Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ReviewMatt Andrews
Future Soldier is a third person simulation shooter, and presents itself as such throughout with top-notch graphics and attention to detail. In fact, in terms of presentation, Future Soldier is absolutely stunning. Character rendering is ultra-realistic, down to the slightest details in uniform, weapons and equipment. Game play environments are equally impressive, and it is clear that no expense was spared in designing and rendering one of, if not the single most visually and audibly impressive shooters ever created. In the modern combat environments encountered, dust storms will reduce visibility in the most convincing manner, civilians will panic and bump into you as they flea the area, and windy conditions will jostle your aim unless you crouch behind cover or lie prone. The game will continue to amaze players with a level of detail unprecedented in simulation-style shooters. There is no question that esthetically, Ghost Recon Future Soldier stands toe to toe with the best in the genre.
If presentation were the only criteria, Ghost Recon would be a no brainer, but Future Soldier has some solid game play behind the pretty face. The campaign mode in Future Soldier breaks the standard of adequacy set by other first and third person shooters, making each mission a truly unique experience. As a start, missions will be performed as a four member team, all of which can be played by your friends online if you so desire the challenge. Throughout the game, emphasis is placed on use of high-tech equipment to efficiently complete your missions. A streamlined cover system allows players to quickly select their next position before exposing themselves, permitting aggressive game play in a variety of environments. The game also offers players options mid-mission, though it does so more subtly than most. You won't be pressing square for one option or triangle for the other and your choices won't entirely alter the outcome of the game. Rather, you'll be place at one side of an environment, told where you need to end up, and left on your own to decide if you'll skirt the outside of the town or weave through alleys dropping enemies along the way to get there.
You'll have the additional decision to attempt the mission guns blazin' or in a more stealthy manner, but the choice won't be as simple as seeing if you're provided with a silenced weapon or not. Before each mission you'll be thoroughly briefed on the objective, location, time of day, and so on, before being prompted to choose the weapon, attachments, and equipment you prefer to get the job done. So grab an LMG, a fore grip, and some frag grenades if you'd like, or take a rifle with a select-fire trigger and a suppressor attached so you can mark your enemies and take out up to four at a time using the sync-shot feature. In either case, the choices you make before ever hitting the ground will alter the temperament of each mission. Coupled with the relatively unguided nature of each mission and unlockable weapons and attachments, the campaign mode has uncommon replay value.
What is most striking about Future Soldier is really the gunsmith feature - in short, it makes the game. For the unacquainted (all three of you), Future Soldier's gunsmith feature claims to be the premier customization system in the genre, and it certainly is. Though there are only 50 different weapons available, the barrel, gas system, optics, muzzle, fore rail, stock, trigger, under-barrel, magazine and paint of each can be altered in a truly purposeful way, drastically altering the capabilities of each gun. Add a handle to a powerful rifle or machine gun for control while crouched or standing, or add a retractable bipod for complete control and instant, accurate follow-up shots while in prone or behind cover. For the mobile player, add a longer barrel to give your SMG better range, or chose a lighter stock and alter the gas and trigger systems to increase rate of fire. The outcome of the gunsmith system as a whole is that any weapon can be altered beyond recognition both in form and in function. What's more is that a perfect weapon can be created for any style of play, ultimately making the player the limiting factor in all circumstances.
Not surprisingly, the gunsmith feature translates beautifully to multiplayer, especially in the online setting. Players will have a variety of character classes to choose from each with a special ability and set of weapons unique to their role. Scouts have a cloaking device when moving slowly or standing still, rifleman can supply extra ammunition to themselves or teammates, and engineers can gather enemy information for their whole team to use. Staying true to the tactical nature of the Ghost Recon series, objective-based game modes are offered for matchmaking.
Online play is challenging but rewarding. Each of your character classes will advance in level individually, allowing you to unlock just one of the hundreds of available attachments with each new level. Some weapons and attachments of course won't be unlocked until higher levels are reached, and reaching these levels is not easy. The true pleasure in online play comes from freedom to develop your unique style of play. No single weapon, class of character, or style of play, or futuristic equipment seems to have significant advantage over another so however you choose to play, Future Soldier offers all that you need to be effective in online combat.
Though Future Soldier excels in many areas, it is clear and regrettable that corners were cut in some aspects. To start, a seemingly simple menu system makes getting to the game play tiresome by today's standards due to clunky loading screens. Ubisoft also decided to omit a paper manual, opting for an electronic manual instead. The built-in manual does an adequate job of teaching some of the finer points of game, but lacks many basics as well as any significant appeal or utility in the long run. Though the depth of each individual mission is impressive, missions seem loosely tied together by a rather clich story. On final addition to this list of shortcomings though is that Future Soldier hasn't solved the issue of close quarters shootouts, leaving players mashing the melee button or aimlessly spraying bullets when they encounter a pointblank enemy.
Perhaps most appalling, though, is the inattention to quality that spills over into otherwise impressive third person shooting game play. In the Campaign and Guerilla modes, players should expect some problems with frame rate, mission-ending freezes, and the likes. These occur far too frequently. Such issues aren't nearly as prevalent in the online multiplayer, but it has its own concerns, namely a pretty severe lack of game modes. Though the game sticks to its tactical roots, it provides gamers just three modes of online play, which all but eliminates Future Soldier from consideration as the best shooter in recent memory.
Ghost Recon Future soldier is a great game; this is undeniable. Fans of the series won't be disappointed, and newcomers will have a hard time returning to their shooter of choice without wishing it had some features from this latest Ghost Recon installment. However, Future Soldier falls short in areas and does so too obviously to ignore. Ghost Recon lands itself at the cusp of being one of those revolutionary and truly timeless shooters. Rather, it will remain a high-quality third person shooter until the next installment is released.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.