Hype VS Reality.
Like many other big titles throughout recent gaming history, there has been a lot of hype surrounding Ghost Recon Future Soldier. Normally I wouldn't even mention the hype of the game if it hadn't been genuinely misleading.
In most cases hype just blows up a game to be more awesome than it really is. That's fine. That's what hype is there for! To sell the game to customers before anyone has even had a chance to try it out. I had been following this game since it was first announced way back in 2010 or so. For those that don't remember, the announcement trailer showed a much more distant future than the actual game launched with. Enemies would have combat/support drones just like the player. Friendly ghosts would be able to link together with their different squad members to support each other, like the recon would allow friendlies within link range to cloak, effectively being able to cloak the entire squad. Assault soldiers would have shoulder mounted missile launchers to deal with those pesky armored targets such as tanks or drones. Everything about the original concept looked and sounded awesome.
There were all sorts of cool far future tech that the original trailers showed and I was instantly sold on the concept. In my opinion there are far too many modern warfare shooters out there and adding any sort of science fiction elements, though still very much in the realm of possibility, was a great idea. Sadly, somewhere between its 2010 announcement and its May, 2012 the game went from "future" soldier to "modern warfare with tech we have working prototypes of or are currently using". The single most futuristic piece of equipment in the entire game is a siege drone that players get to toy around with in one mission and the cloaking device that is an incredibly important part of maintaining stealth.
That small gripe aside, I had a lot of fun with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
Oh those Russians.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier follows a squad of four Ghosts, a band of elite spec ops American soldiers with access to the latest and greatest military tech the world has to offer. They go places where no one else can to take out key targets and preferably do so without ever being seen so no one comes after the United States looking for revenge.
Their story picks up after news of several Ghost squads being taken out with little to no clues as to who is responsible. Until one fateful day in Nicaragua, when someone slips up. Another squad of Ghosts is taken out by a gun runner trying to deliver a nuke to the United States. The ghosts successfully manage to destroy the convoy, but not before a bomb takes them out along with it. Luckily this gives Ghost Command just enough of a lead to track down their killers in a whirlwind adventure through the world.
This of course leads the ghosts to find a splinter group in Russia causing all sorts of trouble, but more threatening of all is the Bodark; the Russian equivalent of a Ghost. When the Wolves hunt Ghosts, they come in force. They have all of the advantages Ghosts have as well as weaknesses which they will most likely introduce players to first.
The story was interesting enough to hold my attention throughout the campaign and they did really give the Ghosts in the players squad a personality which was a nice change over previous instalments. I actually caught myself caring for my AI squad mates, even if they had some hilarious behaviours in game.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier offers cooperative play which is, in my opinion, the best way to go through the campaign. It's not impossibly by any means if you play solo, even on Elite, but it certainly makes life easier. But there is no need to worry if you can only play with the AI! They are surprisingly competent.
The other members of your Ghost squad can more than take care of themselves, gunning down enemies or picking up the player when he's downed. But most importantly of all, you can actually tell them you need help. When engaged in combat, players can just mark targets for their fellow ghosts to take out. This is great for taking pressure off yourself and grabbing the attention of enemies you need to flank. The AI usually kills marked targets however, even on Elite difficulty. While friends make the game more enjoyable, there's no reason not to play through solo.
Even better, for the sake of stealth, there are synchronized shots in the game to take out groups of enemies all at once so there is no one left to spot the Ghosts. That being said, even if your AI partners decide to dance about in front of the enemy while cloaked, the enemy AI doesn't spot them. I was terrified the first time I saw Ghost Lead dancing in front of a patrolling enemy when the failure condition was to be detected. Luckily, they only care about spotting players. This is great because it's always frustrating to have to restart a mission because the friendly AI, not the player, screwed up.
Now for my one gripe with the AI in this game. While it would be awesome to use synchronized shots as a tactic to sow chaos in the battlefield, once a dead body is spotted not even optical camo will prevent the player and his squad from being spotted, and the whole group is counted as engaged, so players can only mark enemies to be killed rather than a synchronized shot to sow chaos through the enemy ranks.
Gun Smith? Kinda.
One of the big features hyped up about Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was its Gunsmith. I remember hearing that there would be millions of combinations to create the perfect gun for any player. It's kinda true and it's kinda not.
On one hand players have plenty of options when it comes to tweaking the performance of their own gun. Laser pointers, varying lengths of barrel, even the gas system on the gun can be changed. Players can even change the paint job on their gun, although it doesn't really affect anything except visibility in multiplayer.
But as far as actually creating their own gun? That's not there at all. As players progress through Multiplayer or Singleplayer they unlock more and more guns and attachments for them. At the end of the day though, a TAR-21 is still just a TAR-21. Only the way it handles changes.
It's not at all a bad thing! I've often wanted to optimize a weapon to my preferences, but to say players can create their guns is seriously over selling it. It's not at all like Blacklight: Retribution where players can make any sort of crazy weapons, like an SMG with a barrel you would normally see on a sniper rifle.
The beauty is in the details.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier looks great, especially when running with all of the settings maxed out, but what impressed me the most is the detail they put into things like cloaking and even the suppressing effect, and the animations to go along with it.
In most games when a character cloaks, they just cloak. From head to toe. More or less invisible other than maybe some ripples of light bending around them. That's great but it doesn't make a lot of sense, especially with parts of the body exposed. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier doesn't mess around though. When looking at the cloaked character models you can tell they are cloaked but at the same time make out the fabrics and materials their clothing and gear is made of. Even better, any exposed bits of flesh are seen as they normally would. This carries on to multiplayer as well. Cloaking may not make players entirely invisible it makes them difficult to see, especially when sprinting from cover to cover under a hail of cover.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is also the second shooter I have ever seen to actually implement a suppression system. This is something that I find is incredibly important, especially when a game has weapons like Light Machine Guns. Normally when players are in cover, they can see around their corners and even lean out to get a better view. But the second an LMG opens up on their general area or they come under heavy sniper fire, the screen begins shaking and blurring. The players character even reacts to the gun fire, flinching back into cover and even shaking until they come out of it. Players can still pop out of cover to shoot back, but it is anything but accurate and a suppressed player is much more likely to lose a fight than the one doing the suppressing.
Co-op and competitive multiplayer? Oh my!
If the story didn't carry enough action, even when dragging along three other friends, there is always Guerrilla mode and competitive multiplayer.
Guerrilla mode is like Horde mode in most games, only with stealth and tactical game play. A team of four ghosts go from area to area, securing and holding it from an enemy army. Why hunt them down when you can just bait them to you after all? As players complete waves, not only do they get more difficult, but they also build up a wave streak. Each wave completed builds up this streak and allows for players to call down all sorts of aid, ultimately building up to the ability to call down an air strike.
Competitively players will have chose between three classes and their load outs. Rifle Men are the main front line fighters with assault rifles and LMG's. Engineers being support with their drones or sensor grenades to spot enemies. Finally there are Recons with their cloaking device, which can be upgraded to perform better than normal and their very big, angry sniper rifles. While all weapons can shoot through varying degrees of cover, nothing beats a sniper rifle when it comes to raw penetrating power. An enemy team facing a recon and engineer working well together is going to be in for a world of hurt.
Unfortunately I can't really recommend getting this game for its multiplayer, short of the co-op play. Not because it's bad by any means. Especially because it's one of the few shooters out there that is a third person shooter. But, at least on the PC, you can get the competitive multiplayer experience with further future tech if you go check out Ghost Recon Online. The only thing it doesn't have is the Gunsmith. But there are more than enough customization options for the weapons to essentially have the same effect.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a fun game. It handles great, it's fun to play. The campaign has awesome moments where your Ghost team nearly bites the dust, and the campaign is also co-operative, which is always fun and makes the Tactical challenges that much easier to accomplish. If you're looking for a multiplayer game however, I would recommend first checking out Ghost Recon Online if you own a PC. It's free and fairly similar to the multiplayer here. Console fans, this is still an awesome game and well worth the pick up, especially if it's in a Christmas Sale.