal. The biggest standout by far being the unmanned air drone not because we haven’t seen it before but how Future Soldier incorporates it.
One standout gameplay element that never gets old, especially because of the air drone, is Sync Shot. It’s a mode of enemy engagement that allows you to plan out the kills for your team to take down a group of baddies in one fell swoop. It’s an efficient way of approaching situations where there is no room for error but also provides for a unique way of approaching every single situation. One of the game’s best uses of the feature is when you’re thrown into a scenario where there are more enemies than what you can take down with a sync shot, then it’s your job figure out which pocket of enemies to take out and when. It helps to add some extra tension to what would otherwise become a routine, stop and pop affair.
Presentation is another category where Future Soldier excels. With both Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) and GRAW2, the biggest differentiator when those titles released was the way it provided for full squad control. With the newest title, there are some hints and glimmers of that squad control, but for the most part you find yourself following the orders of your squad leader. It did feel a bit different at first, but I actually found it refreshing not having to worry about dumb AI and positioning, allowing me to focus on the objective at hand but also take in the action as it was presented. In other words, instead of steering the rollercoaster, this time around you get to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Okay, now it’s time for the real meat and potatoes here . The reason that you’re probably reading this review to begin with. Like previous Ghost Recon titles, Future Soldier’s main event is multiplayer. And although there are dramatic changes, some that series fans may not be happy with, I think that the overall feel Future Soldier gives off aligns pretty well with what militaty shooter fans have come accustomed to in this “post modern warfare” era.
The first thing that you’ll notice is that Future Solider forgoes any traditional deathmatch modes. Instead, what we receive are more team-based and strategic offerings. While some players may be annoyed by the omission of modes where you can just jump in and tear things up, it’s not what the series is about. Ghost Recon’s roots have always been more about the team than one individual player. The change in Future Solider is that it’s pretty much forced on you, whether that’s a good or bad thing I guess will be determined by whether or not you have teammates who are willing to communicate and cooperate (good luck on PSN where NO ONE uses headsets).
During the match is where players will probably notice the biggest change and it’s in the game’s pacing. Let’s face it, while there’s something great about the tense and slow paced matches of yesterday, the ability to jump in and get a few matches under your belt quickly is just as gratifying. So where you would have two 10 minute matches in GRAW, you can now have four or five in Future Soldier in the same length of time.
It’s a little faster and definitely more frantic, especially since a lot of the fun toys from single player make the jump to multiplayer. Thankfully, and I’m sure long time fans will agree, one thing that didn’t get lost in the shuffle is hit detection. After popping a few headshot kills with ease I quickly remembered why I fell in love with the series to begin with. The quick matches may seem a bit arcade-like in their pacing, but the Ghost Recon core is still definitely there. Accuracy and precision still owns and that’s a great thing.
Leading in to this review I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Ghost Recon didn’t become stale since the last time we’ve seen it but it certainly became outclassed. I wondered how this decade-old series would make it’s triumphant return, especially in a landscape packed with other AAA military shooters. Now I can wonder no more as this latest offering can definitely stand tall next to any other online shooter offering. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier won’t be winning any “best story” awards anytime soon, but once you take it online you’ll quickly remember what made the series great to begin with, and to some, that alone may just be worth the cost of entry.