Having never really played a Ghost Recon game, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I should expect from Future Soldier. I knew there would be a lot of shooting, some military lingo I’d have no chance of understanding, and probably a few terrorists. What I didn’t know was how crazy fun it is to mark targets and let my squad do the dirty work while I laid back and sipped a Mojito, or how intensely cool it is to pull apart a gun to see and customize all its components. Future Soldier might not be the best of the series, but that doesn’t mean it should be cast aside. Find out if this might be your bag in my review.
The Baby Factor: If Army of Two got together with Splinter Cell: Conviction for a night of friendly fire–where at one point Army of Two would tell Splinter Cell it can put a bullet in its magazine any day–Future Soldier would be the result.
I usually like to touch on the story when I review a game, but I have this problem where the plot of every military shooter I play gets mixed up. Were there terrorists? Probably. Were there climactic battles in big, open environments? Most definitely. There was even a sand storm at one point that was pretty neat, especially since we had to use our special visors–which probably had a cool name followed by a series of numbers, like Eagle Vision 9000, or something like that–in order to see the baddies who were only a few feet in front of us.
I say “us,” because your squad always consists of four soldiers. You can go it alone or with up to three friends, an option that makes this game infinitely more replayable. Not enough games have four player co-op and the ones that do, like Borderlands and Halo, are games I end up keeping long after I’ve traded in similar titles. The co-op works nicely when you play it with friends and thanks to the Splinter Cell: Conviction-esque target marking system you can flag foes for you and your friends or your AI squad mates to take down all at once. It worked great in Conviction and I love it just as much in Future Soldier.
Occasionally, you’ll have to make use of a special vision mode that lets you see despite harsh conditions (like the aforementioned sand storm) or through objects in the environment. It acts much like the detective vision in Batman: Arkham City, and unfortunately for me, it’s abused almost as often. The problem with options like this is they’re so incredibly useful that you never want to turn it off. It makes your job of hunting down your targets infinitely easier, but it also hides the well-designed environments. This might be a good-looking game, but I wouldn’t know it because all I remember is the blue grid outlines of my Eagle Eyes 9000.
I really feel they should’ve pushed the weapons customization harder as the feature that sets this game apart from the ever deepening sea of shooters. Borderlands hyped its five bazillion guns and it eventually went on to become one of the biggest hits of 2009. Much of its success can be attributed to its claims of having millions of guns, and thanks to the deep weapon customization in Future Soldier, I’m sure there about as many variants of each weapon. It also looks insanely cool when you’re messing with a gun and it explodes into a bunch of parts so you can see and switch out each one.
I want a modern shooter, like a Medal of Honor, a Battlefield, a Call of Duty, or a SOCOM to start off like any other modern warfare style shooter before going balls to the wall crazy. I want it to trick us into thinking it’s another Call of Duty before violently slapping us across the face with a sudden zombie invasion, robot uprising, something. Part of this stems from my utter lack of interest in what goes on with the plot and characters in these games. They all revolve around saving war prisoners, curb-stomping terrorists, or driving tanks/helicopters/fighter jets/etc. I’m sure there are plenty of you who could spend hours in these games, but I’m sick of it.
Future Soldier is a little different because of its future tech like the cloaking, but even that has been tread over several times now with Crysis and the upcoming Black Ops II. Originally, WWII was the subgenre that got overused, but that was soon replaced by the present day shooter and now it looks like the near-future is up next.
After spending an unhealthy amount of time in other third person shooters like Gears of War and Mass Effect, my expectations for how a game like this plays is pretty high. Future Soldier might not feel as polished as some of the leaders of the genre, and particularly its cover system which could’ve used a bit more work, but controlling your character is easy and mowing down enemy soldiers is satisfying. You get the cloaking ability pretty early on and that’s actually a good thing since it doesn’t completely hide your character–so if someone looks at you they’re going to see you–but it does give you the ability to sneak up on enemies easily.
The competitive multiplayer is surprisingly addictive, and different enough to provide enough motivation to leave Call of Duty or Halo for a bit. The four game types are called Conflict, Decoy, Saboteur and Siege. The modes aren’t terribly different from what we’re used to; Saboteur is essentially Capture the Flag only with a bomb, but they’re still very fun. Unsurprisingly, there’s also a wave based mode that pits you against waves of enemies, a la Gears of War’s Horde, Left 4 Dead’s Survival, Halo’s Firefight, etc.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier isn’t an amazing game, nor will it break any boundaries or linger in your memory for very long. It’s fun, brings with it an impressive amount of content, and does a few things extraordinarily well.
The Final Word: If you’re an shooter fan, Future Soldier is a worthy addition to your arsenal, but if you’re feeling even a little burnt out by this increasingly overpopulated genre, this probably won’t be worth more than a rental.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which was provided by the publisher.