Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Review
Game: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Red Storm
Available on: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Five years have passed since the release of the last full console outing of Ghost Team in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. Five years is a long time in shooter land. In that time, we have been invited to vast Battlefields and rallied to the Call of Duty. Five years on Ubisoft have brought Ghost Team back to the fore in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. How does Future Soldier stack up against the big boys of modern times, and what does it bring to the already crowded shooter table?
STORY: For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Ghost Recon focuses on an elite squad of special forces personnel referred to as ‘The Ghosts’, in reference to the, often classified, missions they are assigned; as well as their ability to sneak under the radar. Future Solider kicks off in dramatic style, throwing you straight into the action as a Ghost Team comes under fire while on the tail of a convoy in the middle east suspected of carrying a dirty bomb. While disarming the bomb, a phone call triggers the device and kills the Ghost Team. Kozak (the character you control throughout the game) and his Ghost Squad are assigned the mission of bringing down the supply chain and tracking the source of the dirty bomb before the bad guys can hurt anyone else, before you know it the world is on the brink of a deadly global war and the stakes are raised tenfold. Bring it on.
GRAPHICS: Graphically, Future Soldier is a pretty hard game to pin down. It’s getting to the stage now where an Xbox 360 game has to work very hard indeed to impress, in order to make people sit up and take notice a game needs to do something new, or excel in a certain area. Does Future Soldier do this? Absolutely.
There are no two ways about it, the lighting in this game is gorgeous. Much fanfare greeted Battlefield 3’s lighting system last year, with its Frostbite 2.0 game engine. Future Soldier uses a heavily modified version of the YETI game engine, first seen in 2006’s Advanced Warfighter. Which of the two games looks better? From a lighting perspective, Future Soldier is, surprisingly, the new king. In terms of textures, while functional and never out and out bad, things do get a bit blurry and low-res from time to time, a testament to the 360’s age, or media capacity, or both…
One other thing that really impressed was the games use of particles, which are used in the game’s many and varied environments just to add a bit of life to the scene. Explosions, smoke and destructible environments all benefit from the games excellent particle system.
AUDIO: Getting into a gunfight is made all the more enjoyable in Future Soldier by the great selection of sounds on offer. The game was tested using a pretty modest sound system and it really does sound terrific, the feeling of bullets whizzing by your head is more apparent in this game than any other I have played. If you can play this game in front of a decent set of speakers set wide apart (or even a chunky pair of headphones) you will enjoy it that little bit more.
GAMEPLAY: Moving your character around in Future Soldier feels similar in many ways to Gears of War, as you run from cover to cover, popping your head over a wall to take a quick shot at a bad guy. The cover system here, however, is an improvement on that seen in Gears, as it allows you to highlight another cover position and, with a prolonged press of the A button, sprint to the selected position. It sounds simple, and it is, but it works a treat when the going gets tough and you need to get out of the line of fire.
Shooting can either be done from an over the shoulder view (fine if you are using a machine gun or shotgun) or first person view via scope/iron sights. Switching into first person view couldn’t be simpler either, a press of the right analogue stick brings your weapon up and ready to fire, roughly in the direction you were looking in when you pressed it. This system is at its most useful while in cover, allowing you to pick off targets quickly and effectively. The combat system in Future Soldier is brilliantly implemented, making every engagement a fun thrill ride; but what if the situation requires you to tread lightly, and not cause a stir? Ghost Team has that covered, too, with the help of enough gadgets to make even James Bond jealous, the most important of which is the team’s active camouflage system. Active Camo’ in Future Soldier works much like systems seen in other shooters, in this case it doesn’t work while shooting, and you need to be crouched down for it to activate. It allows you to sneak past groups of enemies undetected, providing you don’t get too close.
Making best use of your fellow squad members is a key part of the gameplay in Future Soldiers. While it doesn’t give you the option of ordering your squad into position, it does allow you to select targets and perform tactical assassinations without being detected. You can mark up to four targets (three plus your own), and your team won’t make the kill until you fire the first shot or give the kill order with a long press of the right bumper. This system allows you to plan your way through a level with the aim of getting through it and not raising the alarm; which is sometimes a mission requirement. Whenever I saw “NO ALERT ALLOWED” printed on the right of my heads up display it put a big grin on my face. Throw in more gadgets than you can shake a stick at, destructible environments and some epic set pieces and Future Soldier really is an engaging thrill from start to finish.
MUILTIPLAYER: A game like this would be worth very little in this day and age without a whole host of multiplayer options; Future Soldier doesn’t disappoint. Competitive multiplayer is served up in four different flavours: Conflict, Saboteur, Decoy and Siege. All of the competitive multiplayer modes are objective based, and each offer up a different challenge. In my time online I found that teamwork was essential if you wanted to be on the winning team, there is no run and gun lone-ranger stuff to be had here. In Saboteur, a bomb is located in a central area, with both teams trying to secure, transport and detonate the bomb at the enemy base. While in Conflict, objectives are assigned randomly and multiple teams battle it out to fulfil the objectives first.
A co-operative game mode is provided as well, allowing you and three friends to romp through the campaign levels, as well as a couple of specially designed co-op only stages. This is where the real online fun can be found. You, three buddies, ramp up the difficulty, kill some bad guys. Game on!
LONGEVITY: There is a lot to see and do in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. The multiplayer alone will keep you entertained for a long time, especially if you want to level all four character classes up to level 50. Then there is the single player, which is healthy in length, especially if you play it through on the hardest difficulty. After all that, you’ll want to do it all over again with your friends. Add in the Kinect enabled Gunsmith, Ghost Recon’s new weapon customising system, which offers up to 20 million different weapon variations, allowing you to create a weapon perfect for you to use on and offline. How long will it take to create the perfect weapon? A very long time.
VERDICT: If shooters, stealth games or online play are your thing, this is the game for you. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier does so many things right it is hard to think of anything that it gets wrong. Yes sometimes it lacks the visual clarity to wow you, but what is here is presented so well you will likely forget about that.
It is a game that feels like it’s come from a Tom Clancy game melting pot. The fact that is manages to combine different play styles so effortlessly is what makes this game stand out. Stealth, gadgets and bullets galore; Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is not one you want to miss.