Xbox 360 Game Review: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
The Wargamer's editor-in-chief travels the world with "Ghost" team in Ubisoft's latest tactical third-person shooter, giving us a wargamer's take on the title.
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
A concern that has bothered military theorists since wars creation is what war will look like in the future. Will it be a continuation of the conventional warfare witnessed in World War 2—frontlines well established and adversaries designated by the color of their uniforms? Or, will the future be a deeper investment in the current trend of guerrilla warfare fought by organisms that disregard national boundaries and the rules of warfare: terrorist organizations and cartels? Ubisoft’s latest third-person shooter, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, portrays the near future as being on-line with the latter. Let’s see how Future Soldier brings its prediction of future warfare to the Xbox360.
The game is set in the near future and follows a “Ghost” team of five members, designated “Hunter”. The mission of the team is to track down the killers of a former Ghost team that was annihilated in Nicaragua. Players get to interact and change the course of events as the team travels the world in chase of cartels, terrorist organizations, and just plain old thugs.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a futuristic tactical third-person shooter. The game offers two singleplayer modes: “Guerilla” and “Campaign”. The former allows players to enjoy scenarios without worrying about investing time into a lengthy campaign. Similar to Modern Warfare’s “Spec Ops” mode, this mode adds much replayability to the game, as players have several options to customize their scenarios like: map selection, wave assault numbers, and difficulty. The campaign—which is quite extensive—is most likely where single players are going to be spending most of their time: enjoying the scenary, diversity in adversaries, and just simply getting the feel for the game. The tutorial is there-in—the opening missions of the campaign.
The game implements a third-person view—the renowned “Tom Clancy” third-person view—that is reminiscent of the Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas series. But this game takes it to the next level. Players can switch the viewing side of the Ghost soldier you command, from left to right. I think the third-person view creates an unrealistic perspective for “shooters”, especially those that implement a cover system (as seen here). When in this view while the soldier is completely behind cover, the player is able to view over and around that cover. However, the game is not entirely portrayed in the third-person view as players are able to switch to iron sights at the click of a button, which draws them into a first-person perspective. In general, I think the third-person view compliments the game’s mechanics quite nicely although deducting any realism that might have been added by the cover system.
If that isn’t enough, the game offers quite a few other perspectives from which to view the war that wages around them. There are an “x-ray” and heat sensing views available, depending on circumstances. Future Soldier has also implemented drones, sensors and other useful futuristic technologies within the game that increase recon capabilities. The drone is a helicopter-like machine called a “UAV” that can be thrown into the air, flown about at the controller’s ease, giving the player a top-down view of the immediate battlefield. There are a few different views available from the drones—black hot or white hot—with zoom-in capabilities. There is also another device, that is able to roam about in the air and on the ground; similar to the Mars Exploration Rover. They’ve called it a “MOD” (Multi Operational Drone).
One of the best aspects of this game is the load-out. Players get to choose a primary and secondary weapon, as well as two items (devices or explosives) before they are sent to battle. One can select from a whole arsenal of weapons ranging from light-machineguns to sniper rifles to assault rifles. The secondary weapon can either be a sidearm or something a little more robust, like a shotgun. Taking it to the next level, the game offers an extensive list of available options when customizing a particular weapon. Weapons can be modified and players can choose from a whole arsenal of modification categories: “optics”, “paint”, “trigger”, “magazine”, “underbarrel”, “gas system”, “side rail”, “barrel”, “muzzle”, and “stock”. After customizing, one can test their weapon designs by simply entering the “firing range”. The variety of modified parts available expands as players continue into the campaign or advance within the multiplayer hierarchy. A dream come true for any “tactical shooter” wargamer.
After one is armed and equipped, they’ll soon after be thrown into action. Right away one will become aware of the complex cover system implemented within the game. Another similarity with the Vegas series, players can take cover behind nearly all sizeable objects on the battlefield. Spots in which the soldier can take cover are clearly defined with a light blue circle. The game has also implemented a very efficient way in which to move about, from cover-to-cover. Once one is behind cover, they just have to look in the direction of the next “covering” object and hold down the “A” button. This will then send the soldier on a heated sprint out from cover and towards that covering object, moving from one to the other flawlessly. Cover can also be jumped over, peered over, or looked around. Another important dynamic to the battlefield is the futuristic camouflage. The Ghost team has “transparent” camouflage that engages when the soldier is crouching or in the prone position. This allows players to move about the field of battle, weaving in-and-out of enemy patrols, in ease; increasing the chances of performing a successful flanking or rear attack.
With all these different battlefield perspectives and the immense interaction players have with their environment, players have a great amount of options available to them that they can use to respond to any particular situation. This is very helpful considering that the enemy AI will—at a moment’s notice—often swarm your positions, running to-and-fro within the 360 degree battlefield in the three-dimensional spectrum. Control is also increased by the variety of interaction options available to the player through the array of buttons that are assigned to actions on the Xbox360 controller. The available actions range from opening up the “tactical map”, to swapping the shoulder from which the Ghost fires his weapon; or even using weapon attachments. One can also reload their weapon while sprinting. Although, I did find control limited a bit in only one circumstance: while holding hostages or carrying a teammate. But it also helps to know that, even with all of these options available to the wargamer, their allied AI will be useful companions in the fight—they actually kill the enemy, as well as assist you (without user-input) in any maneuvers you perform. Your allies also perform sync-shots when ordered. Though, don’t be caught off-guard if you find the AI doing odd things, like starring at walls up-close.
The graphical aspects of Future Soldier, although competitive, are less impressive. The game is plagued by apparent jagged edges throughout. This had me, by habit, wanting to go to the game settings to increase the anti-aliasing. Being on the platform that I was playing on, this was quite impossible. Enemy detail also seemed simplified in some missions, while loading times can often be horrendous. Whether it’s the Xbox360 showing its age, it all made it apparent that the game had to have been “downgraded” in order to make it compatible to the hardware limitations of the Xbox360. Another additional aspect I would have liked to see, especially in a modern day shooter, were exit wounds—a realism aspect, more or less.
Not everything on the “graphic front” was unsatisfactory. Players have much tactical maneuverability on the sizeable maps offered in the game, making for a great tactical shooter when taking advantage of the terrain, and objects for cover. I actually found the HUD to be quite revolutionary. Instead of placing it in the traditional forefront of the display, it is scattered about the terrain, in a sort of modern/high-tech fashion. This is an alternative to crowding the screen with extensive amounts of information. I did find the game’s audio quite satisfactory, for the most part. However, a few audio bugs did pop-up now and again; the voice audio of AI teammates cut-out occasionally.
Future Soldier has a whole arsenal of multiplayer options. Not only can players pair-up to play Guerilla mode, they can also play the campaign in co-op. Whether this is two players playing on one console, through LAN or through XboxLive, it will be up to the players to make that decision. Two teams with as much as six players on each can engage one another in a variety of different modes. Or, players can enjoy the up-to four player co-op mode. Multiplayer can be a hectic affair and is often “fast-paced”, with four different modes: “Decoy”, “Conflict”, “Siege”, and “Saboteur”. The first consists of two teams, an attacking team and a defending team, and a time limit. The second is essentially a deathmatch with objectives. The third is an elimination-style mode with no respawning. And finally, Saboteur is based around the deployment of a bomb, again with the suspense of a time limit.
Considering all of this, multiplayer is hindered by the requirement of online players to register their Uplay passports. These are simple pamphlets with a 25 digit code printed on them that are found in the game’s case. One has to register for a Uplay account, which will give them access to exclusive content, prizes and the ability to share gaming experiences. Sounds like a bonus, but coupled with the already complex network of XboxLive, it’s a bit of a hassle. Actually, players without registered Uplay accounts don’t have access to most of the multiplayer features in the game (co-op mode, unlocking bonuses, among many others…). There has also been word of connection issues because of the Uplay account requirement.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a fantastic tactical third-person shooter. With its expanded cover system, futuristic camouflage, immense player control, and just plain tactical flexibility, the game is quite the treat for any tactical wargamer. The options available in load-outs are enticing, especially when coupled with the maps that offer a bit of tactical “breathing room”. But these features are hindered by the game’s obvious graphical limitations on the Xbox360 platform. Multiplayer offers many different game modes, with an enjoyable co-op, but is hindered by the requirement of a Uplay account for participants. Although, the game still has much to offer, and its replayability is definitely great, assuming the multiplayer issues can be addressed.
The Good: Revolutionary HUD, extensive and adventurous campaign, addictive co-op modes with up to four players, great implementation of futuristic technologies (camouflage, drones, etc…), a whole arsenal of weapon load-outs and customizations.
The So-So: No exit wounds, competitive multiplayer options available considering its drawbacks, third-person view which degenerates any realism implemented by the cover system, great AI interaction even though one can still notice the occasional bug, great sound effects with the sporadic audio glitches here and there.
The Bad: Uplay account is required for access to most multiplayer features, Xbox360 hardware seems to be constraining the game’s graphical capabilities with jagged-edges on some objects and extended loading times.
Does the game have a permanent spot on Curtis’ gaming shelf? Yes, without a doubt. Future Soldier fulfils a futuristic tactical craving of mine. With its flexibility and immense player options, it’s difficult to stay away from this shooter. I’m hopeful that the bugs will be addressed and Uplay will be mainstreamed in a manner that makes it more convenient for players. The weapon load-outs keep me coming back for more, looking to unlock that next upgrade. With them, and the co-op mode, the replayability of the game is immense. Players can take several different approaches to the same scenario using different load-outs and strategies every time.
· Played on an Xbox360
· Viewed on a Samsung PN63B550 - 63” Plasma TV
· Heard through Samsung PN63B550 TV speakers
Review written by: Curtis Szmania, Editor-in-Chief
About Curtis Szmania
Curtis Szmania is a tireless wargamer, a passionate reader of military history, a writer of all of the above, and enjoys repairing and overclocking computers. While wargaming, he always has a soft spot in his heart for the underdogs and likes to fight his opponents using Machiavellian principles. He is intrigued by historical examples of a fighting force that attains victory against overwhelming odds and, as such, is often looking for ways to overcome the impossible. As the Editor-in-Chief of The Wargamer, Curtis is dedicated whole-heartedly to its success in combat and will stop at nothing to attain victory—even if it means conquering the world.
Forum username: Szmania