Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Review (PC)

With so many blockbuster games being pushed back until 2013, Ghost Recon has a huge opportunity on its hands. Ubisoft has the perfect chance to stamp the franchise back into the minds of players, as the wait for this sequel has been a lengthy one. As the competition rests, Future Soldier strives for your attention. It knows the time to capitalise is now.

For veterans of the series, Future Soldier is coated in familiarity. The franchise's ultra-slick presentation is in tact, this time reinforced by hulking objectives in the sky, which have been ripped straight from Ubisoft's last instalment of Splinter Cell. Ghost Recon has managed to excel visually throughout the current generation, but now time has caught up, and the graphical feat isn't so startling. It's a realisation that places greater emphasis on the gameplay itself. Although playable and consistently dramatic, Future Soldier has some problems.

Visuals are slick, but really show off when the weather turns for the worse

As mentioned in our interview, Ubisoft views Ghost Recon as a smart shooter. This has by and large been true across the lifespan of the series, but this title is different. As if bowing to peer pressure, Future Soldier is stripped of intelligence, instead opting for brash, predictable encounters. Sure, this is absolutely fine, but when the game is marketed as something else, many players will feel a tinge of disappointment.

And so, Future Soldier doesn't rewire the player's style like I'd previously hoped. Instead of heavily tactical, intricately thought-out encounters, the main campaign is extremely hit and miss. For the most part, you'll be forced to trudge quietly through enemy quarters, eyeing up the next victim and eliminating them without a sound. Raise an alarm, and many missions end instantly. No room to fail means once you do pull off a successful attack without being spotted, it isn't satisfying. It would be far more interesting to have the threat of an entire base hunting you if an offensive move fails, not just a simple restart.

In most levels, you'll sync shots regularly, providing your team with three targets and blasting one yourself. In perfect unison, the execution of such a manoeuvre is brilliant. Bodies slump to the ground without a yelp, paving the way for your next move. Unfortunately, this kind of teamwork is about as tactical as the game gets. At its most basic level, Future Soldier forces you to pick the right enemies in the right order to progress. After a few tries, you'll realise those on the high ground must be dealt with first, then those on the perimeter, and so forth. This isn't taxing at all. You won't need to slowly plan our your attack, as a couple of well-placed sensors or use of the drone reveals all. Slaughtering unsuspecting foes this way is satisfying, but the lack of strategic challenge reduces the campaign to a simple puzzle-based shooter.

With this said, there are some truly spectacular moments. One particular highlight has the Ghosts working in the snow with a Warhound. This four-legged piece of kit doesn't only provide cover, it packs a serious punch too. With guided missiles at its disposal, the enemy hardly stand a chance. This particular mission is an excellent example of Ubisoft thinking out of the box, exchanging a dull turret section for something a bit more interesting. With the right backdrop and a hint of originality, certain moments will live long in the memory.

Expect to use the drone a lot. It's a vital tool for aerial and ground assaults

This makes Future Soldier all the more baffling. Moments of class are destroyed by complete silliness. Believe it or not, the game includes a section that aims to stir controversy. A terrorist attack takes place, filmed by Americans on a handheld camera in London. This cry for attention isn't controversial, it's a complete rip-off of Modern Warfare 3's famous scene. Ghost Recon, this 'smart shooter', is something of a copycat.

It's fair to say this game was designed with friends in mind. Playing alongside your buddies, Future Soldier is a completely different prospect. The slow, constantly halting A.I is exchanged for human brains, making each objective far more enjoyable. A real sense of camaraderie arises when the going gets tough, especially as the opposition can put you down in one shot on the toughest difficulty. Whether you're surviving waves of grunts in Guerilla mode or testing yourself on the campaign, the entire game ushers in a new found confidence. Instead of constantly fumbling A.I who continue to step inside each other, playing with three friends coaxes out huge amounts of fun, an aspect that is sadly missing for lone soldiers.

After a successful multiplayer beta, competitive online matches are running smoothly. Maps are interesting constructed, letting smart players take advantage of tight sight-lines and intelligent use of space. With so much cover and the ability to quickly sprint, precise shots are needed to take the other team down. Brave players will either be rewarded with a handful of kills or obliterated within seconds, while the rest of their team watches from afar. Environmental effects skewer vision, as sandstorms blow across deserts, making it difficulty to see for a few seconds. Survive an ambush long enough, and your opportunity to escape presents itself.

Hint: Don't try and shoot at tanks

Even at this early stage, multiplayer is highly rewarding. Although the gunsmith feature is available throughout the entire game, customising your weapon for online battles is amazingly fun. Every inch of your weapon can be tailored to your liking, from scopes, triggers, grips, barrels, to the all important paint job. With plenty to unlock, this will undoubtedly attract a large following from day one.

Future Soldier suffers from a sense of split-personality. It tries to follow in the footsteps of the popular crowd, employing predictable set-pieces and hopelessly manufactured scenes of controversy that lack any intelligence. The game is most productive when it focuses on its own strengths, away from the jeers of the bigger boys and in the comfort of its own home. Alongside brothers, the game has plenty to offer. It takes a while for the cigarette smell to wash away, but once it does, Future Soldier is a far more confident product. One thing's for sure, Ghost Recon is no longer as smart as it thinks it is.

Top Gaming Moment: The gunsmith is an excellent feature, and so is sharing the game with your friends.

Platform Played: Xbox 360

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