Tom Clancy’s Ghosts sure have come a long way since their first mission 11 years ago.Future Soldier is the next logical step for the series, taking what was done in the Advanced Warfighter titles and improving upon just about every aspect. The game is set in the near future as always, but the technology this time around is even more advanced then we have seen in the past. Your greatest asset now are the elite soldiers to your left and right as you go up against the world’s deadliest high value targets.
As the game opens up a Ghost team sets an ambush for an enemy convoy along a narrow mountain pass road. The Ghosts believe they have recovered a radioactive warhead when they realize it is actually being used as a dirty bomb that wipes out the team. A new Ghost team is sent into the field to track down the source for the dirty bomb and bring the party responsible to justice.
The campaign is broken up into 12 different missions that will take you through diverse terrains from the dust storms of Africa to the snow covered peaks of the Arctic. While the weapons and equipment may be futuristic, the environments themselves seem rather modern day. It’s not to say they are uninteresting, but nothing stands out to show that this is supposed to be in the near future when compared to the improvements to the Ghosts equipment. Weapons have holographic HUDs and Ghosts are now able to activate their optical camouflage, enabling them to sneak in and out of locations without being seen. Discharging your weapon or moving too fast will deactivate the camo though, giving up your position and leaving you exposed.
Being exposed in the open is not where you want to be. Spending more than a few seconds out of cover will surely be your downfall. Future Soldier is more about strategy and sticking to cover than about running and gunning. Taking out enemies one at a time and moving from cover to cover is the best way to go about completing your mission. Transitioning from cover to cover is seamless thanks to the incredible cover system the game utilizes. Much like the system from Gears of War, the cover system allows you to easily vault over objects or make a mad dash to a nearby wall.
The entire campaign can be played cooperatively with up to four people. While the AI does a pretty decent job staying in cover and taking out enemies, nothing compares to playing with three of your friends. Each of the different Ghosts has class-specific equipment that requires teamwork and coordination. Synchronized shots are newly introduced to the series as you are able to tag enemies – up to four – and take them all out simultaneously. This makes taking out patrols of more than a single soldier a breeze and lets you not worry about alarms going off or enemies being alerted to your presence. Your squad mates will do everything they can to keep a line of sight on the tagged enemy and wait for your order to take them out, but they will make sure not to blow their cover. Being a Ghost would mean nothing if they are constantly being spotted in the field. As you progress through the missions new equipment will become available from sensor grenades that can pick out enemies in a crowd, to airstrikes that rain hell down from above, or even the powerful Warhound robot that can launch mobile artillery and provide cover.
Outside of the campaign, there are two other multiplayer modes. Guerrilla mode has four players capturing and securing designated areas as they prepare for 50 waves of enemies with increasing difficulty. It’s similar to the recently released multiplayer portion of Mass Effect 3 or horde mode in Gears of War. It can be played either online or offline using a split screen. If you are playing it locally, I have to warn you that you are unable to change control settings, so everyone must use the same control scheme.
The competitive multiplayer has 12 players on teams of six fighting across four different game modes: Conflict, Decoy, Saboteur and Siege. You will most likely be spending the most amount of time here in the multiplayer. Conflict, which players of the beta will be familiar with, has opposing teams battle over random objectives throughout the match. The first five minutes may have you trying to defend an intel point and the next have you targeting a specific player. Decoy, which is my personal favorite, has three key objectives to battle over with two of them being decoys. The twist is that neither team knows which one is the real objective. In Saboteur the goal is to arm or disarm a bomb placed somewhere in the map. Siege removes respawns and has teams defending or attacking an objective. For those who are familiar with the PC classic Counter-Strike will feel right at home.
There are multiple classes to play as in the multiplayer modes. Rifleman comes equipped with improved armor as well as being able to use LMGs which are the only weapons that can suppress enemies. Engineers can place sensor grenades and come equipped with powerful shotguns. Scouts can use the optical camo to stay hidden as well as take advantage of long-range sniper weapons. Of course, this is a very quick overview of the classes and each has plenty of unlockables and load outs. As you level up you will be presented with two different options to choose from – be it between weapons or equipment. The only way to undo the decision is by using a respect token.
In Gunsmith you are able to explore each and every piece of both your primary and secondary weapons. As you examine each one, the parts will explode outward giving you are clear view of each component. Swapping out parts will change the stats of the weapon. As you start out most of the parts are locked, but become unlocked as your level up in multiplayer. The customization of these weapons really makes you stand out from the other players. Everything from the optics down to the paint of the weapon can be changed.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is welcome change to the current modern day shooters. Ubisoft was able to create a compelling, and at times, intense campaign mode and a top-notch competitive multiplayer experience. The music in the game adds to the tense moments and feels like something right out of a movie. Visually though the game looks beautiful one moment, but lacking the next. Blurry textures and blocky NPCs and objects stick out like a sore thumb. If they were able to improve the consistency of the visuals this would be one of the most immersive games out there today. With a strong strategic based campaign and untouchable team based multiplayer, Future Soldier is one of the best titles for the first half of the year.Note: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.