Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Review
Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Red Storm, Ubisoft Romania, Ubisoft Ukraine
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date(s): Console: May 22, 2012; PC: June 26, 2012
Genre: Tactical Shooter
Players: Single-Player, Co-Op, Online Multiplayer
Call of Duty’s weird friend who always tries to copy him
There’s much to be said about the Ghost Recon series, having forged itself a strong identity in the face of the overwhelming competition that exists within the shooter market, but Future Soldier seems to be either trying too hard or not trying hard enough, depending on which way you look at it: coursing throughout the style and visual impact of the game is much of what the Modern Warfare series has now made clichéd, a common misstep that many designers take in order to try and appeal to Call of Duty’s massively loyal and hungry fanbase. In doing so the Ghost Recon team have given their game the feeling of being a bad pastiche of an arguably bad gaming franchise, not that it has stopped people buying it, North America alone accounting for half a million retail copies already. Whether the familiar ideas have encouraged or discouraged fans and whether or not this has actually impacted sales is a moot point: once the money has been made the critic’s opinion is empty. Bearing that in mind let’s continue with this critic’s opinion.
Ghost Recon’s edge over similar games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor has always been its strong emphasis on near-future technology and its visual flare for everything ‘heads-up-display’, so it was disappointing to find that this newest entry delivers comparatively little on that front. The most obvious piece of ‘cool new tech’ is the cloaking technology that you have automatically equipped for almost every mission in the game, which is neither as cool nor as clever as it might sound. The cloaking mechanism occurs when crouched but turns off momentarily when firing, though the tactical thinking behind it ends there. Because your character can move pretty fast while crouching, and because your squad mates will only ever stand up if the area is safe (thereby removing any need for you to be cautious when walking), the risk of having your cloaking off at the wrong time is practically nil. And though enemies can still spot you if you are close enough there is no obvious way of telling just how close you can get. As the most important draw for the game it is less surprising than disappointing to see the stealth mechanics go almost completely out of the window. The point that ruins the cloaking device for me is the fact that without it, the game would play out in exactly the same way.
The game boasts two more gadgets to set your world alight in the form of a sensor ball that you throw like a grenade, showing enemies on your HUD, and a drone that can mark victims for your team’s multiple-takedown technique. Of the two the sensor is easily the most useful and less clunky device, having a valid use in heated battles, whereas the drone is usually forced upon you for an awkward objective like zapping an electric box to allow you to pass by an air-conditioning fan. The more classic elements of your arsenal include a large number of guns, all completely customisable to give you a somewhat, I suspect, needless level of personal refinement, as well as frag, incendiary, EMP and flashbang grenades. For the first few mission briefings you will have fun going through your loadouts and fiddling with everything from your gun’s gas type to how much control your foregrip gives you, though ultimately the gameplay comes down to how close your enemies are and therefore whether you should equip a sniper rifle or a light-automatic. Going with the recommended equipment gives you as much control in a gunfight as any other so the choice is really only about personal preference.
The missions themselves follow waypoints that either ask you to get to a location or to get to a location and clear it of enemies. Along the way you’ll mostly be relying on stealth to avoid firefights, though when they do occur you’ll have no problem mopping up and reinstating your invisibleness. There is also a narrative throughout that sees your unit globe-trotting and uncovering a secret underground Russian plot to destabilise the world with nuclear missiles, though the plot and characters are inconsequential and only facilitate the next locale. A few acts also use the cheeky technique of having you retread your steps to make missions longer without actually adding anything, which might be forgivable if they were at all interesting the first time round. The closest the game comes to any sort of meaningful story is the excruciatingly bad cut-scenes that bookend missions: intended to make the Ghost unit appear to be unsung heroes, it instead comes off as a rather below-average daytime soap. It is to be expected though from a game that was built around multiplayer and which is clearly trying to appeal to the average patriotic young American: the single-player team have ticked all the boxes for a modern war game featuring American soldiers and never intended for it to push any boundaries or win any plaudits (at least I hope they didn’t or else they will be very disappointed).
What remains then is an experience that consistently fails to impress, doubly so when you consider that much of what is on offer is so painfully an attempt to deliver the same experience that you can get from Modern Warfare. Russian conspiracies leading to war, London being targeted by a loud terrorist attack, a cold opening onto a Middle-Eastern setting complete with moody ethnic singing. The more similarities one is able to draw the more evident the failing of the developers to actually reproduce any of it. So then, surely, the multiplayer must be its saving grace? Unfortunately I cannot answer this question, having no online capabilities as of writing this review, but then why should I allow a game to make up for its flaws in single-player with an online experience? The two are, in my view, completely separate entities. And besides, when a publisher appears to put so much stock in an offline campaign surely you should expect more quality and care than you will receive for your £35. ‘Disappointed’ is the key word for this review. However, while single-player is beholden to drama and narrative multiplayer is all about the enjoyment of taking the fight to your enemies. Here’s hoping your online adventures make you forget about this shambles of a rip-off joke.
- High level of customization for your weapons
- Automatic weapons are satisfying
- Unimaginative, uninspiring and unlikeable
- Lacks a sense of obligation to fans and gamers
David’s review of GR:FS has a much lower score than most other reviewers. Did you enjoy this game?