We play games for a variety of reasons, all of them valid. Some want to be murdered time and again, some want to see pretty colors swirling around, and some want to kill. Not just kill, some want to destroy. If this just happens to be you, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is right up your alley.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier puts the player in the role of a Ghost, an elite military unit equipped with the most advanced near-future tech available. Using your vast array of gadgets and gizmos, you will infiltrate and destroy any number of decidedly 20th century targets. You? A mobile, nearly invisible arsenal of death. Them? A few dudes with some guns. You do the math. You will destroy, you will probably not die, they will probably never see it coming.
This is both the best and worst thing about Ghost Recon. Pulling off a perfectly executed sync shot and taking down four enemies in an instant feels good. Pulling off your 50th perfectly executed sync shot and taking down four enemies in an instant feels tired. The Warhound, your very own mobile artillery base, which allows you an infinite number of mortars and guided missiles, is amazing… right up until you use it to decimate your what must be the fifteenth wave of oncoming idiot enemies, and you decide you’d rather sneak around and do that 51st sync shot.
If it seems like I’m talking an awful lot about killing for any kind of stealth game, that’s because in Future Soldier, you are a killer. The opportunities to sneak past enemies are few and far between, and there is no benefit whatsoever to going the extra mile. Your arsenal of gadgets gives you a nearly godlike advantage, but all that knowledge and power is to be used, apparently, only for killing. It’s not that I’m against killing enemies in video games (and Future Soldier goes to great lengths to assure you that these are bad people who undoubtedly deserve their fate) but I’m a fan of options, of variety, and of freedom.
From a technical standpoint, Future Soldier is absolutely one of the best looking modern setting shooters I have ever played. If you were to take a screenshot of Future Soldier and line it up alongside the plethora of near future military shooting games, you could very easily identify Future Soldier amongst the crowd. That Ubisoft has managed to forge a distinct visual identity in this over-crowded genre is a feat in and of itself. Lighting and particle effects impress, while little details like the shimmer of your surroundings through your active cammo is often fun to just stand and look at while slowly moving your camera around the character to see the distorted background from different angles. Likewise, the sound effects, mostly explosions and gunfire, have impact. There is little to no noticeable or notable music to be found, but plenty of perfectly passable voice acting, both during cut scenes and incidentally throughout the game.
Now we come to a point, as we do in every sequel’s review, where we bring up the series’ past exploits. Understand, if you are expecting an experience very similar to previous Ghost Recon games, filled with numerous tactical options and in depth squad command decisions, you will be disappointed. This is Ghost Recon at its most distilled, its most accessible, and, for better or worse, its most simplified. This is comparable to the shift from, say, Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 3. Is it a better game? I believe so, but my investment in the game wasn’t based around sorting inventory and assigning skill points. Your mileage may vary, and if what you want is the old Ghost Recon, this may not be the game for you. If, however, you want a shooting experience that sounds, looks, and controls well, features excellent encounter design, and clips along at a quick pace that keeps the excitement level high, this probably is the game for you.
As opposed to the strong campaign mode, multiplayer in Future Soldier is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the game tones down the level of omniscience granted by your gadgetry, on the other your relative fragility can lead to quick frustration. The learning curve on such a game is steep, with only those willing to undergo a brutal and unforgiving crash course of death likely to come out of the experience with a positive outlook. Still, Gunsmith’s customization plays a far more prominent role here than in singleplayer, and if you are playing with a group of friends, expect to have a good time. Guerilla mode, yet another wave based multiplayer gametype, is exactly what you think it is. Fun if you like that sort of thing, to be ignored if not.
In the end, Ubisoft has crafted an excellent game in Future Soldier. Varied encounter design, convincing sound effects, and a strong, identifiable visual language come together to create an enjoyable, action oriented summer blockbuster experience. While the relative lack of difficulty on normal mode will make more experienced players want to play on a harder difficulty, the gadgets throughout the game give you an endless buffet of ways to dominate your outclassed enemies. A lackluster multiplayer suite and limited tactical options may limit replayability for many, but the initial experience is absolutely worth the price of entry.