June 30, 2012 · 0 Comments
Today’s battlefields, it seems, are teeming with the kind of wizardry that video games have enabled players to use for years. Invisibility, X-ray vision, and miniature floating cameras are modern marvels that have long since become familiar, but Future Soldier’s appeal doesn’t rely on novelty. Stealthy action and streamlined teamwork blend to create an enjoyable and lengthy campaign, and lively competitive multiplayer modes provide extra enticement. Unfortunately, the online elements of Future Soldier are riddled with network problems that make connecting to and staying in a game difficult. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a robust package with plenty of satisfying ways to exercise your itchy trigger finger, but it requires a lot of patience if you want to do anything other than play by yourself.
In the campaign, you play as the ghosts, a four-man team of elite soldiers. Cutscenes and mid-mission dialogue combine to create a nice sense of camaraderie among the crew, and hackneyed archetypes are downplayed in favor of more understated characterization. Personalities are colored in during small moments, like a song streaming out of earbuds, a fleeting facial expression, and a conversation about used trucks. Interactions with other military personnel reveal how isolated the ghosts are from the soldiers they break bread with and how oblivious those soldiers are to this fact. This segregation creates a connection among the ghosts that is a refreshing change from the familiar “bonds forged on the crucible of combat” trope.
On the field of battle, the ghosts try to emulate their namesakes, moving silently with the aid of slick optical camouflage that dissolves if you jog, sprint, or fire your weapon. Staying stealthy is often a mission requirement, and even when it isn’t, avoiding detection gives you a distinct advantage. It’s easy to maneuver unseen, and you spend a lot of time silently eliminating foes. Stealth melee kills and suppressed weapons are your basic tools, but the key mechanic is the sync shot. Spotting enemies through your scope or tagging them from aloft with your aerial drone, you can designate up to four targets for you and your squad to eliminate in one fell swoop. To execute, simply open fire on your own target, or issue the command with a press of the right bumper.
It’s a neat trick, and the seconds of slo-mo that follow are a welcome flourish that allow you to silently mop up more than the few targeted foes. Using sync shots to eliminate enemies is pleasing and relatively easy, thanks to the array of detection methods at your disposal. Drones, sensor grenades, and a few flavors of optical gadgetry give you plenty of ways to detect nearby foes. As long as no one sees the dead bodies, no one gets suspicious, and many situations lay out foes in discrete, easily sync-shot-able groups.
Only in later levels do you encounter larger groups that put your coordination skills to the test. You must now take into account multiple lines of sight and interlocking movement patterns, as well as calibrate the exact speed at which you can tag and take down a new set of targets. Methodically carving your way through these scenarios is very satisfying, and you might even find yourself choosing to reload checkpoints when you are discovered, even if you aren’t forced to. Though an alert doesn’t always bring your mission to a close, challenging yourself to maintain stealth is usually more engaging and fun than blasting your way through.
Aside from sync shot orders, your AI allies are mostly autonomous. They follow your lead but move, take cover, and engage alerted targets on their own. They are very reliable, but they are prone to a number of unrealistic behaviors that can hamper your immersion. Shooting effectively through multiple thick walls, sprinting past enemies while maintaining camouflage, or failing to acquire a marked target in line of sight are all intermittent AI oddities.
Fortunately, these AI issues rarely have an adverse effect on your progress. Yet regardless of how careful you are, things are going to get loud. Open firefights provide good opportunities to use non-suppressed weapons like light machine guns and shotguns, as well as deadly ordnance like frag and incendiary grenades. The AI is aggressive, but not reckless (to borrow a phrase from the ghost leader), and they throw grenades, flank, and suppress your position with vigor. The latter action can trigger a disorienting camera movement that temporarily prevents you from returning fire, a nice change from the clouded field of view seen in other shooters.