Making a game that already has a dedicated following more accessible can be dangerous territory. It works in favor of sales and broadens the audience but can also alienate some fans that feel the game has been “cheapened”. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the newest Tom Clancy game from developer Red Storm rides that fine line between being more accessible than its predecessors and still offering a hardcore tactical experience. Luckily for both parties, it delivers some tense, scripted events with well-designed tactical gameplay.
Future Soldier takes place in the near-future and sees your squad of Ghosts in the usual setting using the genre’s standard premise, a country did something malevolent and you have to find who did it and stop them. It’s really nothing ground-breaking, though there were some memorable pieces that still resonate with me a week later. While it doesn’t offer jawdropping narrative, it does put the pieces in motion for some fantastic sequences of gameplay.
Spanning 12 missions, each roughly taking me about an hour or so to complete the first time, Future Soldier does a fine job of presenting an authentic gameplay experience. Simple scripted scenes, that I would normally shun a game for, make Future Soldier feel more intense. Between little scenes like walking to an overhead door and watching the squad of Ghosts make sure it is all clear before they enter or on-rail-shooting scenes with you trying to protect an individual, these scripted scenes offer a more immersive and intense experience.
As stated before, the campaign is about 12 hours long, so there is actually some meat to the single-player portion of the game. You can also play through the campaign online with up to three friends. However you chose to play, each mission allows you to customize your loadout before you start. I generally played with the default loadout, maybe tweaking a few things to my liking with the Gunsmith feature. As you progress, you unlock more guns and more attachment options, so playing through a second time can have the benefit of superior hardware compared to your first playthrough. On top of that, each mission has its own challenges to complete such as “Kill 15 people with a sniper rifle without missing a shot”, so if you miss a challenge there is that extra incentive to go back and replay the level (maybe with friends this time).
You can play large sections of the game without having a heavy firefight, and while you only have a few viable options to pull this kind of gameplay off, that’s still better than a strict “go down corridor, melee guard 1, shoot guard 2 with silenced weapon” plan. The pacing is fantastic when it comes to intense, high-action sequences to the slower, more methodical sections, too. My only issue is the length of some of these missions and certain checkpoint problems I had. These are more about my personal taste, but at times, I thought I was at the end after a long string of Synch Shots (marking 2+ enemies, allowing you and your squad to take them down simultaneously) and clearing encampments only to find out I was only halfway through the mission.
Red Storm has no random matchmaking for either the campaign or Guerrilla mode, so it makes playing these modes co-op a little more difficult. It’s a shame, too, because my friends list is full of people like me; we generally only play the multiplayer component to shooter games. Future Soldier offers a great campaign, and a “survival” mode that would probably get some more playtime if I could just hop into a game with a few random people. I realize the draw of playing with friends, but it gets a little too hard to manage.
Guerrilla mode is the Ghost Recon “survival” mode. I didn’t get much playtime with this because all of my friends were too addicted to the multiplayer to pry them away, but from what I experienced, it has potential. Playing solo, you most likely won’t get far. I didn’t, anyhow. The first of fifty waves consists of you sneaking around and trying to clear the map of a few enemies. Doing this silently and quickly will get you a higher score. Afterwards, you have to guard a “base”, which is then marked with blue flooring. If an enemy gets in the base, you have so much time to clear them out before you fail. Compared to similar modes in other games, it is different and offers another way to hop in with friends and coordinate attacks together.
Playing the mutliplayer, though, made me forget about any complaints I had with the rest of the game. Touted as a “tactical shooter”, Future Soldier had big boots to fill in my eyes. I played the beta, and can gladly confirm the game feels significantly better. There are no more framerate issues, the general connection to a match has improved and the player base is the actual intended audience. In the beta, people ran around playing it like a run-of-the-mill shooter. Now, people are working together to take down objectives.
The maps offer a variety of different gameplay styles. A few are very open in the middle, with scattered passages along the sides, and one in particular has a dynamic sandstorm obstructing your view to varying degrees. That particular map has me anticipating the Artic Strike DLC coming in a few months.
Conflict was the only game mode available in the beta, and the other two round out your options to give you various objective-based gameplay types. The fourth mode, Siege, is a no-respawn match that slows things down a little bit. So when you die, that’s it. It hearkens back to the glory days of games like SOCOM, only without the level playing field.
The only problem I had with the multiplayer portion of the game is that in the event of getting disconnected, you lose your XP. Other games do this, too, but it’s becoming more normal for online shooters to give you your XP as you play and you lose your bonus points. I was highly-engaged in a back and forth match, and got disconnected towards the end. It’s an aggravating problem, to say the least.
If you haven’t read my editorial, I talk more in-depth about the multiplayer and Gunsmith feature here. Gunsmith really is the unique piece that shines the most in this feature-rich game. Giving you complete customization to your weaponry makes the guns feel like they are tailored just for you. Don’t get me wrong, each gun still feels and looks vastly different, so you can’t expect the second tier of assault rifles to feel exactly like the first tier after you have performed the same general tuneups.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has conformed to more scripted set-pieces, sure, but it offers one of the longest and more enjoyable military campaigns that I have played in awhile. Even though it is more accessible, it still had the stones to make me replay section after section after section because I didn’t plan my attacks right. To be honest, my biggest issue with Future Soldier is the fact that I can’t randomly hop into a campaign with some strangers or play through the Guerrilla mode with random people. Outside of that, Future Soldier is an amazingly-solid experience I highly recommend.
- Campaign is twice as long as most
- The multiplayer is hands down the best in its sub-genre
- Gunsmith gives you control of your weapons
- No random matchmaking for campaign or Guerrilla mode
- If you get disconnected mid-match, you lose your XP
- Individual levels are a little lengthy
Note: This review was based on gameplay for the Playstation 3 console with review material provided by the publisher. Ghost Recon Future Soldier is also available on the X360 and will be available soon on the PC.