Well here it is, the next tactical shooter from Ubisoft: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier (GRFS). The game has gotten lots of hype for its near-futuristic technology and several new game mechanics. This review will cover the single-player portion of the game in the campaign experience.
First things first: Install this game. Ubisoft recommends it, and you will cut down on wait times, especially in Gunsmith mode.
You take control of an operative from a Ghost team, a black ops group of elite soldiers with the newest and best equipment and weapons. There is a global arms dealer network which has been providing high-end material to warlords, drug lords, gang lords, and probably a few dark lords (I’m just guessing on the last one). Your job is to capture several informants and middle-men to find out where the weapons are coming from. Things will escalate, people will die, and things will blow up. Without giving away too much, think global power-shifts and terrorist attacks. While most of this has been done before, it’s really not a thrilling story that drives a Ghost Recon game. Despite the lack of creativity in the actual plot, the gameplay is very well done. The levels are interesting and diverse and the combat has as much variation as you can have with a third-person shooter.
The story is available to play in four-person cooperative mode. With each player taking over one of the members of your squad, the story itself remains intact and the gameplay is great. The difficulty should be turned up with four players, since they are almost guaranteed to be faster at eliminating enemies than your A.I. mates.
One of the main things that the developers were talking up before launch was the smoothness of the movement system. And they were right, it’s really smooth. Transferring from one piece of cover to the next is easy and intuitive. Popping up to shoot is quick and realistic. I haven’t yet experienced a Mass Effect-like confusion about which way I am pointing and where I want to be pointing. The biggest reason for this is probably that the A-button doesn’t do everything, it is only used for the cover system. Granted, the cover system can be a little more refined, yet slow, because the gameplay isn’t the same kind of hectic firefight that Gears and Mass Effect are. Your battles should be planned and executed, not ad-libbed as you rush into the frenzy, always needing to take cover from different angles as you discover more threats. The whole point of the game is to give you tools to collect intel and then act on it with a well-developed battle plan involving clearing the battlefield quickly and efficiently. That doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in an unplanned situation where you have to react in real-time, but when it does happen, it’s really intense. Overall, the control system makes a lot of sense and flows very well. We’ll have to see how it holds up in multiplayer.
You have limited control over your squadmates, mostly in the form of assigning targets and tasks, such as healing. They are usually quick and efficient at it, and they rarely are in need of healing assistance, leaving you free to concentrate on the guy shooting you. The Sync Shot feature works very well, allowing you to take out 4+ enemies all at once. The “+” results from your heightened senses slowing down time for a brief period afterward, letting you line up two or three additional headshots if you need to.
There are a ton of weapons in the game. While there are obviously some that are better than others, everyone can find the weapon that suits their play style. The different weapons classes are balanced well and have appropriate attachments and upgrades that make sense in the real world. You don’t get a high-powered scope on a shotgun, and semi-automatic triggers aren’t available on light machine guns; you get the idea.
Gunsmith is one of the game systems that is completely new to GRFS. It allows you to pull apart and swap all the parts of the gun in a 3-D, rendered environment. You can also use the Kinect to do this, but there are some reasons not to. First off, you have to be standing in the visible zone of the Kinect. When I am in between missions, I am not going to stand up for two minutes to customize my gun. Sorry, it just isn’t happening. The Kinect controls are cool, and they are fun to play around with on the side, but they don’t really have a place amidst the campaign.
There is some really awesome support technology in this game. Let’s go over them one at a time.
This view mode lights up everything magnetic that you can see, and then creates a picture of the things around the metal. Therefore, guns and vehicles resonate to show enemies. It’s like infra-red or night vision, but is a bit easier to see with.
These little balls are thrown like grenades, but instead of exploding, they will detect all of the enemies within their radius and update your HUD with that info. I almost always take these along to gather intel for any situation.
The UAV/UGV is a small, remote-controlled drone that can fly around and feed you information, or roll in a near-invisible state to fit through small gaps. The ground mode has a sonic burst to stun enemies. The flying mode is incredibly useful for larger battlefields. You can deploy it, fly it up to a viewpoint that can see the battlefield, and then leave it there throughout the battle to feed you information about enemies. Any hostile it can see will be marked on your HUD. When you finish the battle, simply recall it to use again later.
Night-vision Thermal (NVT) mode is just what it says: A low-light mode that highlights heat sources like vehicles and people.
The Warhound might be the coolest and most powerful new thing. It is an autonomous ground-based platform that can act as cover, fire mortars and missiles, and can be remotely controlled. And did I mention that you get to control the missiles? Put simply, you can kill everything with the Warhound. Infantry? Mortar strike. Humvee? Guided missile launcher. Helicopter? Guided missile launcher. Warhound beats everything!
While not necessarily the most powerful (see above), the camo system is very useful. Activated by crouching and moving slowly, the system makes you nearly invisible to enemies. Notice the operative word “nearly.” Enemies will still see you if you move around out of cover long enough. However, sneaking past guards and over most terrain is a breeze, and you won’t have to worry about being seen.
Graphics and Visuals
Overall, the graphics are great. Environmental effects are realistic, your character and guns look good, and you move really well. Faces don’t look great, think Halo 3 style, but they are passable and it doesn’t detract from the game. I noticed a couple of issues with clipping, mostly with other characters, and a couple of times the textures didn’t render right away. Again, this was infrequent and not terribly noticeable.
To complement the actual mission and completion of objectives, there are challenges in each mission. These are based on using certain weapons, getting kills in a certain way, completing objectives within a certain time, etc. Since the game isn’t really that story-focused, you can go back to complete these missions without feeling like you are replaying the same thing over and over. Completing these challenges unlocks new stuff, like guns and upgrades.
To conclude, GRFS has a solid campaign experience with good gameplay and interesting combat. The tech makes it great, along with the replayability through the challenges. If you didn’t touch the multiplayer, you would be missing out on the full game and probably wouldn’t be getting your $60 worth, but it would be a close call.
Image Credit: Jootix.com, GiantBomb.com