STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Box art The Tom Clancy games all seem to cater towards their own special niche of gameplay. Rainbow Six always felt more action packed where Splinter Cell took the stealth approach to gameplay. Ghost Recon to me always felt like a mix of the two, where you?re put into these almost impossible situations and you?re usually tasked with trying to do it without blowing your cover, yet you have the firepower needed should (though usually when) something go wrong. The last time we were reunited with the Ghost team was back in 2007 in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 and the past two games felt much more action packed as opposed to stealth based. I was curious if Future Solider would try and go back to a more stealth based gameplay or keep going along the action path. As it turns out, a bit of both.

In the near future, Ghost team Predator is taken out by a dirty bomb and now its Ghost team Hunter?s mission is set in place, to find out the source of the bomb. Kozak, Pepper, 30K, and Ghost Lead is your team and you start your journey tracking down and rescuing an arms dealer named Paez in Bolivia, as he might know where the bomb came from. As to be expected, you?ll have to chase leads all around the globe but the uninteresting narrative (unless you?re really into military ops) really makes the story forgettable, as it?s nothing that will standout when compared to other military shooters. There are a few cool set pieces, but nothing in the campaign was truly memorable for me unfortunately over the course of 10 hours or so it took to beat. It should be noted that while the campaign is playable cooperatively online with friends, it?s only playable with friends, as there is neither matchmaking nor drop-in drop-out either.

The star of Ghost Recon: Future Solider easily has to be the newly added Gunsmith. Here you can choose from over fifty weapons (though the majority have to be unlocked through gameplay and other means) that are all highly customizable. I?m not talking adding what kind of scope you want and adding just a silencer; Gunsmith lets you fully customize every piece of any gun, from the barrel to the stock, and even the trigger. Sights, recoil, stocks, magazines, under-barrel, gas system, muzzles, paint and even more are all fully editable to how you want the gun to control. You can easily swap parts to focus on specific stats like control or maneuverability based on the mission?s needs.

Gunsmith is available in single and multiplayer mode, though unlocks are independent. Beating campaign missions will unlock new guns for you to play with and customize where multiplayer weapons are unlocked through rank progression and levels. As you level in multiplayer you earn credits that can be used to purchase parts for each gun. Interestingly enough, you may notice that the front of the box boasts Kinect support, and this is directly imbedded into Gunsmith. With different hand and arm movements (or voice commands), you can pull apart the gun Minority Report style and piece it back together. While it works well and is cool, it?s really unnecessary and I would have much rather had voice commands for my squad mates in campaign.

No elite Ghost would be complete without their high tech gadgets we would all love to get our hands on and play with. A flying UAV drone that can mark targets on your AR HUD will become your close friend in the later missions, as will sensor grenades that reveals enemy positions within its bubble radius. You have access to a magnetic view that allows you to distinguish armed foes from civilians through any type of walls or objects. Your most impressive ?toy? will be your advanced optical camouflage built into your uniform. This allows the Ghosts to appear almost invisible when moving slowly or still, though it will deactivate when you move quickly or fire your weapon.

You?re able to mark targets that will show up on your Ghost team?s HUDs, allowing you to strategize and plan the best course of attack. You can mark up to four enemies at a time, line up your shots and shoot each one of them simultaneously. You?re even able to play a pseudo commander role if you desire by targeting and marking enemies then having your team use their synchronized shots. In a few missions I barely shot my weapon at all, as I was marking enemies for my team to take out while I relayed the information with my UAV drone.

Ghost Recon has always had a following for its online modes, and all the features listed above carry over into online play almost the same way. You have a choice of being a Rifleman who uses the heavy Assault Rifles and Light Machine Guns to suppress enemies for team mates so they can flank, an Engineer who uses SMGs and are great at detecting and highlighting enemies, or a Scout who primarily uses Sniper Rifles and can use the active camouflage found in the campaign. Each class can also be either of the two factions, but a huge flaw here is that you?re forced to use faction specific loadouts for each character. Sure it?s realistic that the Ghosts have access to the more advanced weaponry, but the problem comes in when you need to spend your credits on essentially two sets of weapons just so you can play your preferred class with the awesome gun you want.

Across ten maps are four game modes for you to play, each of which is solely focused on objectives and teamwork. The two modes I had the most fun with were Conflict mode and Siege mode. In Conflict mode, objectives are randomly placed across the map and is essentially an objective based deathmatch. Siege mode offers no respawns, so you need to be careful and always watch your back. Defenders much hold down an objective while attackers spawn randomly across the map. Should the objective be taken or a full team taken out, that team wins the round, the best of three determining the winner. I found it odd there was no straight up deathmatch or team deatchmatch, as each mode was objective based and allowed for twelve players in total.

The last mode to try is Guerilla mode, which is essence is Ghost Recon?s Horde mode. This mode can be played with up to three of your friends, though suffers from the same problem campaign does and offers no matchmaking when your friends aren?t online. In this mode you?re given preset weapons and you?re tasked with surviving the fifty waves of oncoming enemies. Unless you?re hunting for achievements, there?s very little incentive to play this mode as there?s no reason progression or unlocks to strive for unless you simply want to hang out with friends.

There were some bugs that normally I?d not fret about, but they kept coming back and became frustrating early on. Firstly, finding an online match that didn?t have lag issues was a task in itself. I can?t even count the times I?ve died to phantom bullets and players. Also I?ve had to reload some checkpoints in the campaign a few times because the team AI didn?t know to come to me or got stuck on a wall somehow, not allowing me to progress. The last major issue that stood out for me was the fact that the cutscenes simply didn?t look good at all; facial animations look dated and I?m not even sure you?d call that lip syncing. While the gameplay visuals looked great aside from some minor bugs and glitches like invisible weapons or sharing the same space behind cover with AI, there were some standout moments like the dust storm you have to tread through and the visuals when an EMP goes off.

There were a few spots that I truly did enjoy, like the on-rails sections where you?re escorting a VIP and shooting anyone you see with your pistol. These moments, though infrequent, were the highlights for me, though I?m not sure if that?s just because the rest was mostly unmemorable. I was expecting many new mechanics or something to wow me, and aside from Gunsmith, nothing really did. While the first half has you trying to be like a true ghost and be stealthy, the last bit seems to throw that out the window and just turn into another military shooter with you racking up the body count. If you enjoyed G.R.A.W. 1 and 2, you?ll most likely enjoy Future Solider as well. While I was let down with the cliché and forgettable campaign, the multiplayer will have me playing for a while longer, trying to level up to earn more weapon attachment unlocks.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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