Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Review
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360
The year is 2024. A group of militants have gotten their hands on a “dirty bomb”, a small nuclear device, and is headed across the border into the United States from South America. En route, a squad from Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group Ghost Recon intercepts the vehicle and takes out the soldiers guarding the package. Unfortunately, the individuals behind the attack had a contingency in store; upon finding the bomb, the recon squad inadvertently tripped a detonator and blew the package, and themselves, to kingdom come.
Your mission: Follow the supply chain back to its source. Identify the key players in the plan to deliver a nuclear bomb to US soil, and drop some pay back on the SOBs that killed your friends.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a tactical third person shooter that takes place 12 years in the future. You’re Kozak, one of four members in a squad of the elite Ghost Recon Company along with your team mates Ghost Leader, 30K, and Pepper. Your team will track down leads to the source of the arms shipment, taking you to locales in South America, Africa, Russia, and more.
Ghost Recon’s single-player campaign has a lot going for it. Excellent writing and a great cast bring to life an intense story that’s worthy of the Clancy name, while the strategy and tactics necessary to make it through to each objective most definitely makes Future Soldier worthy of being included in the Ghost Recon franchise. There are some features and improvements that significantly change the game; many for the better.
The weapons of the Future Soldier are more advanced in many ways than their modern-day counter-parts, giving you a number of new toys to play with in the field. As most aspects of your missions require a certain amount of stealth, the most commonly used item at your disposal will be your optical camouflage. The optical camo bends light around you making you exceptionally difficult to see, when you’re standing still; however, if you take a hit, fire a shot, or start moving quickly, the camo becomes ineffective and renders the wearer plainly visible to the opposition. This is especially true on the Elite difficulty where the slightest mistake will end with you and your team members taking a dirt nap in a New York minute.
Another new feature that’s been added is the target marking capability. Gone is the micro-management of previous Ghost Recon games, instead allowing you to simply designate a target for a member of your squad by hovering over an enemy with your cross-hairs and marking them with the right shoulder button. Once a target is designated, allow your team member to find the best position to get a lock; When all of the targets are lined up, either fire on your mark or depress the shoulder button again to perform a perfectly synced takedown of a group of enemies. This feature goes hand-in-hand with a remarkably solid allied AI. Oftentimes in stealth games, it’ll be your computer-controlled partners that will be the ones to give away your position by doing something stupid such as running right up to a group of enemies to say hello. However, the AI in GRFS requires almost no babysitting; either let them take out targets or move as they wish. Perhaps the only time that I saw a glitch in the AI was when they occasionally became indecisive when you opted to sneak around the enemy as opposed to taking them down.
In order to maintain a tactical advantage on the field, you also have sensors at your disposal that can be thrown like grenades into an area. Once deployed, these sensors will map out hostiles in the vicinity that may otherwise be unseen due to obstructions such as walls or vehicles. Once the enemy is mapped out on your AR (augmented reality) unit, or HUD display, you can then mark your priority targets, and perform a synchronized take-down after your teammates have locked on to the individuals.
If you need to get eyes on a hot area, you’ll also be given a short range and portable drone for such occasions. The drone’s quad-rotors can get it quietly into the air above an enemy position to allow you to have a bird’s eye view to determine the best route to take, mark and take down targets, etc. For indoor use, the drone can actually deploy wheels to allow it to be used like a remote-controlled car, rolling on the ground and providing telemetry to the interiors of buildings before you and your team breach.
Unfortunately, the feature that I was looking forward to using the most, Gunsmith, isn’t quite all that it was touted to be. While it sports a very interesting toolset that allows you to disassemble a firearm and customize your weapon to an almost minute level of detail, the time it takes to load your weapon and assemble skins (between five and ten seconds) is atrocious. Furthermore, when using Kinect, the hand gestures feel unnatural, making you feel more like you’re instructing a plane’s passengers on their pre-flight safety instructions than a Minority Report style feel that we were hoping for when the feature was demonstrated at E3.
If you can get past the unwieldy motion controls and the load times for the interface, however, the level of customization is something to really behold. Beyond the typical magazine or stock selections, you can change triggers, muzzles, firing chambers (just to name a few!) to build a weapon best suited for your needs.
Writer Richard Dansky gives the game a real military feel while providing you a story that features likeable characters. And while you won’t find a cast full of A-listers, you will find that the voice actors for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier breathe a lot of life into the roles they play, giving you a good, believable story. Even some of the side conversations complaining about the chow on an aircraft carrier, or the bickering between Army and Marine soldiers add a lot to the overall game experience.
Another great thing about the campaign is that you really have to think about a situation rather than just rushing in, or you’ll quickly find that your objective has failed – or worse, you and your team dead. Aside from the aforementioned AI issues, the only other problem experienced was with an ally glitching and winding up about 50 feet underground. However, once you got to your objective, the ally quickly respawned so you weren’t stuck. Problem management on the back end of the game regarding glitches is exceptional. The bystanders in the game react very naturally to situations as well, oftentimes in an amusing manner when a soldier armed to the teeth in active camo bumps into them like the ghosts that they are named after.
Multiplayer gets a pretty solid, yet limited, treatment of game types. Conflict pits two teams against each other to complete objectives in a given timeframe. Saboteur has a bomb in the center of the map. The objective is to secure the bomb and carry it to the opposing team’s base and detonate it. Siege, a personal favorite, is a gametype that allows no respawns. The team that eliminates the opposition is the winner. Finally, there is Decoy, where the attacking team must find the “key” package amongst two other decoy traps. Complete the objective, win the round.
Gameplay is similar to most other military shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield, where completing objectives and killing enemy combatants earn you experience and allow you to unlock goodies in Gunsmith for better gear. Unfortunately, there’s no skill balancing of any sort, so if you’re a newbie, you’ll find yourself being painted with a bull’s eye on your back until you can obtain more powerful weapons. Fortunately, you can take off some of the edge by playing Siege as long as you have a sharp enough eye to take out the enemy before they get you.
Another problem seems to be with host selection. It seems that they programmed the game to have the person with the lowest connection speed instead of the lowest ping as you’ll often find yourself and your team succumbing to lag if the original host leaves. While it doesn’t happen all of the time, it happens frequently enough to be frustrating.
If you enjoy Horde mode in Gears of War or Firefight in Halo: Reach, you’ll enjoy Guerrilla mode in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. 50 waves of enemies come in at you while you struggle to secure and hold the enemy HQ. If you enjoy setting yourself up for failure, you can open the match to Xbox Live to receive some random folks in a map; however, I recommend sticking to invites or friends only settings for your party type.
Overall, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a great game for those who just couldn’t stand the micro-management required of you in past games. But the game really needed some spit and polish before going to retail. Various glitches really take you out of the campaign experience, while problems on the multiplayer leave the game feeling rushed. A few more months of bug-fixing could have gone a long way to making a good game truly great.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier receives a 3.5/5.0.
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