It’s been a few years, and a number of Call of Duty and Battlefield games, since the last entry of the Ghost Recon series. While the new game, Future Soldier, swaps some of its former tactical complexity for CoD-lite set pieces and accessibility, it's still a gadget-heavy Clancy game that demands a measured play style, calling for some finesse and planning.
The plot is driven by revenge—see also, “retribution” and “payback”—as your squad of four investigates the ambush and slaughter of another Ghost team. It’s not atypical for a game in this genre to have a story and its characters not as well developed as its gameplay, and Future Soldier does little to break the trend, with qualities like: a cliche-heavy script, stock characters, and dialogue delivered professionally, but without nuance. Of course, no one plays a Ghost Recon game—or reads a Clancy novel, for that matter—for the subtle, emotionally rich story. It’s all about the tech.
When it comes to those weapons and gadgets, Future Soldier delivers as hoped, with a near-infinitely customizable arsenal of real-world battlefield and espionage technology, including active camouflage (i.e. cloaking), an eyepiece HUD, mini-drones, and sensor grenades. While the story doesn’t have much dramatic momentum, playing through a level to see which new toys become available is an effective carrot.
The mini-drone plays a significant role in the largely stealth-and-cover based campaign, as does the ability to tag enemies for simultaneous takedowns. In fact, thanks to the smart and effective friendly A.I. and tagging system, it's possible to play through swaths of Future Soldier without firing a shot. Alternatively, taking the CoD run-and-gun approach can be frustrating here. While some Clancy vets will lament the simplification of tactical options, Future Soldier’s overall pacing is admirable, with missions that move smoothly from stealth to more frantic, timed sequences, to on-rails segments, to gunship battles. However, a few of the missions are a little too reliant on avoiding detection by taking out enemies in a specific sequence, and some of the timed missions have nothing to do with skill or tactics but memorizing scripted enemy movement. Not surprisingly, playing through the campaign with three buddies in a co-op setup is ideal.
On the multiplayer front, straight-up deathmatchs and the expected variants are nowhere to be found in Future Soldier’s extensive options. Instead, they're replaced by team and objective-based modes that rely heavily on, and play out effectively with, the title’s cool toys and tech. With Future Soldier’s class leveling system, numerous weapon upgrades, and balance of large and small-scale maps, it's possible to have a complete and satisfying experience without ever touching the campaign.
Whether played online against others or in a solo effort through the story, Future Soldier hits quite a few high notes with detailed and lushly colored levels, landscapes, and environments; yet it also misses the mark with unconvincing facial modeling, behind-the-curve lip synching, and the occasional unfinished-looking texture. Likewise, the audio scores big with weapon and environmental effects, but falls short with its generic action-movie music and somewhat bland, by-the-numbers voice acting. Nevertheless, even though we might have seen African and Middle Eastern locales in a lot of recent games, Future Soldier adds some neat little touches (like swirling, blinding sandstorms) to create convincing settings.
Most of the weapons and tech in Future Soldier are already close to being real-world, battlefield-ready armaments (if they aren't already), and they’re an awful lot of fun to play with in a game showcasing their capabilities. While the its campaign can’t help but borrow a few tricks from recent shooter blockbusters, and the tactics are less complex than former installments of the series, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier doesn’t come off as a disappointment.
Feel like things strayed too far with a more action-heavy approach, or do you think this is the evolution of the franchise? Let us know over Twitter @gamers_hell