2012-05-25

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier – A Fresh Change Of Pace

by Yo Snyder

I honestly don’t think Ghost Recon: Future Solider has gotten a
fair shake. Like its namesake, it’s practically snuck onto store
shelves without anyone noticing. It’s not really its fault, it’s just
that any time there was announcement about Future Soldier, there seemed to be in the immediate vicinity an announcement about Call of Duty like the reveal of Black Ops II or news about Battlefield 3 or something about Halo 4.
It’s hard to get out beneath the shadow of those games in this genre.
However, those game aren’t here yet (or in the case of BF3, the updates
aren’t here yet), and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is. And the
fact of the matter is, if you’re a little tired of the running shooting
gallery of CoD or the explosive mayhem and destruction of BF3, Future Soldier provides a different kind of shooter experience that’s no less exciting and fun.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a tactical, third-person
shooter with the emphasis on tactics. If you prefer to just point and
pull the trigger, this isn’t the game for you. If you like to plan out
your attacks for maximum, lethal efficiency; you should be a Ghost. This
game requires to you think about how you shoot, it requires you to be
aware of the tactical situation at all times (and fortunately, gives you
the tools and gizmos to do so), and it requires you to plan, coordinate
and work with your teammates. This gives the game a different pace; a
more methodical, deliberate pace. That isn’t to say there aren’t hectic
moments. There are times where the best strategies fail and things erupt
into a frenzy of gunfire, but those moments are well paced with the
quieter ones. Mission often start off requiring absolute stealth and end
in a blaze of chaos and gunfire; it’s fun stuff with an entirely
different feel from the CoDs and the BF3s.

If you plan on running out into the fight with guns blazing, again
this isn’t the game for you. That’s a good way to die, and to die often.
Ghost Recon requires you to make use of cover, and it has a
great system to help you with that. The cover system has a lot of
similarities to Gears of War. A tap of the button puts you into
cover. From there you vault over it, or hold down a button and you’ll
sprint towards the next piece of cover you’re facing. In some
firefights, this simple but effective cover system is a huge boon as
it’s easy to move from cover to cover while under fire in order to get
to a flanking position (which goes back to that whole thinking about
your approach instead firing blindly stuff I was talking about earlier).
It also makes it easy to approach enemies stealthily to set up a
silent, simultaneous take-down.

This mechanic is borrowed from Splinter Cell: Conviction‘s
mark and execute feature. You can tag up to four enemies and your team
will maneuver to the best position for line-of-sight on the target.
They’ll let you know when they’re ready, and on your command, four bad
guys will go down without them ever knowing they were even in danger.
It’s satisfying every time you pull it off. Later in the game things get
trickier as you have more targets than guns to take-down without being
spotted. These moments require some good planning and fast trigger
fingers, which is a lot of fun. Best of all, your teammates are smart.
They’ll get into position to fire, and they’ll stay on their target as
well as they can, but if it means exposing themselves, they’ll maintain
their position and their stealth instead of following the target. In a
firefight, they more than hold their own and I never feel like I have
useless teammates that fire blank rounds to make things sound more
exciting than they really are as I’m forced to take out every enemy
myself like in some games. Plus, your team will even call out enemy
positions and do so with accuracy. My butt’s been saved more than once
by having a teammate calling out a bad guy that I didn’t see.

Things get even more interesting when you play with your friends.
Doing these same mission with fellow humans give them an entirely
different feel, so I really appreciate the fact that GRFS allows for
four-person co-op. If you get tired of that, there’s some fun
multiplayer to enjoy. The pace is a bit more akin to CoD, but with a
Ghost Recon flair. All of the fun gadgets you play with in the campaign
are eventually available here, although in a fun twist on the usual
experience progression, there are points where you’ll have to choose one
item over another. You can go back and change your mind, but it will
cost you. Decoy, just one of the multiplayer options, is a really fun
objective based game where there are three targets, but two of them are
fakes. One team defends, one is trying to get the intel but neither team
know which is the real target. This sets up some great matches. Finally
there’s Guerrilla Mode, which functions like any other Horde mode.
Again, it’s fast an intense, but not quite as enjoyable as the other
options for playing with friends.

A lot was made of Gunsmith and it’s Kinect function at E3. It’s true
that you can do a crazy amount of customization on your weapons, and
it’s kind of fun to use Kinect to do so. The controls are fairly
responsive and give the whole experience a very Minority Report
type of feel. I’m really glad Kinect isn’t used for the actual gameplay,
for although you can use it to test your weapon creations on the firing
range, it’s immediately apparent this just wouldn’t work in actual
missions; not responsive or precise enough. Truthfully, I didn’t use it
all that much. To use it before going into a mission meant clearing a
spot in my living (always necessary with Kinect), getting up from my
seated position to wave my hands around, all of which seemed unnecessary
when the assigned load-out always seemed more than adequate. Maybe I’ll
tinker with it more when I go back and play missions again. All that to
say it works as advertised, but how vital it is to the experience is
pretty minimal. I don’t picture too many gamers using Kinect for their
gunsmithing.

There are some flaws to the game. There were times
where setting up for a breach (which is always fun) that my guys
apparently got lost and I just stood there waiting, and waiting, and
waiting. I had to reload from the last checkpoint to fix things, and
learned it’s never good to get too far ahead of your team. While the
voice acting is generally pretty good, there are times where your chatty
teammates get a little repetitive. Character and facial animations are a
bit stiff, which means moments that try to give this game heart and
make the characters more memorable ala Bad Company don’t work quite as well as they’d like, and some levels about as good as some on Modern Warfare 3;
which is to say not all that great. Most of this, however, are mere
annoyances that don’t wreck things, but only mar the experience slightly
with a bit of an unpolished feel. 

The only thing more
satisfying than achieving an objective without anyone spotting you is
surviving an intense street fight with a panicked crowd in a traffic jam
with gunfire every and glass shattering as you move from cover to cover
to take down the bad guys. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier keeps the
levels fresh and exciting, moving from stealth missions to action set
pieces to wide-open moments where planning and good use of the high-tech
gear at your disposable means more than numbers for victory. This game
is about tactics and teamwork, which extends into the multiplayer. If
you want to win there, you can’t go be a lone wolf working for the best
statistics; you need to work and coordinate with your team. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
is just a fun change of pace for shooter fans with it’s emphasis on
teamwork and strategy; it’s the thinking man’s shooter. So if you’re
looking for something fresh and don’t want to wait for the next CoD, BF3
update or Halo 4, you really should give this one a try.

Score out of 7:

Graphics: 5 – This is a good looking game, but not a great one. There
are times where it looks like a first generation Xbox 360 title instead
of one coming later in the life cycle, and there are other times where
it holds up with the best of games like Battlefield 3.

Sound: 6 – The game has some solid sound design. Not quite as good as Battlefield 3‘s
Wartapes, but it’s close. Weapons have punch and distinctly different
sounds. Explosions pack oomph. The music helps add to the tension and
the action without being intrusive. Voice acting is decent, and the
stuff your squad shouts out during firefights helps add to the fun and
chaos, though at times its a bit repetitive.

Controls: 6 – Controls are precise and responsive. Considering the
wide array of gadgets at your disposal, it’s easy to get the one you
want and put it too use. Controlling your squad for simultaneous
take-downs is a breeze, as is getting in, out and to and from cover.
Just solid all around, although the Kinect for Gunsmith feels a little
gimmicky, but it works well enough if you want to use it.

Gameplay: 6 – Fun, tense, methodical, strategic; it’s all of these
and more. The stealth mission are perfectly paced with bigger, more
intense action moments, and often times the two ebb and flow together.
Things are even more fun in co-op, and there are some fun multiplayer
modes to enjoy as well. For shooter fans looking for something a little
different but a whole lot of fun, this is a great choice. Plus
challenges and scores for each level gives you a reason to keep coming
back to play them over again.

Story: 5 – Pretty typical Tom Clancy stuff; bombs, terrorists, action
heroes and so forth. There some nice moments that give a more personal
touch to the Ghosts, and some others that are kind cheesy. It’s also
more grounded and not as over-the-top as some games (talking about you,
“big crash in every level” Modern Warfare 3).

Content: 4 – It’s a shooter, so it’s violent, but not particularly
gory or bloody. There’s also language issues to be aware of, not as much
so as in other games, but it’s consistently there.

Final Score: 5 of 7 – Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a
perfect change of pace from the CoDs and the Battlefields. It’s a
methodical, thoughtful shooter with some fun gadgets to play with (like a
Warhound mech!). A few technical issues and inconsistent graphics
suggest it could have used a little more polish, but the core gameplay
is as solid as it is fun. While adapting a few tropes from modern day
shooters, this game never loses its identity as a Ghost Recon game. Any
shooter fan looking for a fun change a pace needs to join the Ghosts.