This past week, I got my copy of the latest installment of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series, and let me tell you, it has been hard to get anything accomplished that doesn’t involve being a teched out futuristic special ops soldier. There’s action, guns, guns, optical camouflage, guns, and more guns… so yeah, I’m pretty much in video game heaven. If you like tactical shooters, this game definitely does not disappoint, however, you may want to bring some friends.
In Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the player assumes the role of John Kozak, one of four special operations soldiers for the U.S. military’s Ghost teams. Essentially, these are the guys that make the top-level Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon, and Army Rangers look like greenhorns just out of Basic. They are the elite of the elite of the elite, and let me tell you, these boys bring their toys. Set in the relatively near future, the Ghost Team that you, the player, are in control of, is tasked with tracking down the source of nuclear arms making their way to the doorstep of the good old U.S.A. Seeing as one of these “dirty bombs” obliterated another Ghost Team in Mexico, the fight is personal.
I’ve been a fan of the Ghost Recon series ever since it first hit the PS2 in 2002, as it’s never failed to disappoint in terms of being a 3rd-person tactical shooter. While Future Soldier has taken a bit of a step away from the tactical side for a bit more action, the trade off is fairly negligible thanks to the greatly improved squad AI which has steadily improved since the release of Advanced Warfighter 2 back in 2007. Gone are the days of you squad-mates bucking you from cover to become their personal meat shield, or crossing right in front of your crosshairs the moment you pull the trigger on a critical long-range shot. These days, the improved AI and tagging feature in the game give the player a sort of “easy button” allowing the team to target up to four enemies simultaneously. Personally, while this option makes a lot of tactical sense and can’t be overlooked in numerous encounters, I prefer to dispatch the baddies (it’s mostly Russians… always the Russians) myself with a tricked-out high power rifle of my own construction… Which leads me to the next highlight – weapons and equipment.
Now, despite my being enamored with this franchise for over a decade, it’s been a week and I still can’t get over feeling like a kid in a gun store (yes, that’s kind of what my childhood was like). While most games have skill trees for character development, Future Soldier is all about the toys. While the UAV drone that can fly and drive is pretty cool, and the Warhound walking battle drone was great to rain down fiery death upon my foes, where the game really shines is the Gunsmithing feature.
Between every mission, players are allowed to select and modify their weapons, but this ain’t your daddies armory. As more missions and tactical challenges are completed, more options become available for modification. You have your standard paint schemes, silencers, optics and what-not, but when you get to start tweaking stocks, ammunition types, triggers and even the internal firing mechanism, you know your dealing with some serious gun geek sh*t. Sadly, all of these tweaks and tricks only apply to the single-player/co-op campaign, leaving you feeling a little high and dry in multiplayer.
While I have focused mainly on the game’s Campaign Mode, I have dabbled in the multiplayer arena a bit this week. There are multiple game types on a good number of well-sized maps and I have yet to encounter any instances of lagging gameplay or slow-paced action. Now, while the PvP aspect isn’t nearly as frenetic as typical first-person shooters, the combination of game types, integral cover system, and limited character classes really help to create an experience focused more on being tactically sound than charging in guns blazing. The biggest problem is that multiplayer characters need to be leveled individually, by class, on both of the opposing forces. What this means is that all the time and effort spent on raising your level and unlocking everything must be done 6 times over in order to be 100%. That’s a lot of time and I’m sure it’s going to be frustrating.
In addition to the Campaign and Multiplayer, there is also a Guerilla mode which functions as a Horde mode that has become pretty common place in shooters the past few years. The mode consists of 50 waves of enemies, broken into five stages of 10. The first round of each stage requires the player(s) to infiltrate a headquarters using stealth (this in of itself is a unique approach), which they must then hold for the remaining waves before moving on to the next objective. Guerilla mode seems really awesome, but at the same time is damn near impossible to advance in unless playing with a party online. As I said before, this is a tactical shooter. Simply hunkering down and being quick on the trigger is not nearly enough as the enemy AI is smart enough to exploit multiple avenues of attack, utilization of cover, and suppressing fire. Personally, I got through 5 rounds by myself, and that was just barely, so I’m thinking I need to roll back the clock to 2002, call up my brother-in-law, and engage in some good old fashioned split-screen ass-whooping.
All in all, the game has been incredibly enjoyable thus far and I plan on trying to beat the campaign this coming week. Despite it’s generic story, the mix of stealth and action is highly enjoyable, and I look forward to pulling a Robert “Platinum Bitches” Skaggs in my attempt to at least unlock all the weapon mods. I give it a solid 4 incendiary rounds out of 5.