Ghost Recon Future Soldier review
“Ghost Leader, I’m in position.”
Ghost Recon, released in 2001 and before it become part of the juggernaut franchise that is the Tom Clancy collection from Ubisoft, was an unforgiving, tactical military simulator. Prioritising subterfuge and stealth over gunplay in a genre yet to explode on consoles, it was critically received by both players and media. Move on eleven years and without a title on the main console formats for over five, fans will mainly be worried that Ghost Recon has gone all Modern Warfare. It has borrowed from the big FPS franchise, but what it has borrowed works, while still remaining true to its impressive heritage.
Playing the role of one of four ‘Ghosts’ – an elite fighting unit of the US Military that does what no other arm of the service can accomplish; slipping into enemy territory and extracting Intel, personnel or carrying out assassinations in the name of US national security. While the first game on the PC was played out with three teams of ghosts that you could hot swap between and the console Advanced Warfighter sequels allowed squad commands, Future Soldier has dropped squad control altogether, instead relying on the AI to let your squad effectively manage itself around your actions. While a natural departure, it is one that has been considerably implemented and works well for the most part, only occasionally does your squad behave unexpectedly or erratically seeking cover or such like. And as it is so seldom, when it happens it frustrates but is soon forgiven in the overall experience.
Catering to the masses
The campaign is the main beneficiary of the CoD treatment. In an era now when the single player experience is expected within the genre to deliver a plot and execution on a scale reminiscent of a Michael Bay movie production, Ubisoft Paris and Bucharest have done a fine job balancing an interesting story arc with the necessary tension and pacing, but should be commended with bringing humanity to the individual Ghosts with low key cut scenes involving debates over which trucks to buy, what they miss from home and other mundane topics. It’s at odds with their professionalism on the mission, but well delivered to bring life to the four protagonists.
You’ll travel from Mexico to Africa, heading further up a Black Market arms chain before moving on in further acts to Pakistan, Norway and Russia. While the necessary variety of locales is checked, the mission structures themselves are structured like their FPS counterparts but with one crucial difference; there is no invisible corridor herding the player from one set piece to the next. Even if it is a choice of alleyways, the illusion of choice is a powerful one and serves to give each play through a tactical flowchart of which route works best. In a generic campaign to the genre it makes all the difference.
Bond, James Bond.
The big difference and main highlight of the near future setting is the drip feed of gadgets you attain one mission after the next. From magnetic goggles that serve as x-ray vision to parrot drones that act as your eye in the sky, visual camouflage that truly turns you into the ethereal, or the walking behemoth that adds support in later levels all add up to a polished reboot of a beloved franchise.
One let down however is the inconsistent visuals. When good the standard is very high. Lighting effects are sublime and sandstorms and wildlife add credence to the environments, but during cutscenes the visuals falter and drop to standards reminiscent of its forebear, rather than keeping standard with today’s competition. It’s a small niggle though and one unlikely to sour the overall experience.
Best of friends
The general consensus of Future Warrior’s multiplayer is one of approval amongst loyal fans waiting for the chance to once again stealthily approach objectives with friends, knowing that at any time a bullet could be firmly lodged between the eyes resulting in a spectator waiting period before round restarts. While the ‘old school’ tension filled mode is back, it does take the least favourable slot on the roster with more action packed modes taking centre stage. They are still GRAW of course, with all the modes requiring communication between team members to be victorious. Experience for kills is nothing compared to completing objectives, and lone wolves will find like minded company on COD or BF rather than here.
Split into three types – Assault, Engineer and Scout – all three provide an integral cog in the machine to victory. Gadgets carried over from the single player campaign can prove pivotal in maintaining the edge during games, and more often than not teams that have balanced classes – all utilising their support armament – will most likely trounce a non communicating team.
Adversarial combat is not the only multiplayer option either, with the single player campaign being playable with all three AI companions being taken over by friends, making the whole package even more inviting. In a game world saturated with the split camps of Call of Duty and Battlefield fans, one can only hope that Ghost Recon reinvigorates the market and steals the tactical players from both camps new to the Ghost Recon Franchise. The game has so much to offer and while unfamiliarity may breed contempt amongst the impatient, those willing to invest the time to adapt to the pace of Future Warrior will find a fraternity of Ghosts welcoming them with open arms.