Ghost Recon Future Soldier Review
Ready up Ghosts, it’s time to play.
The month of May has already supplied us with two great Third-Person Shooters in Starhawk and Max Payne 3, and this week Ubisoft will release its Third-Person Shooter, the long-awaited Ghost Recon Future Soldier. Does it live up to the hype of the last five years and cap off a month of great shooters, or does it fall flat and disappoint?
The campaign in Ghost Recon Future Soldier, which was created in collaboration with real life former Navy Seals, takes you through a series of missions as Ghost Team Hunter, who are tracking down arms dealers around the world, seeking revenge for Ghost Team Predator who were recently killed in action. I wasn’t expecting a deep story, and you shouldn’t either, but it does a great job at piecing the missions together and giving an overall theme to the campaign. Knowing that the situations you are being thrown into were based on real-life events adds a layer of realism to the game which is always nice in a military shooter.
The team of Ghosts are highly trained special-ops soldiers who are sent in when things need to be taken care of with finesse, rather than muscle. This is particularly highlighted in the campaign missions that you must complete without being spotted, which are some of the tougher missions in the game. To become a Ghost you’ll have access to Active Camo which only works when moving slowly or when stopped, Sensor grenades which spot any targets in the vicinity of where you threw it, UAV drones to spot and mark targets, plenty of Silenced weapons, Magnetic and Night Vision modes and more. GRFS is also a cover-based game, and thankfully it works really well. A decent amount of the cover in the game is destructible, so you won’t always be able to just stay in one spot, which leads us to the Cover Swap system, which allows you to target a new position of cover and hold A to automatically move to it. It works great, and allows you to move from cover to cover without being spotted and to get some fresh cover when you are under heavy fire. There is nothing worse than a game that emphasizes cover, but has a terrible cover system, and Ubisoft nailed it this time.
Since the Ghosts are a four-man team, you will always have your squadmates by your side, and fortunately the AI in the game works well most of the time. They know when to move in and out of cover, they don’t break silence with unnecessary kills, and they know how to listen. You can mark enemies and then either have your squad take them out on your command, or you can join in and have a four-man simultaneous kill shot. This works well on missions where you can’t be spotted as you can control the UAV drone, mark the enemy targets, and then wait for them to be out of sight and have your squad eliminate them for you. The top down view from the UAV is quite helpful on those missions.
Even though a large percentage of the game focuses on being a team built on stealth, there is still a lot of action in Ghost Recon Future Soldier. One mission you may have to be quiet and eliminate your enemies from the shadows, and the next you could be on the side of a helicopter turret, controlling the Warhound Drone which packs both mortars and guided missiles, or just have the freedom to engage in fire fights as you see fit. Any mission that doesn’t require you to not be spotted, you can play the run and gun style, but it’s not quite as effective, even if it can be a lot of fun. I found it’s best to mix the two styles on those missions and take out some of the initial enemies in silence and then run in on the rest of them. If you choose to just run in on every enemy location, you could end up retrying quite a bit, so play it smart and act like a Ghost.
In between each level, you will be able to choose your gear, grenades and the primary and secondary weapon you want to take and customize them with Gunsmith, which is a new weapon customization system. When you enter Gunsmith you will be presented with a rotating list of guns to pick from, and the option to customize them. You can then customize the attachments for Optics, Paint, Trigger, Magazine, Underbarrel, Gas System, Side Rail, Barrel, Muzzle and the Stock. It’s quite deep and let’s you tailor your guns to how you want them to work. You can also have the game automatically optimize the weapon for different play styles, or randomly create a gun configuration. As you mix and match attachments, you can seamlessly enter a firing range to test out your configuration to see if it’s what you wanted, which is a small but cool feature. You’ll unlock plenty of new weapons and the attachments for them by completing challenges and missions.
On the Xbox 360 version, Gunsmith supports Kinect hand tracking and voice commands, and while the voice commands work well, the hand tracking does not. It works fine when you are customizing your weapon, but when I tried to use it in the firing range it was all over the place and I couldn’t get it to just sit still and cooperate. Thankfully this is an optional feature and I won’t hold it against them too much, but be warned it’s not that much fun trying to get it to work.
The campaign is longer than I expected and should clock in anywhere between 8 to 12 hours, depending on what difficulty you play on. These days it seems like most shooters are happy to be around the 6 hour mark, if not shorter, for their campaign and then rely on their multiplayer to keep gamers happy. I love that Ubisoft decided to give us a longer campaign, especially when there is still a lot of content we haven’t talked about yet. The last, and in my opinion best thing to mention about the campaign is that it can be played cooperatively with up to three friends online. It’s what we’re always asking for, and Ubisoft have delivered. That’s how you do a campaign. Speaking of playing with friends…..
For a lot of gamers, multiplayer is the main reason that they buy most shooters these days, and those hoping for a fantastic new online shooter with Ghost Recon Future Soldier may be slightly disappointed, unless you really love Objective-based game modes. That is my one major complaint about the multiplayer; there is no classic Team Deathmatch mode. All four available modes – Conflict, Decoy, Saboteur and Siege are Objective based modes. Sure they are all good in their own ways, and I get that GRFS is more about being tactical, but I personally just prefer to play Team Deathmatch the majority of the time, so it’s unfortunate that GRFS doesn’t include it. Conflict mode, which has your team completing varying objectives throughout the match, is the next best thing and was the one I found myself playing the most. You can help your team complete the objectives, but I also found a lot of other players just running around seemingly trying to just get kills, and that was what I was looking for.
Siege has one objective which the defenders must stop the attackers from completing, with the catch that there are no respawns in this mode. Decoy has three objectives to complete, but two of them are decoys so you may waste time going for those instead of the real one, and Saboteur tasks you to capture a neutral bomb and detonate it at the other teams base. Regardless of which mode you play, you’ll earn XP during each match and level up the three character classes available; Engineer, Rifleman and Scout. Each class has their own gear, equipment, weapons and attachments to unlock, via either reaching a certain rank or using Credits that you’ll earn when you level up. One annoying thing about the character progression is that you have to unlock and equip attachments for your weapons for both sides, Ghosts and Bodarks (Russian Special Ops), as they have different weapons. It would have made life a little easier to just have both sides use the same weapons for each class and then only have to customize each weapon once. It may not bug everyone, but I don’t like it when games do things like that.
GRFS also includes a new wave-based survival mode called Guerilla Mode, which can be played solo but it is really meant to be played cooperatively. You and up to three friends (or one friend locally) must work together to survive 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemies, over four maps (there is also a bonus map you can get in Uplay as well). At this point you might be thinking that it sounds just like so many other survival modes out there, but Ubisoft have really made Guerilla mode their own. The way that it differentiates itself from other games with similar modes is by having the first wave be a stealth wave where you must eliminate the hostiles at a specified location, and then defend that location for the next nine waves, before moving to another location for the next 10 waves, with five locations on each map.
You’ll also earn Wave Streaks such as an airstrike, a real-time radar, a guided missile and a few others for successfully surviving a set number of waves in a row without dying. If you do die, you can start at the last wave, but your wave streak will reset. These are really quite helpful when you are pinned down and surrounded by over 10 enemies and things are getting intense. Due to the fact that things can get quite tough in Guerilla Mode, and that it’s a blast to play with some friends, I can see myself playing this for a while.
Between the multiplayer modes, that are all about being tactical and not just running around with the fastest trigger finger, the new Guerilla mode which essentially mixes the classic Terrorist Hunt mode from previous Tom Clancy games and the co-op modes from the GRAW games, and then playing the campaign cooperatively, you have plenty of great content to play with your friends. You can’t ask for much more, aside from Team Deathmatch I guess.
I’ve been having a great time with Ghost Recon Future Soldier and would recommend it to everyone. It has a solid campaign, a fresh take on the survival mode and even though I would have preferred more standard multiplayer modes, such as Team Deathmatch, the multiplayer is still very enjoyable, and you can’t complain when you get to do so much of it with your friends. We are always asking for more co-op in games, particularly in shooters, and Ubisoft have clearly listened to their fans and have given us one of the best co-op games of the year so far. Whether you are a long time Ghost Recon fan or just a big fan of Third-Person Shooters, you will thoroughly enjoy Ghost Recon Future Soldier, unless of course you hate fun.