Even Ghosts have setbacks.
Tom Clancy Ghost Recon games should be synonymous with the phrase “There is no I in team”, because that’s what the tactical squad, third person shooter series is all about: teamwork. Ubisoft has taken this phrase to a higher level with “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
As the name suggests, Future Soldier is all about combining tactical military combat with the most advanced technological gadgets known to mankind. In reaction to an enemy's bomb killing off some of their members, the 4-man military team of 'Ghosts' secretly set out to infiltrate a Russian threat known as Raven's Rock, who are responsible for various illegal activities and causing terror in a few third world countries. Using futuristic gadgets and high tech camouflage, the Ghosts set out to take them down. The story throughout the single player and co-op campaign mode is so nonsensical and underdeveloped that it hardly keeps you interested. One of the characters in your squad acts as a comic relief while the other three are…just there. There are no real redeeming qualities about any of them and with cut scenes looking to get a tear or two out of you, the entire campaign feels very forced and underdeveloped.
Thankfully, the game is very gorgeous to look at. From the tropical cities of Bolivia to the snowy mountains of Russia, there are a few stages throughout the game that definitely pop out at you. However, the character models for your enemies aren’t exclusively detailed as your squad and you’ll often find that the game spawns many doppelgangers throughout. Add a couple glitches here and there and you’ll see that the graphical presentation is far from perfect.
The campaign modes gives players various mission objectives that will force them to either use stealth throughout the mission or make as much noise as you want by engaging hostiles in plenty of heated and heavy gunfights. Most of these missions prefer the quiet route and you’ll have to make use of the advanced technology at your disposal or risk seeing a “try again” screen. Keeping in tune with the new technology, players will be able to throw out sensors that allow you to get a sense of how many enemies are in the area, even ones behind walls. They’ll also use their drones, which can fly out to get an overhead scan or ride around on the ground to get through small vents and disable machinery. The optical camouflage is the best technology you have and while it can make you completely invisible to enemies, firing your weapon or moving too fast can disable that magic and leave you out in the open.
Future Soldier heavily emphasizes the importance of your team with the use of Synch Shot and Focus Fire. Up to four enemies can be marked for a swooping snipe shot once your team secures a clear aim. It’s hugely satisfying when marking and ordering shots among your team, and even more so when your shot triggers a slow-mo action sequence. The Focus Fire is for when things get a little nasty and you find yourself not being able to jump from cover and take a shot. You can tag enemies for your teammates to take care of and lessen the pressure. The only downside about all of this is that you can’t directly control any of your teammates. The only power you have over them are the enemies that you choose for them to focus fire on, but nothing else. The AI in this game can put you in a tough spot if you’re reckless, but if you’re stealth smart, you may feel that the enemies are a walk in the park.
Since Future Soldier thrives on teamwork, the online multiplayer mode can be a bit of a hassle if you don’t have any friends with you. Sure, you can jump right into one of the four multiplayer modes (“Sabateur” mode is most fun out of the bunch) and try your luck at being a one man show, but you’ll seldom get far. Luckily, the game readily gives you the option to form squads with you and your friends online and from there things seem to have a better light. You can take on the scout, rifleman, or an engineer classes and level them up by playing various online matches and completing the objectives. These objectives range from holding down resupply spots, compromising VIP targets, and so on and completing them can give your team the upper hand in scoring. As with the campaign mode, rushing from cover to cover, using your camouflage and gadgets to your advantage translates very well here and it makes the experience fun. Sadly, matches can abruptly end at any time due to Ubisoft’s server issues and compared to the campaign mode, the glitches are even more recurring.
Ghost Recon has had it’s hit and misses, and Future Soldier seems to land right in the middle. You can spend a lot of time on this game given the extra challenges in the campaign mode and the “Gureilla” mode, which is highly similar to Modern Warfare 3’s hoard mode, will also keep you busy. Overall, the game feels like it could have been grand if it were given some more development time. The glitches and the blandness of the game taints part of the experience. If you don’t care about graphic setbacks, this is probably the best third person squad based shooter that’s out right now. However, it’s far from being the best all around shooter that players have seen or will see this year.