|System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360*|
|Release: May 21, 2012|
|Players: 1-4, Multiplayer Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Shelby Reiches
Every studio wants to make a Call of Duty, that massive game that enthralls the masses, stirring them into a firestorm of controversial yet lucrative activity on a yearly cycle. Some studios, though, take their inspiration a little more literally than others, even going so far as to modify established franchises with elements of the CoD lexicon. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier doesn't just borrow from Activision's powerhouse shooter, though. It also takes elements from Gears of War and the Tom Clancy brand's own Splinter Cell: Conviction.
That isn't to say that Future Soldier lacks its own flavor. There's definitely something distinctive about it, and it's a something that might warrant more exploration, but when a title wears its inspirations this plainly on its sleeve, they truly do have to be addressed.
The first major change Ghost Recon faithful will notice about the game is that it's set almost entirely in the third person. Ghost Recon had always been a traditional series of tactical first-person shooters and, while looking down one's iron sights or scope does place the player in their character's head, this is a game that is, by and large, played from without. It definitely makes the game feel a little safer, a little more disconnected. The tension that came from not knowing where around you an enemy would strike from has been diminished, though not entirely done away with.
The bigger gripe, though, is that this perspective leads to an absurd amount of shaky-cam. Want to run from one cover point to another? Hope you don't suffer from motion sickness, buddy. It's more pervasive than that, though, showing up even in cinematics when it's really not justified. Does the camera seriously need to jerk and heave when the squad is climbing out of a truck? Ubisoft seemed to think so.
That said, the perspective fits with the overall theme of the game, which seems to be about battlefield awareness. A large portion of your tool belt is devoted to letting you know where your enemies are while they're still none the wiser to your presence. This is accomplished through classic means like using cover and thermal imaging, but the Ghosts also have access to special grenades that survey an expansive area around them, magnetic imaging, a portable UAV for impromptu aerial surveillance, and camo suits that turn you practically invisible as long as you're not moving quickly. If that last one sounds unbalanced, note that, in the multiplayer, this is changed so that moving almost at all shuts down the camo, preventing players from stalking around the map and chaining together stealth kills.
Multiplayer, as with most shooters put out in this day and age, is designed to be Future Soldier's bread and butter. It offers three malleable classes, equipment unlocking as each is leveled up (yes, they gain experience and levels separately; I'm sorry), which includes not only new guns to use, but new parts for the guns one already has. The level of granularity this system achieves is impressive, and it can be particularly fun since it's just so visually appealing, guns exploding out into their individual components before the camera captures the one you want to edit. This mode supports the Kinect, but its implementation is fairly forgettable, whether you're swiping or issuing voice commands, and attempting to control the gun with it on the firing range is an exercise in frustration that doesn't even hint at offering any kind of tactile pleasure.
Back to the multiplayer, though, the three classes are extremely distinctive. There is, of course, the basic grunt who carries frag grenades and a big gun, but the Scout and Engineer are something else entirely. The Scout may have flashbangs and a sniper rifle, but he also possesses the camo from the campaign, if in a slightly diminished form. This allows him to snipe from cover, not with impunity, but with a greater degree of freedom than his counterparts. He is at his best when stalking the battlefield, providing cover to his compatriots from the sides and above. The Engineer, on the other hand, is the entire team's eyes. He is equipped with sensor grenades, which he can throw to reveal foes in a sizable radius, allowing the team to quickly wipe them out. Playing as each is a distinctive experience, which is a fairly good descriptor for the game's overall multiplayer, as well.
Rather than deathmatch or basic capture the flag, games are objective-based and demand teamwork, which is aided by a system that assigns you to a squad with a couple of other players. As long as one of these players isn't in combat, detected by a sensor grenade, or too close to the objective, you can spawn on them after death. It's a nice touch, though it doesn't seem there's any way to control who's in what squad, and though the game tries to keep you from spawning into enemies, some players have found that if they follow one enemy at just enough of a distance, their team members will spawn more or less directly into their sights. Despite this gripe, the multiplayer was a lot of fun, and a far more satisfying experience than the campaign mode.