Future Soldier's focus on teamwork sets it apart from modern shooters, though mainly through it's multiplayer

User Rating: 8 | Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier PS3
The Ghost Recon series, since its beginnings in 2001 has been renowned for its focus on tactical, squad based action. The fifth entry in the series, Future Soldier takes the series into the future and it keeps the series status mostly intact despite some issues where the campaign is concerned.

When a special operations team is killed by a dirty bomb in Nicaragua a new team of ''Ghosts'' consisting of Ghost Lead, Kozak, Pepper, and 30K who wield the latest weapons and technology is brought in to search for those responsible in addition to preventing worldwide incidents from erupting. While the prologue seems to promise a story filled with conspiracy and intrigue the plot itself quickly falls flat due to a serious lack of development; the few political aspects are only hinted at through the campaign and the Ghosts themselves have few character traits to set them apart from each other. Without a primary antagonist the plot can also become rather muddled as well as the Ghosts often jump between many countries and hunt many different targets with what seems like little rhyme or reason. For all the thought needed to play through the game, Future Soldier's plot is quite a let-down overall.

With all the features packed into shooters nowadays Future Soldier makes sure that it isn't lagging behind the competition; the campaign comes in at ten hours with its longevity being boosted further by four player coop, challenges specific to each mission and an overall Ghost Score that increases based on accuracy, stealth and squad tactics. Ghost Recon continues to play to a linear style through the campaign missions but you'll often have the choice between rushing in guns blazing or being more subtle which is by far the more satisfying option. You'll make use of various future technologies in the game, including active camouflage, drones, special grenades that scan the environment and even a heavily armoured war hound mech at one point. Of course there will be times where you'll be forced to shoot your way to safety or infiltrate a location without raising the alarm though these are brought in where appropriate, allowing a fair balance between the two styles of play. Objectives stick to the tried and true; you'll head to a location, take out enemies, observe the battlefield and hack objectives with scripted moments coming in the form of escorting friendlies and manning powerful turrets. These set pieces are acceptable for a Ghost Recon game but fall short of the tense and frenetic situations featured in other games; still the futuristic tech is fun to use and the stealth gameplay sets Future Soldier apart from other games of its kind, making the campaign an OK if unremarkable piece of the product.

Multiplayer on the other hand is delivered very well, that is if you can find teammates or friends that are willing to work together in both the cooperative Guerrilla mode and multiplayer that pits teams of eight against each other. Guerrilla is essentially a horde mode with a territory system in place; up to four players work together to hold objectives and defeat enemies. Guerrilla has plenty of depth with fifty waves including support bonuses and point scores to strive for but it's just too bad that there's no matchmaking system for it and that playing alone is immensely frustrating. Competitive multiplayer is similarly fun, provided teamwork is held in high regard. Future Soldier sports two main game modes; conflict and sabotage. Conflict is an extended match that marks objectives for the Ghost and Bodark teams to complete whereas sabotage is the typical base bomb mission where both teams must use their own bombs to destroy objectives. The future technology of the campaign plays a far greater role online; given how quickly players are dropped it is vital that players stick together, sensor grenades and drones are used to spot enemies, equipment is used appropriately and that players stun and hack enemies and objectives frequently. Not only does this help a team win, it also grants more XP than simple kills ever could; Future Soldier's level system is complex and deep, even offering choices between two items at particular milestones. Do you want a tech computer to hack objectives and stunned enemies faster or do you want a drone to spot enemies from the air? These choices along with the three classes offer strong latitude in how you want to play; Riflemen are mainly used for covering fire and dropping enemies, scouts use stealth to sneak around and engineers are used mainly for support. The tactical play present in Future Soldier certainly sets itself apart from its competitors though the slower pace and emphasis on teamwork may turn off some players. The single player and multiplayer modes are both rounded out by the Gunsmith system which perhaps offers more weapon customisation that any other shooter on the market; every part of a gun including the stock, gas system, sights under barrel, muzzle and even the trigger are modifiable using the attachments unlocked through level ups which can then be tested on a firing range. It's a very slick system that like the classes can be tailored for control, range, or manoeuvrability among other styles. Indeed those willing to work together will find a highly rewarding and unique haven in Ghost Recon Future Soldier.

Despite all the technical and futuristic aspects of the game, Future Soldier plays well; the shooting controls will be familiar to any fan of shooters and the technology is right at the player's fingertips at all times; cloaking activates automatically while crouched, L2 despatches equipment and R2 is used solely for squad commands which include reviving teammates, marking enemies to focus on in gunfights and the brilliant new sync shot mechanic. After marking up to four targets and moving into position a squeeze of the trigger will take down all marked enemies at once; it's an incredibly helpful feature in stealth sections and remains satisfying to use even towards the end of the campaign. Artificial intelligence has been important to the Ghost Recon series for years and the three that attend missions with Kozak behave appropriately, rarely being detected and are always following orders consistently. On the other hand enemy AI has taken a few steps back since Advanced Warfighter. While they are quick to detect Kozak and call in backup in stealth sections, in fire fights they'll often refuse to take cover, rush blindly towards you and sometimes ignore grenades tossed right next to them. Even when kitted with their own advanced technology the enemy rarely acts intelligently which slightly diminishes the tension the campaign would have needed. Aside from these issues Future Soldier is a solid cover shooter; an excellent transition system means you'll never be stuck in the open for too long and the suppression mechanic (machine gun fire pinning you behind cover) keeps the player moving between cover and prioritising enemies on the fly. The game also offers PlayStation Move support which like other games is functional but players will likely stick to a regular controller.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier's presentation like the campaign is acceptable but a little ragged around the edges; in general the environments, characters and weapons look fine and varied, but lack the detail expected in AAA games. Animations fare better, especially the movement and cover transitions though cut scenes do look quite dated at times; particularly in some facial animations. Filters for night vision look properly authentic and bright which also applies to the weapons; each has been adapted from its present day counterpart to fit the 2024 setting perfectly, creating a more realistic and authentic overall presentation. The sound design is also well done with weapons sounding deadly and lethal whilst the music is appropriately militaristic in the action packed moments and subdued in the stealth sections. Future's Soldier's presentation won't set the world on fire but it does its job well enough.

With its more strategic take on combat and focus on team play, Ghost Recon Future Soldier carves itself a place in the crowded shooter market. The campaign may be lacking but its multiplayer modes will do much to win over those who are tired of the same run and gun shooters of this generation.