Review: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
The Ghosts are back and ready to save the world, one UAV drone at a time.
- Worth The Time?Yes, once you get past the extremely boring initial missions.
- Things LovedAfter around the halfway mark, the campaign becomes quite entertaining, an array of different weapons and gadgets to choose from, customization in Gunsmith is impressive, addictive and rewarding multiplayer, lengthy campaign, likable squad mates, each of which have their own personality.
- Things HatedThe first half of the campaign is a drag, campaign seems to have been dumbed down, some gadgets make the game way too easy, some visual quirks, bugs in multiplayer and single-player, campaign doesn't have the same tactical depth as previous entries, story is cliché and gives you no motivation to do "just one more mission", action feels to scripted at the best of times, missions follow predictable patterns, infuriating pace breaking sections.
- RecommendationFans of previous Ghost Recon titles will certainly find their fix here, but may feel somewhat disappointed. Future Soldier is a solid third-person shooter, and gives you a lot of content for your buck, but it certainly isn't the pinnacle of the franchise. Newcomers to the series shouldn't be disappointed, but returning fans might curse the decision to dumb down certain mechanics.
- Name: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Co-Operative and Competitive
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
- Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Red Storm and Ubisoft Romania
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R550.00 (Xbox 360 and PS3), R350.00 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Imagining the future seems to be one of the most fascinating ideas that invade the minds of everyone in the world. No matter what we always seem to be thinking of “The world of tomorrow” or envisioning what our lives would be like in a few decades. Many theorists and scientists paint us pretty pictures of our future utopias, but those changes won’t apply to everyone. Some people look ahead to a future where fighting becomes obsolete and people no longer die in conflicts and wars. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier doesn’t paint this picture. Instead it flings you into a world that hasn’t really changed much. Americans still hate the Russians, Russians still have a problem dealing with their nukes, and the world could plunge into nuclear warfare at the press of a button. The Ghosts are back to save the day, and they’ve brought along a few new toys.
Future Soldier tells a familiar tale, most notably one that sounds remarkably similar to a particular film “A Sum of All Fears”. Basically, the Ghost squad is sent on various globetrotting missions after a bomb kills an entire squad of men. You’re on the hunt for the owner, buyers and suppliers of said bomb and soon uncover a plot that ties to, you guessed it, the Russians. One thing leads to another and a nuke is launched, seemingly by the Russian Government. They claim innocence, and instead a Russian splinter group takes the credit, attempting a coup of the local government. Your job, as a four-man ghost team that shouldn’t ever make their existence known, is basically to stop this threat.
You may be asking yourself why I’ve decided to reveal some “crucial” plot points. Well mainly because the story featured in Future Soldier isn’t solid in the slightest. Previous Ghost Recon’s shared this quality, but I can’t honestly say I paid attention at all to the story during the campaign. In fact, I had trouble finding my motivation in missions, often not even knowing why I was in a particular country gunning down insurgents. It’s not like I was expecting an award winning script, but it just seems like a lot was squandered here. It’s the future; why not make my threat different to what is happening in the world today? Thankfully, the story does redeem itself with its few cutscenes that describe the lives of the Ghost squadron within the army, showing how isolated and different they are from the rest of the gung-ho infantry. It’s warming to see something a bit more realistic than every soldier shouting “Orah” every five minutes in unison, as I doubt that always happens. Seeing your squad leader sing along to some Bob Marley early on in the campaign goes a long way in making me care about my fellow teammates, as they are no longer AI controlled bots barking orders to me, but rather teammates that I can relate to, in a way.
Making you care about your teammates is ultimately a good thing, considering you’ll spend a good 10 hours with them in the game’s campaign. Future Soldier does a good job of setting up a good sense of comradery between you and your teammates, which in turn makes you feel as though you’re part of a well-oiled machine when you’re flung into the battlefield as a team. Future Soldier may not offer the same amount of tactical control that previous entries gave you over your teammates, but you’re still able to use them to good effect. The most prominent use of teamwork is the sync shots that you are able to perform in stealthy situations. Mark up to a maximum of four targets and take them out with absolute precision at the same time, allowing you to clear large groups of enemies quietly and efficiently. Even if there are four people you can still use this feature, marking targets and simply holding down a button for your teammates to automatically take down the marks. The action even temporarily slows down after the execution; giving you time to quickly identify more targets or clean up a sad and lonely fifth target. The system works well, especially since the game basically groups enemies together to make this system so effective.
And that’s where the problems start to show. Future Soldier feels a lot more constrained, scripted and linear than previous entries. While previous Ghost Recon titles (notably the Advanced Warfighter titles) sometimes gave you a large battlefield to plan your attacks and maneuver around, Future Soldier only offers a handful of such situations, which only start appearing around the halfway mark. The first two to three hours feel almost like a large tutorial, with enemy squads never exceeding an amount which you can’t take out with sync shot and stealth sequences feeling way too easy. Firefights do liven up the action a bit, and the fact that you die extremely quickly does keep the tension high. However, a lot of these firefights are unmemorable, straight forward and often you feel that it’s easier to let your teammates deal with the problems rather than formulate a tactic to flank. Adding human teammates to your team does alleviate some of these issues, as now instead of three AI controlled bots finding their way around enemies, you have three other players that could fall victim to human error. Playing with up to three other friends also makes the overall experience a lot more fun.
However this still boils down to one simple point; Future Soldier is way too easy. Now it’s not easy because I didn’t die often, but rather because Future Soldier holds your hand through most of the campaign. Weapon sets for missions are automatically picked out, some missions give you equipment, some let you go without even firing your gun, and when you get the UAV drone early in the game, marking targets doesn’t even require you to have a line of sight. Using the drone to mark targets almost gives you the sensation that you’re playing a strategy game, but it takes away any danger you could put your character in while using it. Instead of making the UAV drone a risky but necessary option to formulate a tactic, it has been reduced to a near invisible drone that enemies rarely see.
Aside from a few highly interesting missions (most notably a mission that takes place on an airstrip) most of your excursions follow a familiar pattern. You have a stealth phase, a firefight, maybe a few timed sections to keep things moving at a pace and the occasional on rails section. Most missions have unique gear to keep them entertaining, which works for the most part but you’ll almost definitely pick up on the obvious pattern of events. Each mission has a few sections that act to break up the action and slow down the pace, but more often than not these are extremely slow set-pieces through corridors that contain no enemies, forcing you to move trudging towards the next regroup point while you listen to some orders being issued. It’s boring and feels like an interactive loading screen, which doesn’t do a good job at keeping you entertained.
Thankfully, there are some mechanics that accompany each mission that have the potential to make the action a whole lot better. Each mission, and even each playthrough, comes equipped with certain weapon and item challenges that can be completed during the mission in order to obtain weapon upgrades. These objectives include things like reaching certain points without engaging enemies, using only a certain number of ammo clips and much more. Pursuing these goals makes each mission a lot more interesting, as they often force you to change your behavior completely. What looks like an easy group sync shot kill becomes an obstacle to sneak your entire team around, and compulsive reloaders will have a hard time breaking their habits in order to save ammo. Complete these objectives (and trust me, some can be really challenging) and you’ll be rewarded with armor-piercing rounds, barrels, attachments and even new weapons as rewards.
All of these rewards come into play in the Gunsmith mode, which is basically any weapon lover’s paradise. You have an array of assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, SMG’S and LMG’s to choose from, all of which can be unlocked in the campaign. Choose a weapon and start customizing. The Gunsmith mode gives you an extensive range of options to make the weapon you’re wielding feel unique and suited perfectly for the job at hand. Allowing you to change anything from your barrel, length of barrel, stock, trigger, gas system, camouflage and more makes Gunsmith one of the most impressive gun customization tools in games yet. After you’re done making your pistol shoot more like a sniper, you’re able to test it out at the gun range which gives you a good feel of your weapon and allows you to assess its recoil, range and maneuverability. You can jump into the range at any time during customization, allowing you to really fine-tune your weapon the way you want it. This may not have a massive effect during the campaign, where virtually any weapon usually gets the job done, but in multiplayer matches the perfectly balanced weapon in the right situation can make all the difference.
Future Soldier offers a host of team-based multiplayer modes that center on good teamwork at the core. All five modes reward players for working as a team, giving players points for revives, objective captures and detecting enemy troops. This becomes increasingly crucial when you realize that tiebreakers in each match type depend on cumulative team points, meaning that the better team should always win. Multiplayer doesn’t encourage everyone to become one man wrecking balls, but rather entices you to take on some sort of role in a team. One player could fling sensor grenades or fly a UAV around the map, marking enemies so that other teammates can see them through walls, and on their maps. Snipers have optical camouflage that make them virtually invisible from afar, and having them cover you while you capture an objective could be the difference between a point or no point. Having a few Assault classes that are able to keep the enemy at bay during defense objectives could decide who wins, and who doesn’t. It all blends in quite nicely together, and having voice communication with your teammates not only enhances the experience, but makes you feel as though you’re playing with a top-notch ghost squad. Granted you’re not playing with 10 year olds, that is.
As I said before Gunsmith also features in multiplayer and serves to handle all your weapon needs. However, this Gunsmith is completely separate from your campaign one, meaning that all your unlocks will have to be re-earned from scratch, as you would expect. There are three classes on offer here, namely Assault, Engineer and Scout. Playing as a certain class will earn you experience for that class, eventually unlocking points for you to spend at the Gunsmith. Each new level unlocks more weapons and gear for you to use, but only spending unlock points will grant you usage of these items. This system works extremely well, especially when it comes to gun modifications. While some weapons may be locked out until higher levels, you are never restricted when it comes to modifying weapons you already own. Burn through a few points and before you know it your average ACR rifle has now turned into a silenced killing machine with a heartbeat sensor and dual magazine, for example. You can also spend points on equipment that could help you in the battlefield, like decoy grenades, UAV’s, sensor grenades and flashbangs (which last way too long in-game). Unlocks are also faction specific, so the team you are assigned to makes a difference to your load out. Worry not though, as points are not shared between factions, so you’ll never feel as though you’re upgrading one and not the other.
I did however come across a few bugs in the multiplayer, some not quite as severe as others. My character sometimes stuck to cover that did not exist, which happens quite often in the single-player portion as well, and sometimes my weapons would be completely invisible. Worst of all was one bug that I encountered not long after first starting the multiplayer, which basically made me a hack. After dying and respawning, I noticed that my character still showed up as dead on the map. Enemies and teammates could not see me; I could not kill anyone, not die and not be shot at. Thing is, I could still interact with objectives. This essentially meant defeat for the opposing team, as now they had to somehow stop me while they couldn’t even see or kill me. It broke that particular match, and I do hope Ubisoft release a patch for it soon.
Visually, Future Soldier is a bit of a letdown. That’s not to say it doesn’t look good, but it just doesn’t seem to really impress either. Muddy textures here and there, terrible character models, especially when it comes to cutscenes, and some oddities with the optical camouflage could irritate on more than one occasion. Sound is solid enough to make you feel as though you’re in a warzone and it doesn’t really strike any wrong cords. What is refreshing is the difference in locales that you visit throughout the game, meaning that you won’t be forced to look at a dusty desert the entire game. Some nice blizzard conditions in a snowy outpost to a dark and wet airstrip in Russia, environments do a good job of keeping your eyes entertained, even if the gameplay has you bored.
Future Soldier also offers its own brand of co-operative “wave” gameplay called Guerilla Mode, where you and up to three other friends can take on endless waves of enemies. It’s not something really new, and the actual mode doesn’t really have the same addictive nature as say Call of Duty’s Zombie mode or Gears of War’s Horde mode, so it just fills a game that doesn’t really need anything more. All of these multiplayer features come at a price though, so expect to buy an online pass if you plan on picking this up on the second-hand shelf. If you’re just in it for the single-player, you may come away feeling somewhat disappointed. With a truly lackluster storyline that does little to motivate you as you go along, and an extremely annoying first few hours, Future Soldier’s campaign doesn’t do the series justice. The last few missions feel like the Ghost Recon action you came for, so it’s astonishing that there is so much hand-holding up to that point.
At least Future Soldier’s multiplayer more than makes up for this. With a strong and balanced emphasis on teamwork and an extremely addictive rewards system, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier keeps the series’ multiplayer standards high and gives you a good reason to own this game. If you’re a fan of online shooters, then this is seriously something you’re going to enjoy, although the online pass could make it or break it, depending on how you buy the game. If you’re a fan of the series you might be somewhat disappointed by the campaign, but after a few hours of multiplayer you might just forget about it all together.