Ghost Recon Future Soldier takes the core concepts of the Clancy franchise of games, and in particular Advanced Warfighter, then speeds everything up. The political intrigue and complex plot-lines involving world powers playing covert games behind the scenes are still there, with a much more fluid and quick-feeling gameplay. Fans of Tom Clancy will appreciate the themes of the game, while gamers in general will appreciate how fluid everything feels now.
+The speed of the gameplay has been greatly improved and feels more fluid.
+The toys offered by the game, flying drones, magnetic vision, EMP grenades, etc. are a lot of fun.
+Gun Smith mode should be the new benchmark in video game weapon customization.
-The multiplayer is extremely niche, requiring a specific kind of gamer-mentality to be enjoyed.
-Kinect features feel a little tacked on and still have that ‘novelty’ feel.
-The story has a tendency to be lost in the game’s more fast-paced/action oriented style.
I think my love of shooters in general is pretty well known by this point. Generally speaking if there’s an action/shooter than needs to get the ‘professional opinion’ on Shogun Gamer, it’s something that’s slid across my desk. What a lot of people probably don’t know though is that I’m an even bigger fan of the sub-genre of ‘tactical shooter’. I’ve been following along with game series like Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon since their inception. Rainbow Six still has my favorite moments in gaming, of all time. That is the reason why I’ve spent the last couple of weeks embedded within Ghost Recon Future Soldier.
Now, first and least importantly, I do need to bring up the naming convention of the game. We’re two games deep into Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter, and now we have “Future Soldier” which begs the question “Why the sudden change, or not so much of a change?” The easy answer is that it’s a new story, though in the same universe. From the outside the game looks a lot like GRAW, there’s tons of future tech, like the ability to spot people through walls with the aid of sonar, satellites, and remote-control drones, but what becomes crystal-clear in the game-play is how the pace of the two games are drastically different.
At the core you are still commanding a small squad of four, navigating your way through war-torn countries in the not-so-distant future, utilizing called shots and team-work to take out your opposition as efficiently as possible. The pace though, is far different. Everything in Future Soldier just feels faster and more visceral. The gameplay feels almost like they took the ideas of GRAW and then set the speed of the game to double-time. The increase of pace is thanks, in no small part, to the fluid system developed by Ubisoft. While in previous iterations of the Ghost Recon the ‘stack up’ movements of setting your squad up around a room or battlefield and planning your shots felt slow and deliberate, in Future Soldier it all comes together fast and smooth. There’s no need to tell your team-mates where to stack up, just mark the targets you want taken out and they’ll find the optimal position to strike from cover.
One of my favorite parts of the game, and in particular the mark-and-execute game-play that Ubisoft and the Tom Clancy games have come to make a staple of their franchises, is how the ‘execute’ portion is handled now.
Instead of just pressing a button (which you can still do) to have everyone unload on their targets and take down a swarm of enemies in the blink of an eye, you can become involved in the process. Once your three squad-mates have stacked up, altering you to their positioning, you can get your sights locked on a fourth target as well. The game’s slick with both the execution and presentation of this process, a laser line connecting the target with the barrel of the gun of each of the squad, then, when you’re squared up, just pull your trigger and the team moves on your action.
As I said before the key to the gameplay in Future Soldier is in the fluidity of it. It’s super easy to come running up towards a group of oblivious enemy soldiers, marking them for execution on the fly, then plan your shot and fire, all within seconds rather than minutes. It’s a testament to the evolution of the genre that Ubisoft created, and it feels like the next logical step, even if we, as the gamers, might not have been able to call it in advance.
Not only does the game play well, but it looks solid. The concepts of magnetic vision (allowing you to see metal objects through stone walls and the like) is kind of goofy sounding at first, but plays well to the concepts the game brings forwards, and, even though it looks a little like Batman Arkham Asylum’s ‘detective mode’ plays well with the overall esthetic of the game. There’s definitely something to be said for interjecting some bright/neon blue streaks/accents over a game that primarily focuses on a dark/brown color palette.
The story of the game is your standard Tom Clancy plot which revolves around world powers doing global battle with all manner of political intrigue via covert operations. If you’re a fan of the rest of the Ghost Recon franchise, you’ll feel right at home with the complex shifting concepts of the game as it progresses through the single-player campaign through the eyes of the four-man Ghost squad. Outsiders though generally tend to get lost, and honestly, the game play of this one does hurt the story some. With everything being a little faster and action-oriented it’s easy to get lost during the story’s shifting premise, or dismiss it entirely. In previous iterations of the game everything was slow and deliberate and it lent to more narration, discussion and player interaction… Future Soldier though, things are moving quite quickly and it’s very easy to miss something.
The biggest stumbling point of the game, from my point of view, is in the multiplayer. While I love the concept of a full co-operative campaign, the ability to have up to three of your friends jump in and take on the roles of your other Ghost squard-mates, the competitive multiplayer portions of the game did leave a little something to be desired.
Admittedly I’ve never been ‘good’ at Ghost Recon’s multiplayer. It’s a more methodical approach to gaming that requires open and active communication with your team, you need to be aware of your surroundings, objectives, and always, ALWAYS approach with caution… the complete opposite of how I generally play a shooter online. I don’t know where the line was drawn, but at some point in my gaming career there became a hard-line on vs. and single-player. I prefer to stealth and am smart about things in my own game, but online I much prefer running around like a chicken with its head cut-off, spraying bullets at random… which is the easiest way to get ‘pwned’ in GR. If you’re a fan of discussing strategy at length with team-mates, moving up inch by inch and clearing each zone as you progress towards your target, then GRFS’s Conflict, Decoy, Saboteur, and Siege modes are probably right up your alley.
The four modes offered are primarily team-objective based where your squad works together to accomplish a task. In Saboteur it’s attack and defense as a target is called and one team defends while the other attacks. Decoy is similar, but with the addition of multiple targets. There are three potential targets, with only one being the game-winning objective. Siege and Conflict are a little more classic, with Siege being exactly what it sounds like and Conflict representing the game’s ‘deathmatch’ mode.
Of course, I wouldn’t be able to get away without talking about the game’s biggest sell-point. The feature they’ve been pimping since the original announcement of the game: weapon customization and integration with the Xbox Kinect. The idea of being able to break down your gun and rework the gun piece by piece is awesome. I absolutely loved exploding the gun and swapping out everything from the barrel down to the trigger. There are hundreds of options for customizing here and tons of weapons to choose between giving a wide birth of options for how the game can be played, and the ability to switch between building the gun to the gun-range with the press of a button is phenomenal. Gone are the days, finally, where we had to build guns and then go into a campaign and test it; having to then either just deal with it for the remainder of a level or quitting out. As far as weapon customization is concerned, this is my new benchmark. Graphically, technically, everything makes sense and is slick and interesting so it is my personal hope that all action/shooter titles moving forwards take a look at Future Soldier’s ‘Gun Smith’ mode.
The Kinect features, however, feel a little more like a novelty. Future Soldier comes out in an era where the Kinect is still trying to find its foot-hold in the world of gaming, and has that unfortunate problem of feeling like it’s more of a novelty than something that intelligently gets you through menus or commands.
Shogun Gamer is also running a contest on the site during our E3 coverage for a give-away of the Collector’s Edition of Future Soldier. Head over to Corey’s unboxing of the collector’s edition of the game and leave a comment for a chance to walk away with a copy the game including all the trimmings and extras.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.