With the inundation of first person shooters that are forced upon gamers in modern times, it’s refreshing to play a third person, squad-based shooter set in the near yet apprehensive future that actively rewards teamwork and strategy. That game is Ghost Recon: Future Soldier; although, it was by no means a guaranteed success. With the exception of a couple of handheld instalments, we haven’t had a Ghost Recon game since 2007’s Advanced Warfighter 2.
Five years is a long time in video games. We’ve seen the rise of the Call of Duty juggernaut during that time, while the likes of Battlefield 3 appealed to more team orientated players. Like it or not, the influence of COD cannot be underestimated, as other developers strive to capitalise on its highly lucrative newfound audience. With tactics on its side, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier strives to do just that.
What Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Got Right
A co-op tactical shooter - Future Soldier gets the fundamentals right as an enthralling four player co-op tactical squad-based shooter. Whether you’re playing online or kicking it old school with a sweet LAN setup (yeah boi!), it delivers the goods as a quintessential co-operative experience.
Success can only be achieved through working together, as a team; there’s no “I” in Ghost Recon. The varied scenarios keep you on your toes with a balanced mix of stealth infiltrations and blowing the shit out of everything. No two missions in Future Soldier are the same. There’s always someone different to kill, and even more divergent ways to do it.
Single-player is just as good - Despite being marketed as a co-op affair, the control-freak in me thrived playing through the campaign solo. I was in command and would be the one to make all decisions, right and wrong. Everything I’ve said already is relevant regardless of if you’re playing with three computer controlled colleagues, or those human things. It makes no difference to the core gameplay, which is a testament to both the A.I. and the underlying design of the adaptable campaign.
The advanced A.I. comes as somewhat of a shock. Not only do the three computer controlled allies actually do what you tell them, they work in the player’s favour even when you aren’t dishing out commands. If everything goes pear-shaped, it’s a result of the player’s own incompetence. The A.I. certainly didn’t let them down.
Selecting targets for your teammates is easy, and they’ll hold fire until you give the word. Likewise, they’ll focus their fire under your direction when stealth goes by the wayside, and make logical decisions about who to murder next when you’re too busy being shot at to think for the whole squad. In fact, you never need to assign them a position or tell them when to move. They handle all that by themselves, so all you need to do is determine who is responsible for shooting who -- perfect.
Varied scenarios keep you on your toes with a balanced mix of stealth infiltrations and blowing the shit out of everything. No two missions in Future Soldier are the same.
An experimental future - If the equipment in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is really based on real-world prototypes, our children are in for some intriguing wars. Before long the active camouflage system is installed into the campaign, and gives a whole new meaning to keeping out of sight. So long as you’re in the crouched position and not firing or standing too close to an enemy, the imbeciles can’t see you. There’s no need to actively hide behind physical objects unless you want to take aim. It requires the player to rethink what they know about the stealth genre, as sneaking in plain-sight feels inherently wrong, yet so right.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sensor grenades will become your new best friend, as they can be thrown down the field of battle to highlight opposing forces; critical when they are hiding behind scattered objects or blending in with civilians. The UAV drone can be manipulated by the player to scout the terrain ahead and tag enemies that would otherwise be left unseen. There’s a bunch of other gadgetry, each slowly introduced at the start of each mission progressively, as to not overwhelm the player.
Oh, and did I mention the badass giant mech? Yep, there’s one of those. It’s more like a forward moving behemoth crab robot, actually, that allows the player to control its infinite mortar fire and RC missiles from afar. Stealth totally goes out the window, but it’s hardly required when you can set everything on fire immediately.
A different but familiar multiplayer - Gamers that aren’t me will apparently flock to the competitive online multiplayer first, as it’s controversially listed as the first, and essentially default, option in the menu screen. Once I got past my OCD that demands the campaign always be listed first, I found a compelling multiplayer that is different to the standard run and gun, and yet familiar enough.
It won’t come as a shock to anyone who played the extended beta, as it’s essentially a beefed up version of what we’ve been playing for the past few weeks. It’s comprised of four game modes: Conflict, Decoy, Saboteur and Siege. Each is objective-based and requires players to work as a team: the point of difference. Conflict is the closest thing to team deathmatch, with the addition of goals and a somewhat tactical focus. Each makes use of the various gadgets acquired during the campaign, tweaked to suit a multiplayer environment.
There are a total of six multiplayer characters to be unlocked spanning three classes. Rifleman is the most prolific, but the best online teams have a nice balance of each, and you’ll want to play as at least two classes to unlock everything.
Guerrilla is the third of Future Soldier’s three gameplay modes and its take on the horde survival craze. Four players team up to protect a designated area from waves of increasingly challenging enemies. It’s a nice little bonus, but won’t keep you entertained anywhere near as long as the dedicated multiplayer or campaign.
Is Gunsmith. Is Good - The innovative Gunsmith mode plays a big part in the campaign and the multiplayer; although, it can largely be ignored in the former. It’s more of a necessity in the multiplayer, however, as it has the greatest influence on how your character progresses. Customisation goes beyond anything we’ve ever seen before, as weapons can be altered right down to the component level. That means picking your trigger, as well as a new scope. Gun enthusiasts will be in heaven, while the rest of us can make do with the recommendations.
What Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Got Wrong
I know the Russians were involved, I ended up in the Middle East at some point and every plane I saw was destined to crash, but I can’t for the life of me remember why any of this happened.
Is there a story? - Probably, but who really cares. The mission design is great because each is so diverse, there’s rarely a repeated moment. However, somehow that’s been achieved with the least memorable of forgettable stories. I know the Russians were involved, I ended up in the Middle East at some point and every plane I saw was destined to crash, but I can’t for the life of me remember why any of this happened.
You’re too powerful - The campaign is fun – and surprisingly long – don’t get me wrong, there’s just no way the difficulty was ever doing to be balanced when you wield such power. When you have the most futurist toys on the planet, you cannot be matched. That’s the whole premise behind Ghost Recon, but it comes at the cost of a fair playing field. On the normal difficulty, the only time I ever faced death was a direct result of my own stupidity.
Despite strong allied A.I. the same can’t be said for the opposing players. Their movement in and out of cover is as predictable as any game and they don’t do a brilliant job of protecting themselves from being shot in the head. I wouldn’t hire these guys to guard my smuggled weaponry.
Dodgy cut-scenes - The in-game visuals are good without being anything amazing. They do what they have to, and there’s little to really complain about. However, for inexplicable reasons, graphical prowess takes a massive drop in the cut-scenes. The character models, movement and lip-sync are awful, almost as if they were produced in 2005 and spliced in with 2012 gameplay.
Y U No splitscreen? - For such a co-op savvy game, I had assumed there would be 2 player split-screen, allowing three to four players over LAN or the internet. Nope. The only splitscreen mode is Guerrilla. Campaign doesn't even allow two people to share the same screen, which is a shame considering it’s a rarity to have four consoles in one location nowadays.
The Final Verdict
With a lengthy campaign that’s almost as good single-player as it is with three friends online, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is easy to recommend. Throw in a compelling multiplayer that is considerably more objective orientated than anything current on consoles with a timeless horde mode, and there’s no doubt it has considerable bang for your buck. It doesn’t do anything truly new or amazing, with the possible exception of Gunsmith, but it’s strong in what it sets out to achieve. While there are a few minor gripes, it’s a fun, engaging tactical squad-based shooter.
By Ben Salter - Bio