Ghost Recon Future Soldier
I am mere steps behind the Russian separatist soldier, but thanks to my futuristic invisibility machine (not kidding), he cannot see me. As long as I move slowly and employ a bit of patience, he'll never see the attack coming. Right now, the biggest decision I have to make is whether I want to snap his neck or put a bullet in his dome, and If I happen to make any mistakes, I've always got three homies backing me up. We must not fail or the world as we know it will look completely different by morning, and we sure as shit ain't learning how to speak no Russian!
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier is the newest installment in the celebrated tactical shooter from developer Ubisoft. During a routine op, four of America's best are taken down by an unexpected bomb, forcing players to step into the shoes of Kozak, a Russian-American soldier hell-bent on avenging his fallen brothers and saving the world. As you unravel the intricate plot and trace the bomb back to its source, you'll traipse the globe and come ever closer to discovering the players behind yet another plot for taking over the world.
The Ghost Recon series has long stood out as a different breed of shooter. Rather than the run-n-gun gameplay of similar 3rd-person titles like Gears of War or most of today's FPS, GR allows for a more tactical approach to modern (or should I say futuristic) warfare. Entering unknown territory? No problem! You can toss a sensor grenade into the fray so as to reveal enemy positions. Not sneaky enough? Simply release your UAV drone—which can either fly or drive—to mark your enemies and watch in glee as your squad takes them down no problem. You can even use your invisibility suit to get close and take 'em out. It's an almost jarring change of pace from so many of today's adrenaline-packed titles, but once you've grown accustomed to using a little patience, the mechanics come together for an incredibly addictive system.
Controls are as tight as ever, and it's not long before you'll be popping in and out of cover and taking down your enemies with ease. A newly implemented "gunsmith" system aids in your quest for the perfect weapon. Daunting at first but soon strangely fun in its own right, the system allows for the complete customization of guns with any number of unlockable items gained by completing missions and/or tactical sub-objectives found throughout the game's many modes. Don't like that red dot sight? Not to worry, because you'll have access to something better before you know it. The gunsmithing is even Kinect compatible, so if you've always dreamed of putting together your dream gun in a very Minority Report-esque fashion, your ship has come in. You can change everything on the guns from the muzzle to the stock, and it boils down to hundreds of combinations, and a chance to take on all missions in whatever playing style you wish.
GRFS is a long game which, at 60 bucks, it damn well should be. Over 12 missions, you'll encounter everything from urban, close-quarter combat and stealthy sniping missions in a snowy wasteland, to full-on gun battles in the forest and—my personal favorite—a harried traffic jam firefight on a crowded middle-eastern city street. Pacing is perfectly executed by our pals at Ubisoft, and other than a few surprising moments of amped up difficulty, there is always something to look forward to.
This is where the game becomes truly worth your time and money, as there are both adversarial online modes and co-op availability pretty much everywhere. Competitive online modes are objective-based, and provide plenty of reason to make sure your microphone is in good working order. It's fun to work with/as a team, and GRFS provides more than enough reason to make friends with other players.
The campaign itself allows for four-player co-op (no drop-in/drop-out, though), as does Guerilla mode, which represents every one of today's game's apparent need to include a horde-like mode to its overall package. Yes, it's fun to take on wave after wave of enemies, but only if you've got at least one friend to help you. Public lobbies do exist, but this gamer found that players who were willing to work as a team were few and far between.
The story found within GRFS exists, but after a few missions you'll be hard-pressed to remember what it is. It's something about gun-runners and bombs and everybody hates America, but it really doesn't matter and you certainly won't become absorbed. All you know is that it's time to kill anybody you come across.
As games become more and more detailed, it was little disappointing to take in the backgrounds of GRFS. Most levels are sparse, and things like foliage or city-street debris look downright bad. It's almost as if Ubisoft has recycled environments from previous games and chose to slap the new coat of paint on characters only. And even the characters are fairly bland, Johnny-America lookin'-ass dudes. Enemies look exactly the same from terrorists to super-soldiers sporting the same gear as you (how dare they!), and strange moments referred to as "diamond formation" wrestle control away from the player and turn the game into an on-rails shooter for brief periods. These moments don't happen enough to be bothersome, but it almost seemed like they existed simply for cinematic set-piece moments...and I'd much rather have control of my guy during a multi-car explosion than be forced to play it the way you want me to!
The lack of drop-in/drop-out co-op is not OK. Why do I need my whole squad present at the beginning of the mission, Ubisoft? What happens if they jump online later than me? Are you suggesting I restart levels and checkpoints? Bah!
Loading times during gunsmithing take forever, which is a total drag considering how fun it was to switch all the gun parts.
The Bottom Line
With so many brainless shooters on the market, it's nice to have a game that makes you assess whatever situation you may be heading into. It became second-nature to plan my assaults, and despite the difficulty this caused at first, I'm now unsure I'll be able to run-n-gun with the same gusto as before. GRFS plays very much like previous iterations in the series, only the developers have made it far more accessible in terms of difficulty, mechanics and gameplay. Despite a few graphical missteps and a barely-there story, GRFS is an incredible value and a whole lot of fun. Even as I write this I'm dying for my friends to get home so I can invite them into the fray and kill some bad guys. Simply put, this ain't a glorious new era of gaming, but it is a great way to get your game on.
Let it be known to all men and women, that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier receives 4 out of 5 Stars
Developer(s): Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft Romania, Ubisoft Red Storm
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Rating: M (for mature)
Cost: MSRP $59.99