Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (XBOX 360)
Normally when an author, director, star... puts their name to a game it is because they feel it has something in common with their work, or maybe it is based on a movie/book they wrote. In the case of Tom Clancy things are a little more in depth as back in the mid 90's he actually founded Red Storm Entertainment with the purpose of building a Special Ops game. That game turned out to be Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and since then it has spawned multiple sequels/expansions. One franchise wasn't enough though and as well as launching the stealth based Splinter Cell games and H.A.W.X, air combat titles, 2001 saw the release of Ghost Recon which was published by Ubisoft.
Ghost Recon, like the other Tom Clancy games, has received multiple expansions/sequels and the latest title in the franchise releases this week. Ghost Recon Future Soldier takes us into the near future with enhanced weapons and devices which help it stand out from other similar shooters. It takes more than just a few fancy guns to make a great game though and today we find out if the campaign, multiplayer and co-op are worth your hard earned cash.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier is very much intended as a multiplayer experience, something we will cover shortly, but it also has a significant single player campaign. In Campaign mode we play with a squad of AI controlled soldiers in a third person view, assigned missions around the globe in a plot which see's us begin with an attempted recovery of weapons which then leads into an investigation of their origin and a more in depth terrorist plot.
Each of the missions in Future Soldier is preceded by a short introduction cut-scene which sets the tone for the upcoming events and we also get the chance to view further in-depth information on the mission area as well as note any challenges available to complete. Weapon selection is also allowed at this stage and features Kinect functionality where we can step into the play area and control the gear shop with motion or voice controls.
Once ready we are dropped into a third person cover based shooter and must work our way through a set of objectives with our team. The mission types, locations and objectives are all very varied and consistently switch to keep us on our toes.
In terms of controls the basics in Future Soldier are all intuitive with left stick to move, right to look, left trigger to zoom and right to fire. Our Dpad controls more advanced functions such as launching a drone and the shoulder buttons are assigned to tasks like throwing sensors. X interacts or performs a stealth kill and so on. The button we will be most using, other than fire is A as it allows us to run to cover and take cover... key aspects of the game.
With a name like Future Soldier Ubisoft needed to make things a little interesting though and at our disposal are a wide range of tech items which are added to our kit as the game progresses. These start simple, sensors which allow us to note the position of the enemy in our current location, and then get more complex with kit which makes us semi-invisible followed by UAV's. We also get an advanced display with far more information available than we would expect in the average shooter, all of this also being available in the co-op missions too which follow a similar format.
Elsewhere we have co-op missions and the stand alone multi-player modes which have a familiar feel. These are split into Conflict (completing objectives in teams), Decoy (1 Key objective, 2 decoys with neither team knowing which is real. Attackers win by completing key and final objective, defenders by stopping them), Saboteur (Gather centrally located bomb and destroy the enemy base) and Siege (No respawns, attackers win if the objective is completed/enemy killed. Defenders win if time expires/enemy eliminated).
Various character types are available in multi-player (Scout, Engineer, Rifleman) and unlocks are available too with the game allowing us to level based on experience. Experience of course depends on our success within the game but in addition to this we also get a set of challenges, just like in single player, where we gain from performing additional tasks such as getting a set number of Melee kills in one match.
Finally of course we have Xbox Live achievements awarded as we go, enhancing our gamer profile and various DLC will be available from Ubisoft with the first available in July.
"From the streets of Moscow to the far reaches of the Arctic, this all-new downloadable content pack extends your Ghost Recon Future Soldier experience with new multiplayer maps, a new multiplayer mode, a new Guerrilla Mode co-op map, and six additional weapons to give you the supreme edge over your enemies."
Graphics and Audio
Our time testing Ghost Recon Future Solider arrived hot on the heels of testing Capcom's Dragons Dogma which in terms of graphics was a little disappointing. Future Soldier on the other hand looks fantastic, one of the best shooters out there. Part of this is down to the quality art drawn by the developers and part is also down to the direction of the game. This is a title which looks and plays like a big budget movie and visually it is one of the best games in recent times.
In third person mode we get a nice field of vision with loads of detail and good draw distance; characters are detailed and objects are too. The cut-scenes are not quite up to the same standard, the slower pace showing up the game engine a little, but when in battle we had no significant complaints. As well as looking great in standard gameplay the switch to first person mode when zooming also looks good and there are some fantastic action pieces dotted throughout the game. Particular highlights being the short on-rails section at the end of mission one and the sand storm area later on.
For audio we get a basic soundtrack but the key aspect is the script, weapon sounds and environmental effects. This is a game all about pacing and the lack of a big, dramatic score helps to get the gamer immersed in the action. Voice acting is also good with the main characters sounding realistic and the ever present chatter staying well away from being tiresome.
Looking at the single player campaign mode first one of the easiest ways to sum it up is that Ghost Recon Future Soldier is far more enjoyable, entertaining and absorbing than Battlefield 3. The developers have mastered the balance between stealth/tactics and all out action. The pacing is superb and missions impressive. The plot is also decent but to be honest it is the gameplay which kept us playing rather than finding out what happened next... we just wanted to complete the next objective for the sense of achievement it gives.
That is very much the case with most of Future Soldier, this isn't a run and gun game...more often than not any attempt at that will end in death, and the thought required to work out how to get from point A to B while keeping to our "rules" such as remaining undetected, following a NPC etc is great. Additionally, just because our objective changes from do not get detected/use stealth to allowing battle mode doesn't meant that switching tactics is the best way to go and this is probably the reason on-rails sections have been added. They really bump up the action and allow those looking for adrenaline filled battles to feel the game caters for them too. Adding to that we have selection of challenges and the fact that our progress is rated to drive us on, something which makes it worthwhile replaying the various missions to complete.
We also appreciated the constant stream of new skills and items which the game feeds players. Even well into the campaign we are receiving new tools to assist us in our mission and learning new tactics which enhance the gameplay. A particularly stand out skill is the ability to mark multiple enemies, syncing up with our squad members to take them down at once... it brings the NPCs to life a little more without complicating the gameplay with huge numbers of commands to assign them.
It's not all perfect in the campaign though, there are a few niggling issues such as load times being a little too long (the game actually installs audio data to disk on boot and recommends a full install). Then, as is so common nowadays, there are framerate issues, not a lot of them but during some of the bigger action sequences it is noticeable. That said it is very clear that the developers are pushing the 360 hard and so it is somewhat understandable (though not necessarily acceptable!) and we look forward to playing it in its full, smooth, high FPS glory on PC.
Looking to the multi-player during our time testing the match making worked well enough and the battles were free from lag with voice communications clear. The various character classes played with enough difference to make them all worthwhile and the maps were varied to keep us interested. There is one issue though and that is a heavy reliance on grenades. Currently, at least on the review samples, the balance favours them significantly and achieving objectives can be made near impossible by a couple of players camping near the objective ready to throw in a grenade as soon as we approach. Grenades generally kill in one blow and it becomes infuriating on the smaller maps where even taking out the enemy results in them respawning quick enough to reach throwing distance again and kill multiple enemies before the objective could possibly be achieved.
On the whole Ghost Recon Future Soldier looks and plays like a big budget action movie. It does however require thought to progress and despite being more of a thinker/stealth game than a run and gun the balance should keep fans of both play styles happy. A challenging and interesting single player campaign is backed by quality multiplayer which just needs a balance tweak or two to maximise enjoyment.
One of the must have games of 2012.