First-person shooters are no rarity on the current generation of consoles. Call of Duty, Gears of War and Halo are just a few of the titles that continue to dominate the market. However, there are very few in the way of tactical shooters, something Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is certain to fill.
The plot behind Future Soldier consists of a four-man Ghost team being deployed in Nicaragua to disrupt weapons trafficking, though are killed after a bomb is detonated. Following these events, another Ghost team, Team Predator, is assigned to track down the source of the bomb.
While the campaign is quite lengthy in comparison to other shooters currently available, the story and the game’s missions feel very unconnected. One mission has players infiltrating a base on a snowy terrain, the next they’re tactically killing enemies as they sneak through a jungle.
There are a number of alterations to the gameplay from the previous outing, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2. Rather than commanding teammates where to position themselves, players now ‘mark’ enemies. Players can mark up to four enemies, which can be killed at once as part of the new “Sync Shot” feature.
Despite the “Sync Shot” feature, the A.I. isn’t particularly clever. They often get stuck against walls and obstacles (often preventing the player from continuing) or simply seem to mimic the player’s movements, which spoils some of the tactical elements of the game.
What makes Future Soldier stand out from other shooters is the use of equipment. As well as the usual grenades, there are the likes of optical camouflage, drones and scanners. Using each of these to their advantage can majorly benefit the player progress through the campaign.
In saying that, it wouldn’t be a tactical shooter without the weapons, and Future Soldier certainly doesn’t lack in that department. The game contains 50 different weapons in total, including a range of assault rifles, light machine guns, shotguns, snipers and handguns. While only the basic weapons are available from the start, more and better weapons are unlocked as players continue to play the game.
Furthermore, each of the game’s weapons can be customised. The weapon customisation, known as the “GunSmith,” allows for in-depth changes to be made to each of the game’s weapons. Everything from the stock to the optics and the muzzle to the paint can be altered. Ubisoft have really gone all out to ensure Future Soldier’s weapon customisation is the best one we’ve seen on any game to date.
Not only can you customise the weapons, but you can try them out in the firing range. This may not seem like a particular innovative feature until you learn “GunSmith” can also be controlled by using the Kinect sensor. Using a series of hand movements and voice commands, players can customise their weapon and try it out in the firing range. Whereas the hand controls in the firing range aren’t ideal, it’s certainly progress for the technology that has been criticised for being heavily targeted at the casual market.
There is also an iPhone and Android app for “GunSmith” which allows for players to edit their weapons on the go and sync them with the game. It also allows players to check their online stats and progress. While this is a nice option to have and works brilliantly, it’s something that is likely to be used once and never again.
At the end of every mission, a “Ghost Squad Score” is awarded, based on a number of factors. These factors include stealth combat (silenced kills, CQB kills, sync shot kills), precision (total accuracy, headshots, civilian causalities) and difficulty. The “Ghost Squad Score” is a particularly good inclusion as it encourages players to up their game when they come to replaying the level.
Something else that can influence the player’s “Ghost Squad Score” is the challenges set at the start of each mission. A welcome addition to the game, these often consist of completing a certain part of the level in a certain time, eliminating all the enemies in a particular area and using a particular weapon to kill a certain number of enemies.
Future Soldier can also be played over Xbox Live, once players have activated their UPlay account. There are four online game modes in total: “Conflict,” “Decoy,” “Saboteur” and “Siege.”
“Conflict” assigns randomly located objectives with team points awarded for completing the objective. The team with the most points wins. This is Future Soldier’s equivalent of Team Deathmatch and is a fairly enjoyable game mode overall.
“Decoy,” the most entertaining game mode of the four, has the attacking team attempting to take control of three objectives, one of which is “key” and the other two are decoys. Neither team knows the location of the “key” objective though, once it has been completed by the attacking team, the final objective is revealed. If the attacking team completes the final objective, they win the round, whereas the defenders win by preventing them from doing so. The overall winner is the best out of three rounds.
“Saboteur” has a bomb located in a central area. It’s the teams’ jobs to attempt to secure, transport and detonate bomb at an enemy base. If neither team manages this before the time runs out, the team with the best teamwork actions is declared the winner. “Saboteur” is slightly hit and miss as some games of it are very enjoyable, while others can prove to be fairly boring.
Finally, “Siege” is very similar to “Decoy” as it has attackers attempting to complete the objective. However, the lack of respawns in the game mode can prove to be quite tedious, especially if you’re killed early on, and games can be over within a matter of minutes.
In each of the four game modes, players can choose from one of three character types to control: Rifleman, Scout and Engineer. This works out very well as each one is limited to a number of weapons and equipment from the single player, so it’s beneficial to try them all out and to see which one suits you best. In addition, levelling up as each of the character types unlocks new equipment and weapons, which can improve the online experience.
A great addition to the online is “Casualty Assessment” - the equivalent of Call of Duty’s “Kill Cam.” “Casualty Assessment” provides an insight to your death, including where you were killed from and the health status of the killer. It’s something that proves particularly useful as it allows players to learn from their mistakes.
Future Soldier’s final game mode is very similar to Gears of War’s “Horde” mode and Halo’s “Firefight” mode. “Guerilla Mode” requires players to secure and defend a headquarters against 50 waves of enemies. With every wave, the amount of enemies increases, and the HQ changes every ten waves.
This game mode is a great addition though, disappointingly, there isn’t an option to search for partners online, leaving players to rely on their friends to play with (both over Xbox Live and in split-screen) and it isn’t particularly enjoyable playing the game mode in single player.
Graphically, Future Soldier is spectacular in places, featuring some impressive detail, though this is let down by some occasional bland texturing and some weak background effects where it feels as if the game has been rushed for release.
Likewise, the audio features a great musical score and some impressive sound effects, but the unconvincing dialogue in the campaign is a harsh reminder that the voices were recorded in a studio and not out on a battleground.
Overall, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is the best tactical shooter to date. Despite a number of small problems, Future Soldier is a very entertaining game on the whole and, with a lengthy campaign and plenty of game modes to be getting on with, you certainly get your money’s worth. If you're looking for a shooter to pass the time until Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Halo 4 release, this is certainly worth considering.