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Review

Ghost Recon Future Soldier Review (PS3, Xbox 360)

Momentum is building.

Our unit’s never been hit this hard before.

Released this week on PS3 and Xbox 360, Ghost Recon Future Soldier sports motion control and plenty of excitement.

> Official site.
> Preview.
> Early hands on.

Ubisoft is perhaps best placed to open up a second front in the war on modern military shooters. Their third person, cover-based approach might be slightly removed from the heavy hitters in the world of elite videogame soldiering but it’s no less bombastic, explosive or thrilling.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier will be compared with the modern Call of Duty games, that much is inevitable. It’s a comparison that is actively chased too, this game might be mechanically different to Activision’s megalith but thematically it’s almost identical and the way it plays out makes it obvious that Ubisoft’s creative teams have played through the Modern Warfare games more than once. Elements of Future Soldier feel familiar but it’s not always a Call of Duty likeness showing through. There are clear comparisons to be made with the publisher’s own Splinter Cell: Conviction too, in both the presentation of the game and in one or two of the missions themselves.

Almost every mission requires a stealthy ingress. Use your drone and don’t be afraid of seeming timid. Better to hold fire and watch patrols from the drone than charge in and be torn to shreds.

Familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt though. The presentational elements, inspired by Splinter Cell’s in-scene projection aesthetic, are explained away by the futuristic eyewear worn by your squad and occasionally provide key information as well as plenty of nonsensical set dressing. The flickering, microscopic text on some of the overlays does tend to distract sometimes though, when you’re scanning the scenery for distant movement of an enemy patrol for example.

The weakest points of Future Soldier are when it forgets itself and tries too hard to emulate its peers. The plot, in particular, quickly finds its way to a rebellion by a Russian splinter group via African arms deals and an attack on London seen through the lens of a tourist with a video camera.

So far, so Modern Warfare.

Regardless of how standard (read: tired, clichéd and generally overdone) these tropes are, or even whether Tom Clancy and Ghost Recon flirted with them first, they’ll be seen by the majority of players as very close to Infinity Ward’s recent narrative and they ruin any chance of connecting with the story in a personal, meaningful way – at least for those who have already connected with what is essentially the same story elsewhere.

Billions of dollars floating around in space and you still can’t beat just going and having a look for yourself.

Set pieces are underwhelming too. So much of Ghost Recon Future Soldier is about stealth and careful scouting, so when many of the game’s substantial thirteen missions end in unavoidable large scale firefights to make safe your escape, it makes you feel like all that precision and stealth during your ingress was a waste of time.

The now ubiquitous – and infuriatingly imprecise sequences – that have you waving about with a mounted machine gun on the back of a four-wheel drive or hanging out the door of a Blackhawk are as tired, tedious and out of place here as they are familiar from every other military shooter of the past five years. It feels like they’re only there because the developers thought they needed to be when, in fact, they only detract from the most accomplished elements of Future Soldier.

Ubisoft’s Signature Edition trailer.

This is a game which excels when it offers problems to solve and methods to solve them. The drone, airborne or on wheels, is a joy to use for marking targets that your team can take out or stunning groups of guards to give you an extra few seconds to deal with them. Above all, you’re usually presented with several options for making your way through an area. The most satisfying, and the most in-keeping with the game’s ideas, is to scout with your drone from a distance and then move in and deal with an area’s dangers quietly and methodically without raising alarm.

This freedom of choice, coupled with the excellent 4-player squad system is the game’s finest achievement. You can play each of the missions as a co-op squad but the ally AI is reasonably good, even if it is given a little more leeway by the game than human players receive. With human squad mates, the game really comes into its own. Teamwork is a huge advantage and coordination is the key to success.

You’ll also avoid the repeating dialogue that ally AI throws up, which can become annoying, and is often unrelated to events as they occur. Squad mates shouting about a panicked enemy being ready to bug out when you’re quietly and precisely picking off snipers in an adjacent tower block is jarring.

The fact that the game shines when allowing you a degree of choice makes the moments when that choice is taken away all the more infuriating. In particular, the closing stages of the game which culminate in what is literally a guided, on-rails experience, are incredibly poor. At times, during the final mission, the game completely changes the rules you’ve played under for around ten hours. It becomes a viable – and successful – option to simply run around groups of enemies that you have been taught to scout, identify and methodically clear in every previous mission.

Once you’re spotted, you can use the tag command to focus your AI squad on a particular target. Single out machine gunners and RPGs first, riflemen can wait.

Visually, it’s generally quite average, with some poor facial animations that often don’t synchronise with the dialogue. There are several moments when it looks really impressive but they are interspersed with some terrible cutscene animations and some oddly lingering moments with nothing much happening and no way to progress things. For a game which offers the opportunity for so much long range engagement from cover, the sight of rounds sparking off invisible boxes around the more intricate scenery elements is disappointing too.

It’s a hornet’s nest down there, looks like everyone with a gun is coming out to play.

The invisible barriers that occasionally crop up via sloped tent roofs or paint can lids and minor litter are disappointing but that minor hindrance to movement is more than eclipsed by the successes of the system by which you move between cover. Once you enter cover, an on-screen indicator appears to show the next covered area you’re pointed at and holding a face button quickly moves you to that position. It’s quick, easy and makes keeping your head down far more satisfying than in most shooters.

The style is distinctive, but rarely beautiful.

The four competitive multiplayer modes also do all they can to promote teamwork. Whether you’re transporting and detonating a bomb in Saboteur mode, being tricked by Decoy mode’s false objectives or playing the unforgiving Siege mode, with no respawns, your greatest enjoyment – and successes – will come through putting together a solid squad and working together. Conflict mode is the most traditional, with randomly placed objectives and points awarded that unlock items, it’s probably the least interesting but may well end up being the most widely played.

It’s almost always best to take the suggested load out before a mission but once you know what to expect it can be a lot of fun to go back with different options and tackle it another way, giving some replayability.

Guerrilla mode is the co-op wave based multiplayer. It sets you in scenes thematically related to missions within the main campaign and tasks you with assaulting and defending key points as waves of enemies approach. It can be played online with four or with two-player split screen and gives you phases of stealth, assault and hold, offering a slightly fresh approach on a now common multiplayer mode.

Kinect and Move support is limited to the quite brilliantly diverse Gunsmith section of the game. You can select every little detail of your weaponry and test it in the firing range using motion controls and, strangely only in Kinect’s case, voice control (Ubisoft has previously made excellent voice controls work in EndWar on PS3). This allows you to tailor and test your load out before taking it into missions, which then presents further options for how to approach the game. The standard, suggested, load out is often the most useful but it’s always nice to have a bit more choice. Although it’s also all the more disappointing when, at one point, your character pulls out a sidearm in a cut scene that he was never equipped with.

Pros:
  + The stealth sections are brilliant.
  + Gunsmith is entertaining with a motion controller and heightens the feeling of choice.
  + Playing with a squad gives many missions an extra dimension.
  + Some enjoyable and imaginative multiplayer modes.

Cons:
  – Capable of looking quite ugly.
  – Awkward dialogue and cut scenes that linger just a touch too long.
  – The final mission is terrible.
  – The narrative is tired and overly familiar.
  – Set pieces feel unnecessary and jarring.

There’s a lot to like about Ghost Recon Future Soldier but, unfortunately, there’s just as much to dislike. If you don’t care about narrative, don’t need the latest and greatest game engine powering your HD shooters and can live with the confused juxtaposition of stealth and over-the-top action braggadocio then you’ll love it. If you want a tense, tight, stealthy experience then you’ll probably love around half of it and loathe when it robs you of that pleasure. The squad co-op elements are brilliant and the multiplayer is at least trying to be innovative but some terrible decisions throughout the campaign mode – particularly in the final mission – let this game down in a huge way.

6/10

39 Comments
  1. Tomhlord
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Apr 2009

    Wowzers. Still loving the new reviews layout, shame about the game ;)

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:02.
    • Kivi95
      Member
      Since: Oct 2009

      i don’t like the new layout :(. Looks to big.

      Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:41.
      • Forrest_01
        Member
        Since: Jun 2009

        I agree – I can’t sneakily read at work now, as i can’t read all the text in the article or comments unless the screen is maximised.

        Does look nice mind you, but i don’t think i’ll be able to read reviews anymore & will have to do the one thing i hate & just look at the score. :(

        Comment posted on 23/05/2012 at 09:51.
    • Amphlett
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      @Tomhlord. I agree with you, the new style is very appealing, following the layout of a premium gaming magazine.

      Comment posted on 24/05/2012 at 15:46.
  2. bmg_123
    Member
    Since: Feb 2012

    Saw an advert for this on tv recently and genuinely thought it was something for Modern warfare 3 DLC or something, ’nuff said really.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:02.
  3. LTG Davey
    andUandU
    Since: Aug 2008

    Woah! :| was not expecting this!

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:05.
  4. An-dz
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    yay! the pros/cons section is back

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:08.
  5. SpookyMulder
    Member
    Since: May 2012

    6/10 – hmmn, think I’ll save my £40 then – thanks for the heads up! I must admit I thought that the multiplayer beta wasn’t that great

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:10.
  6. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    Sounds disappointing, although I’ll read some more reviews. I’ve been looking forward to this game for years, so I’m probably going to pick it up later this summer anyway when it comes down in price if it is actually this disappointing.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:15.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      Sections of it are brilliant but some bits are really dire. This might not make sense but if they removed all the bits that are truly awful – like 2 or 3 out of 10 – then it would have been a solid 8 or 9 out of ten. There’s nothing to it that’s “average” but the brilliance is counter-balanced by the rubbish, if that makes sense. Definitely worth a play if you can get it cheap and have been looking forward to it though.

      Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:24.
      • gazzagb
        Master of speling mitakse
        Since: Feb 2009

        Well I’ve been looking forward to it since it was announced back in 2009, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out when I get it at some point.

        Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 22:56.
  7. Jakster123x
    Member
    Since: Aug 2011

    Sad that it hasn’t amounted to much after all the delays

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:21.
  8. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Everything I’ve seen about it seems to suggest they’ve toned down gameplay elements etc. to make it more like someone else’s franchise in an effort to take share away from them.

    Like the look of Gunsmith and bits & bobs of the game, just not the whole poor imitation element of it though.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:37.
  9. IAmJacksMedullaOblongata
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    Love the format. Looks super on the iPad.

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 17:45.
  10. wonkey-willy
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    PROS:just saved me 40 quids..
    CONS:got fek all to play now till september..

    Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 18:07.
    • LTG Davey
      andUandU
      Since: Aug 2008

      Lol yeah same, well except Lollipop Chainsaw but I won’t buy that day-one as its bound to only be a few hours long.

      Comment posted on 22/05/2012 at 18:19.
    • DapperHayden007
      Member
      Since: Apr 2011

      hmmm, what you getting in september? (far cry 3?)

      Comment posted on 23/05/2012 at 02:16.
      • LTG Davey
        andUandU
        Since: Aug 2008

        September is looking pretty good at the moment: Dead or Alive 5, Tekken Tag 2 and, as you say, Far Cry 3 :)

        Comment posted on 23/05/2012 at 08:53.

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