My friends aren’t what you might call gamers. We all played GoldenEye, WCW vs NWO and Mario Kart back in the N64 days, but other than the occasional game of Pro Evo now and then, they simply don’t bother with games anymore…..heck, even the Call of Duty juggernaut seems to have somehow passed them by. It’s probably the main reason that I don’t play online games all that often. Playing with strangers is fine, but it’s just not as fun as the banter and competitiveness that invariably comes with playing against your closest buddies. Simply put; my friends weren’t interested in online gaming, so neither was I. The only exception to this rule was Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. This served as my true introduction to the world of online gaming and proved the closest thing we ever got to a return to the glory days of 4-player GoldenEye.
I’ve spent more hours playing Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter online than any other game….ever. Yes, I’ve put a few shifts into Call of Duty and Halo here and there, but in terms of true commitment to the cause, nothing comes close to that first taste of online action. As you can imagine then, I had a somewhat vested interest in Future Soldier. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, Future Soldier finally arrived to reinvigorate my passion for competitive online gunplay. Did it succeed? Well, yes and no. From a single player perspective, Future Soldier provides the series high watermark, but in terms of its all important online offering, well, while plenty enjoyable in its own right, it never quite recaptures that magic formula that made Warfighter quite so addictive.
I’ll admit though, any grievances I have with the multiplayer are probably somewhat personal. Honestly, I think I was rather unrealistically hoping for Warfighter’s multiplayer to be lifted wholesale, only with a new coat of paint and perhaps a handful of new maps….ok, so my expectations were rediculous. Anyway, judged purely on its own merits, Future Soldier’s online offering is a very enjoyable experience, and if nothing else, will provide a more measured, tactical approach to virtual warfare than what is currently being offered by the million and one Call of Duty clones currently crowding the market.
With numerous smartly implemented game modes to get through and an array of skills and gear taken over from the single player campaign, Future Soldier’s multiplayer promotes intelligent, careful planning. From basic deathmatches that subtly incorporate aspects of the campaign through to the rather brilliant Decoy Mode that has each team battle over three objectives, two of which are, funnily enough, decoys, Future Soldier’s online offerings, while by no means unique, are all highly entertaining. I did initially miss the purity of basic team deathmatches (that actually took me quite a while to get over), but once you start to realise the depth of tactical options on offer, it’s really hard to stay mad for all that long.
With adaptive camo for scouts and drones that can pick out enemy locations, so much of Future Soldier is about intel and subsequently getting the drop on your enemies. This is never more true than in the case of the all new hacking ability. Now, I freakin’ hated this at first – I though it robbed the game of its tactical nuance, but as I continued to play, I realised just how ingenious its inclusion really was. By sneaking up on an enemy, you can hack their suit and thus relay the position of every enemy on the map to your entire team. It may seem like a crazy design choice initially, but soon it becomes apparent that it not only levels a playing field that now has sensor grenades flying about and folk in active camo sneaking behind enemy lines, but also encourages team work and personal responsibility to a greater degree than any other shooter on the market…….really, do you want to be the douche who gave up the position of your entire team? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
As for the single player campaign, well, despite initial fears that Future Soldier would employ the bombastic approach preferred by the majority of today’s genres big hitters, fans of the series will be glad to hear that, while home to a handful of relatively explosive set-pieces (none of which feel out of place or forced), Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is very much the methodical, tactical shooter we were all hoping it would be. Try going all John Wayne in Future Soldier, and watch in horror as your team are decimated within a matter of seconds – believe me, this is no COD clone. If you’re going to succeed, or dare I say, survive, you’re going to have to use your squad, and of course, your array of futuristic gadgets to turn the tables on an enemy which always outnumbers you.
Each mission can be approached in a variety of different ways but, regardless of the approach you choose to take, it’s always encouraging to know that the AI of your fellow Ghosts is of a consistently high standard. Whatever the situation, they will do their very best to stay hidden and, despite your orders, will not charge into the mix like some futuristic Rambo if it is likely to get them or the team killed. With a solid combination of smart AI and tactical control, making your way through Future Soldier’s array of perfectly pitched missions is rarely anything less than a joy.
Beyond the use of all those nifty gadgets that can be employed to carefully plan each and every step of your campaign, the use of a Splinter Cell: Conviction style tag system proves the games’ true ace in the hole. By being able to tag up to four enemies at once, the joy of pushing your team into position before taking down a group of enemies simultaneously cannot be underestimated, and when you’ve planned that attack through the use of all manner of futuristic technology, finally pulling the trigger can often prove a hugely rewarding experience.
It might not be quite as polished as some of its illustrious competitors, but Future Soldier is still a relatively pretty game. The facial animations and cut-scenes aren’t up to scratch but the environments, despite the occasionally shabby texture work, are mostly gorgeous. The animations are fantastic and the way that each Ghost moves from one piece of cover to the next is both believable and technically sound. It’s by no means a perfect game and the multiplayer does take some getting used to (whether you are a Ghost Recon vet or not), but I strongly suggest you remain patient, give into the measured pace and enjoy an experience that has proved itself worthy of the outrageously long wait.
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