After a multitude of delays through a long development cycle, Ubisoft and Red Storm have finally released this shooter into the wild. Future Soldier manages to stay true to the formula set up in the previous Advanced Warfighter games while managing to forge ahead on its own path. The game takes place years after the events in Advanced Warfighter, as series mainstay Scott Mitchell is now a Major and gives orders to the Ghost teams in the field. You pick up as ‘Kozak’, a member of a 4 man Ghost squad sent in to investigate the events that led to Ghost Team ‘Predator’ after a dirty bomb was detonated. With the action now moving to third person perspective, is the future still bright or does the system need a reboot?
As I mentioned above, the game starts out with Ghost Team Predator investigating a weapons trafficking region when they stumble upon a convoy. After taking down some enemies, they find an armed dirty bomb which goes off. The team is lost which prompts Ghost Team Hunter to get sent in to investigate what happened. What they find quickly escalates into something much bigger. The story overall is much stronger than you’d expect from a shooter, though it doesn’t pick up really until the midway point. In between missions you get to see Ghost Team outside of combat situations. It’s nothing revolutionary but it’s kind of nice putting a face to the killing machine you control. The thing that really surprised me had to be the fact that the campaign was longer than I expected. Typical shooter games run you anywhere from 5-8 hours but Future Soldier pushed past that for around 10+ hours or more depending on your style of play.
Call of Duty or Battlefield, this isn’t. Going rambo in Future Solider will get you killed more than anything else, so you’ll want to make sure you use your team and cover to stay out of danger. Rather than going in guns blazing (though you can if you want), the game promotes using stealth to your advantage. You can assign targets for your team members and they’ll smartly get into position for the best shot. From here, you can actually perform a sync shot where each team member takes down their assigned enemy with a very cool slow motion kill. This freedom in how you want to tackle missions is a refreshing change of pace. Missions are also varied ranging from a few “No Alarm” sections, high action sequences, moments when you’re a helicopter gunner, to hold the line segments. With that said, there were moments in the campaign where the difficulty seemed to spike or wasn’t clear in exactly what needed to be done, but these moments are few and far between.
The game controls wonderfully as the Ghosts move fluidly and with precision. Unlike the guys in Advanced Warfighter, you’re less of a tank allowing you to move from cover to cover quickly getting you out of danger and in a better position to strike. My team also proved to be useful, helping me clear out rooms or keeping me informed of where enemies were coming from. When directed to take out an enemy, they’re move into position while also being mindful to avoid giving your position away. The enemy AI is also fairly intelligent, moving and trying to get the drop on you. You’re also getting you hands on some very cool technology which is introduced gradually so as not to overwhelm you. You’ll use devices which seem feasible in the near future from drones, sensor grenades, optical camo, and a Warhound that’s a mobile artillery unit. The maps are also enhanced by augmented reality so you’ll see information such as location, objectives, and other details within the environment.
Graphically speaking, the game has some rough spots but for the most part, it’s visually appealing and easy on the eyes. Guns are modeled with care and detail especially when you get to pull them apart in Gunsmith (more on that in a bit). With that said, oddly enough, faces are not modeled well in the game. When compared to other detailed aspects like the uniforms and equipment, it’s a little jarring to see a waxy face staring back at you. In one of the missions, you set out to rescue someone with valuable intel. When I eventually found her, I noticed that her face was completely flat. They never zoomed in on her as she wasn’t the focus on-screen but when you looked at her body it’s almost like she didn’t have a face. Thankfully, the Ghosts wear sunglasses and masks so the face issue isn’t a huge deal as most of the game is spent under the masks.
Prior to launch, Gunsmith was a heavily marketed feature of the game. It’s a mode that lets you pull guns apart, see the different components, and swap out parts. It’s very cool and easy to use and better yet, you can test the gun on a firing range to see if the changes you made are something you like or not. When you start the game, most things are locked as you’ll unlock them by completing missions and challenges in the campaign. On the multiplayer side, attachments can be unlocked by tokens that you earn for leveling up your character class. This is a fine system but the only thing is, you won’t start unlocking guns until around level 20 or so, which means your gun options for multiplayer are fairly limited at first. Gunsmith is a fantastic addition to the game, but I found myself not using it as much as I figured I would be. On the campaign side, you’re basically given the best tools for the job by default so I never felt the need to change anything even though you certainly can.
In addition to the fantastic campaign, you’re also getting access to multiplayer modes including a coop campaign for up to 4 players, the new horde style Guerrilla Mode, and a more traditional competitive multiplayer. I’ll cover Guerrilla in a few, so lets talk about the competitive side first.
In an effort to retain the strong team element from the campaign, the multiplayer pits the Ghosts versus the Bodark faction in 4 different multiplayer modes. The matches are more intimate than what you’d see from other games like Max Payne or Battlefield. We’re talking 6 on 6 here. The modes available are fairly traditional though each has a team oriented twist in an effort to stay true to the theme of the game. Decoy has three targets for the team on offense to try to secure. Two positions are duds while the other is the real target which reveals the final spot to secure. Conflict is an objective type game mode where both teams battle over random objectives placed around the map. Saboteur is a neutral bomb mode where teams try to capture the bomb and detonate it in the other team’s base. Finally, Seige is an elimination mode where teams switch between offense and defense protecting/attacking an objective. There are no respawns so rounds can end pretty quickly. More modes have been confirmed to be coming through DLC.
When it works, it’s a whole heap of fun. There in lies the problem however, “when it works”. Since launch, Future Soldier’s multiplayer has had server issues which at times can cause failed host migrations, lag spikes, and server disconnect issues. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great game and suddenly the server disconnects or an error kills the game you were in, which means you lose all of the XP you were earning in that match. You shouldn’t have to live in fear every time you jump into multiplayer. With that said, I do have to give Ubisoft and Red Storm credit as they’re constantly performing maintenance and updating the experience. So at the very least, they’re aware of the issues and are working hard to fix them. I also have to go on record and say the issues above don’t happen consistently, so you may be able to play without issue for a while. Some days are better than others.
Guerrilla mode is a new addition to the series and very simply, represents Future Soldiers take on the traditional Horde Mode. Up to 4 players can jump in and try to survive fifty waves of increasingly difficult enemies. You’re first tasked with securing a HQ from enemies and then holding it for 10 waves after which you move to a different HQ spot. Weapon and Equipment drops come in between rounds and the more rounds you survive, you’re given access to “Wave Streak Bonuses” which range from to simple things like a UAV Radar all the way to the devastating Airstrike.
I was able to go hands on early with the brand new Guerrilla Mode and I enjoyed what I played. The thing was, it wasn’t a good representation of the actual mode because there was always a group ready to play with you. For those of you who don’t have 3 other people to play with, this mode will be just about useless as it doesn’t feature any sort of matchmaking to find online players. This mode is also pretty difficult so trying to do it with less than the maximum of four players will be virtually impossible. Not to say it isn’t fun, just disappointing that you can’t find players online to play with.
With Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Ubisoft has managed to breathe fresh air into the shooter genre. The game manages to pull you in and keep you engaged with its gripping moments and fantastic use of teamwork. Sure there are some faults here, but the experience it brings to the table can’t be denied. If you’re looking for a smart, tactical shooter that features a well paced and strong overall package, Future Soldier is your game.