Also On: Xbox 360
The Ghost Recon series of games has come a long way since its inception. Whether that’s the road you wanted it to travel is another thing entirely. Personally, I had some fun with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 1 and 2, so prior to checking out Ghost Recon Future Soldier, I was pretty open to the idea of an action-y Ghost Recon title again. But unfortunately I’ve found Future Soldier to be a bit of a bland mess.
There’s elements to Future Soldier that work well, and are even great new ideas for the series. The tagging system, where you’ll mark up to four targets to assign kills to your AI or human controlled buddies on the field works really well. Using your remote controlled drone to fly through the air and target those same bad guys is equally fun, and really changes up the more mundane aspects of stealth gameplay that has you guessing at your approach every few seconds in the hope you don’t get spotted.
The use of Active Camouflage is also pretty well done, albeit not that new in the world of shooters. It’s automatically enabled when you go into a crouching position, and helps to cut down on how visible you are to enemies a great deal. It’s not quite Predator movie tech, there’s a distinct shimmering blurred effect that’ll still give away your position, but it helps you get the drop on a group of bad guys pretty often.
Future Soldier’s cover system is also really well implemented. Instead of just ducking behind cover and rolling to something adjacent for mobility, you can highlight even far away structures to duck behind. This is done by just holding down the cover button instead of tapping it, which causes your soldier to roadie run to nearby cover, making them pretty difficult to hit. Using this system to flank foes is extremely viable throughout the campaign, and pretty much necessary as your vulnerability is high. Like most Ghost Recon titles, nobody in this game could be described as a bullet sponge.
What’s so bad about all this then? Well, for one, it’s pretty boring to play. Despite the new ideas and advances showcased, which includes an extensive weapon modding system that’s as neat as it is unnecessary, there’s a lot of dull moments spread across the campaign. There are a number of sections that literally involve walking from checkpoint to checkpoint, with nothing but inane group chatter to keep you company. The game could do with a bit of brevity in between its action sequences, as these down moments really hurt the overall pacing of the experience.
Also, your team A.I. is consistently weird. For the most part, in combat, they work really well. Issuing commands is easy enough, and even if you don’t, they seem to be pretty self-reliant. If you get shot down, they’ll come over to heal you, and they don’t tend to put themselves in the line of fire unnecessarily. But other things that should be pretty basic, like navigating the geometry, seem to elude them at times.
I had a handful of restarts where I’d get to a checkpoint, like a door to be breached, and couldn’t advance because one of my teammates would never make it there. On one occasion I flipped over to an episode of Community and upon finishing came back to the game, only to find that the missing member of my squad was still missing. This would be less annoying if I could move from the checkpoint spot to try and flush him out, but once you’re at that checkpoint you become frozen in place.
Also worth noting, Future Soldier looks like a step backwards on the visual side of things. I’m not sure why or how it would look worse, but I certainly felt like GRAW 2 was a better looking game than this. There’s a strange smear effect over everything, which looks a bit like someone had rubbed Vaseline all over my T.V. screen. And character models are atrociously ugly when not in full gear, it’s like they didn’t bother to model the human faces correctly. It honestly looks a bit amateurish compared to other AAA shooters on the market.
Multiplayer fares a bit better, which I suppose is due to the fact that a different studio handled this section of the game. There are a handful of modes, with a focus on objective based gameplay instead of just standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The objective stuff is really fun provided you get together a team that understands the concept, and this is also where the weapon customization really starts to shine and feels like a useful thing to have.
Like most shooters nowadays, there’s an experience system in place, which unlocks additional gear and player customization options as you rank up. There are three distinct classes to level up as well, so if you’re looking to unlock everything it might take you some time to do so.
Map design feels particularly great; with some really stand out locations that are well suited to the Future Soldier’s cover mechanics. Other concepts are equally interesting, like disabling an enemy to hack them, which will reveal their teammates locations on the map temporarily. On the downside to the map structure, forced spawn points can lead to some unfortunate camping, but that’s generally alleviated by spawning in on a teammate’s location instead. However, doing that also leaves you pretty vulnerable and disoriented, and there’s nothing in the way of an invincibility window to help you out there.
Overall, Ghost Recon Future Soldier is a mixed bag. I found the multiplayer side of the game to be pretty fun, but the campaign was a chore to try and get through. Not because the difficulty was overly punishing, but more so because it was just downright boring. It certainly has some interesting ideas and mechanics, but it’s not enough to detract from the tepid gameplay. So, if you’re looking for a sound multiplayer shooter it’s not a bad way to go, but I’d avoid the mess of the campaign entirely.