When games emphasize team work, I find it’s rarely used to its fullest potential. There’d be minor squad controls and even the ability to switch between characters and control one individually; which doesn’t feel like team work at all. I wouldn’t say I had given up on team or squad based shooters, I just slowly lost interest in them and figured it would never really be about your team as a whole and more about you and a few other soldiers who just happened to tag along. Ghost Recon Future Soldier completely obliterated that mind-set I had. Ubisoft’s and Tom Clancy’s latest military shooter is all about the team and what you can accomplish together.
In Ghost recon Future Soldier (GRFS) you will team up with three other members who know their way around the battlefield. As you advance on a position, they will automatically fan out and provide covering fire for you and each other, watch their flank, and even call out enemy positions. You feel as though you’re playing with actual people rather than mindless bots thanks to all the communication that the members of the team do. A lot of the time, they would let me know if they spotted a sniper on a rooftop that I missed or that guy with an RPG looking out the window. I love that feeling of unity and you really feel like you’re a part of a team in this game. Teamwork is everything and I’m okay with that.
GRFS starts out with another team of Ghosts being set up, and ultimately killed in a mission. That’s where you and your team come in. Playing as a member of the Ghost Recon, your objective is to discover how the aforementioned squad was eliminated and figure out how the enemy found knew so much intel about the operation. I wish I could tell you about the characters in your squad, but there’s really nothing distinguishable about them. You’ve got bald guy with a rugged beard, other guy with dark hair and a rugged beard, other other guy with a hat and a rugged beard, and a guy that sounds like Keith David.
It’s really too bad that these characters weren’t flushed out more. I immediately thought of the team you were with, in Halo: Reach: easily distinguishable, not just because of their armor, but because of their personalities. Here, there are brief cutscenes between missions of the team back at base to give you an idea of who these people are. There doesn’t seem to be too much effort in these portions though. The scenes are bland and do nothing to really get you to care about the characters.
There’s also the issue with the story. I’m currently about eight missions in and after the first few; I forgot what our main objective was. It’s mentioned within the first few minutes of the game and after that, I don’t recall them bringing it up again. The narrative isn’t force on you too heavily especially for something as drastic as losing such a valuable squad. You’ll hear people say “we’re one step closer to the big picture” and you’ll wonder what they’re talking about at times. The gameplay easily makes up for the lack of story content though.
The missions are lengthy and successfully completing one with a high Ghost ranking is very satisfying. I found myself restarting portions of the game and sometimes entire levels so I can increase my end score. If I didn’t get something perfect, I was restarting it without hesitation and I enjoyed every second. The mission score is calculated by a few different variables. Aside from getting headshots and not being detected, there are several optional challenges that you can complete during the mission. One of the missions had a challenge that required you to use less than 50 shots during the entire mission. It was intense and I was constantly checking to see my how many rounds I had fired. In addition to the score, you also unlock different weapons and attachments to use in the single player.
Despite the fact that the missions are long, the objectives you have to complete keep the game fresh. Yes, there is a lot of stealth. The action does deliver when it happens, but a lot of the time you’ll be thinking about ways to eliminate a group of seven or eight enemies without any of them noticing. That’s where a lot of the fun comes in. Sending out a UAV Drone or tossing a sensor grenade to get a location on all of the opposing force and then planning on how and when to take them out. Eliminating hostiles at certain sections of their patrol is critical so their bodies aren’t found. The “Sync Shot” (shown above) feature is a great way to get rid of forces in batches. Allowing you to mark up to four targets, your team members will move into strategic positions to take out the hostiles that you marked simultaneously. It’s always rewarding to land a successful Sync Shot, knowing that you weren’t detected at all.
In one mission alone, I had to eliminate several groups of soldiers quietly, shoot a plane’s engine so it doesn’t take off, tail a VIP in a heavily fortified base, and pick up the contents of the crashed plane while in a sand storm. I’ve yet to get bored or irritated at any portion of this game. It’s always fun and the tension of not knowing where your enemies are going to be or if shooting this guy will alert the others nearby.
Of course, you can go through the campaign cooperatively with up to three friends and that is even more fulfilling than playing solo. Coordinating shots and developing shot term strategies keeps your team talking and you will definitely need to. On the Elite difficulty, you will need to communicate with your friends as often as you would in a competitive multiplayer match. On Elite difficulty, there is no chance of reviving your teammates. Once they get taken down, they’re out and you have to restart from the last checkpoint. Again, it makes the game much more team oriented.
Playing With Friends
With a squad of four, of course you can go through the campaign cooperatively with up to three friends; and that is even more fulfilling than playing solo. Coordinating shots and developing shot term strategies keeps your team talking and you will definitely need to. On the Elite difficulty, you will need to communicate with your friends as often as you would in a competitive multiplayer match. On Elite difficulty, there is no chance of reviving your teammates. Once they get taken down, they’re out and you have to restart from the last checkpoint.
Again, it makes the game much more team oriented. Calling out who is going to take cover where and which member is going to throw their sensor grenade (so nothing’s wasted) is essential to having successful missions. You still have the ability to Sync Shots, but now instead of saying “I’ll take the guy on the roof” you have the ability to mark them as you would in the single player, you just have to coordinate when you take the shot.
The single player portion of the game is a lot of fun but the multiplayer will keep you playing for a very long time. This game is not a one man army style of play—and as you’ve already figured out—it’s heavily based on teamwork. If you decide to go and be a lone wolf, you’ll do nothing but die repetitively and render yourself useless to your team. One thing that you’ll learn early on in this game is that there are so many ways for the opposing team to locate you. Sensor grenades, UAV Drones, hacking stunned players; you always have to assume that the enemy knows where you are so sticking with your team and having an effective strategy is almost required to play this game.
This can also deter people from really diving into it and enjoying the game fully. Those expecting to have a gun blazing experience, will be disappointed. It is a cover based shooter, but it’s not Gears of War and you definitely can’t do it alone. If you have friends online to play with, that’ll be your best bet. If not, you’ll want to be in the game’s public chat to coordinate with one another.
There are several game modes to play on across 10 multiplayer maps. The game modes, like the single player, are not solely based off the kills you can rack up. There are several objectives that you have to complete. In the mode Conflict for example you’ll have to secure an EMP blast, and then locate the High Value Target before he reaches his objective, and then secure a radar tower before the other enemy. These objectives appear randomly across the map and force you to think on the fly and constantly have your team in constant communication. Completing these objectives also give you and your team an advantage. If you managed to capture and hold the EMP blast, then the opposing team will not have any electrical equipment work for a period of time. You never want to be on the receiving end of something like that, so you’re motivated to work together.
One of my favorite modes is “Decoy” which has the opposing team defending three objectives. The twist on the gameplay is that two of the objectives are decoys and one of them is the real deal. Neither team knows which one is the real objective so you have to guess right from the start. Finding the actual “key” objective allows you and your team to see the location of the final objective, which you will then capture. That pressure of finding the main objective while knowing the opposing team could or could not have found the objective really gets you invested in your match.
There are a slew of weapons and weapon customization at your disposal in this game. The odds of you running into someone with the same weapon loadout as you are pretty slim. Modifying your trigger type, scope, barrel, barrel attachments, paint, etc… will keep you wanting to use and customize different guns for different game types. On top of that, you’ll get different weapons for each of the three classes (Sniper, Engineer, and Assault); adding another layer of variety.
Using a specific class will also change the way you play the game. Snipers for example have the ability to go cloaked when in a solitary position, making it hard for the enemy to spot you right away. A counter to that would be the Engineer class. If someone happens to be looking at you through their scope, the Engineer, will be able to see a small red laser sight appear on their screen, notifying you that you’re being watched. The Assault class has access to large machine guns which can provide suppressing fire on enemies. When under heavy suppression fire, they cannot fire back and will be forced to relocate to another position.
Then there are the gadgets at your disposal which also change depending on your class selection. Some are neutral and all classes get access to, such as the Med Kit. Then the game throws a curveball at you and forces you to choose which gadget or weapon you that you want to unlock. Snipers get an upgraded version of the camouflage which allows you to move slowly while it’s active. That’s great for a player individually, but you can also choose the Stun claymore. It works as a non-lethal claymore that stuns and incapacitates the enemy. You can then follow up and hack the enemy to find the location of the opposing team. So you can help yourself or you can help your team. You can’t have both. I sat at one of these decisions for about 10 minutes weighing the options of each choice. It was a difficult decision that I did not plan on facing, especially in the multiplayer aspect of the game.
There’s a lot of content in the multiplayer and if you get bored, that’s just because you decided to not explore every option available to you. The experience you earn from these multiplayer matches is always going towards something, whether it’s a new weapon or gadget or customization for your character. You won’t unlock anything too fast and you really have to work to get the good stuff.
Not Quite Horde Mode
Alongside the multiplayer, there’s Guerilla mode. Initially, I thought it was going to be just another survival/horde gametype. That’s not it exactly. Guerilla mode starts off with you and your team outside of the HQ that you’re trying to protect. So, you have to first stealthily fight your way into your objective. Meaning, you can die before the game mode even officially starts. That’s something new.
Once you gain access to the headquarters, your main objective isn’t just to survive, you have to defend it. Obviously, my team and I thought we were smart and decided to fortify ourselves away from the headquarters, since that’s where the enemy will be heading. If the enemy takes one foot inside of the HQ, then a timer will start stating that you’ll losing control of it. At that point we rushed out there mindlessly and died in the process.
Guerilla mode is very intense and a lot harder than you’d expect. Enemies don’t simply attack you on the ground. They position themselves on top of roofs with RPG’s and sniper rifles, attempt to flank you from different angles, and they’ll even through an armored truck in there for good measure. When they attack, it’s a constant barrage of bullets, rockets, and troops. The later rounds are so difficult that we were literally lost on what we had to do to survive and keep the enemy out of the base.
You do get some help however when playing which eases the tension a bit. After surviving a set amount of waves you get access to a Wave Streak. These streaks range from radars to turrets and even airstrikes. These are used once and are not easy to come by, so you’ve got to be smart about it. Unlike other games with this sort of game mode, this is based solely of how many waves you survive and can’t be earned by trading in points. It’s a precious commodity that comes sparingly, so you cherish it.
Ghost Recon Future Soldier does something that most game don’t really do; it makes you feel important. Everything that you do–either by playing by yourself or with a group of friends– affects the game and your team in both a positive and negative manner. For a game that’s based off squad gameplay, this keeps you invested in your team and what your objective is. Working together feels great and is shows based off the victories that you get and the experience that you’ll earn. That’s just the thing about Ghost Recon Future Soldier. You earn everything. There’s nothing here that you really question. If you die, it’s because you made a stupid move and didn’t think before you acted.
That doesn’t happen too often.
Review was based off an Xbox 360 copy of the game provided by Ubisoft.