|System: PS3, Xbox 360, PC|
|Release: May 21, 2012|
|Players: 1-4, Multiplayer Online|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is more than just a reboot of a popular game franchise. It is a game that holds a spot in the hearts of speculative futurists everywhere.
It stops just short of sci-fi in terms of its technological aesthetic; instead of overloading us with laser guns and mini-nuclear devices, Future Soldier gives us old fashioned bullet-firing guns augmented with technological advances that aid the soldiers that are wielding them. It's a more realistic look at how military technology may evolve in the future, and that's something shooters haven't really done before.
Demos of the game showcased two important gameplay elements: stealth and augmented reality. The soldiers in Future Soldier have the ability to turn on a cloaking device that effectively makes them invisible (but not inaudible) to their enemies. While this is invaluable for sneaking around unnoticed, killing an enemy while successfully cloaked still requires some finesse. Sneaking up behind an enemy gets you the classic cinematic assassination you would expect from a stealth game, but if another enemy is looking, you blow your cover and a fire-fight ensues. So you have to be very careful about killing your targets outside of eye-and-earshot of every other troop. Of course, then you have to hide the bodies, and eventually it's more trouble than it is worth.
Luckily, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is not just a single-player game. Even when playing alone, you are accompanied by a squad of three other soldiers that have access to the same futuristic technology that you do. So if, say, you find a group of three enemy troops and you have no way to successfully stealth kill one of them without being seen, you can coordinate your squad to jump on all three troops at once to avoid blowing your cover. Similarly, if you attempt a stealth kill and end up being seen accidentally, one of your squad members acting as a sniper can silently pick off anyone who saw you before they alert more guards. In-game cinematics also appear to be in real time, with your squad able to participate. So while you attempt to interrogate a prisoner, your squad mates will still have to cover you if you are being attacked, or keep you from being seen if you are still covered by stealth. This makes the game incredibly fun in multiplayer and gives it an almost 24-esque feel to it, with each character always doing something story- or combat-related simultaneously.
To keep track of all your enemies and allies across the map, you have surveillance drones that can survey the area. Your drones can either stay cloaked on the ground or can uncloak and take to the air. Uncloaked drones can see more but can easily be spotted, alerting the enemy to your presence.
Enemies, objectives, and important objects are marked on your augmented reality overlay. Essentially, the augmented reality interface consists of holographic images that are superimposed over the world itself. For example, a readout next to your gun shows you how much ammo you have left. Enemy markers show just how far an enemy is from you and whether or not they are looking at you. They also assist you in aiming right at the center of mass and arcing your grenade throws perfectly to get the explosion right where you want it. If you can't see your enemy, you can switch to infrared, night vision, or x-ray view that effectively allow you to see through walls. You can mark specific targets for your squad to take out, and even initiate a countdown in order to coordinate simultaneous kills. Heck, even information about the area you are in is superimposed over the sky.
When it comes down to the gun fights, Future Soldier ditches most of its futuristic swankiness and becomes a rather standard third-person ADS cover-based shooter. Like many shooters today, Future Soldier's cover is entirely destructible, with different degrees of toughness depending on what you are hiding behind. A few bullets will break through a thin metal door, but a pile of sandbags will need to be taken out by a grenade or worse. Cover can also break into pieces as well. Chips can fly off of cement barricades and supports can fall out of wooden crates, reducing your cover without removing it.
Your gun selection in Future Soldier is just about infinite. Using the new "Gunsmith" weapons customization system, players are able to take apart their guns down to the inner parts. You can then mix and match parts in order to customize your guns to your exact specifications. Each gun is made up of a combination of ten individual parts, each changing the gun's functionality. You can change each gun's stock, muzzle, magazine, optics, gas system, side-rail, barrel, underbarrel, trigger group, and even paint job. Each individual part also has its own options to tweak.
But if insane levels of customizability aren't your thing, Gunsmith has some shortcuts to get you right into the action. You can simply ask the game to auto-optimize your guns for a variety of different situations, such as close combat, long range, and stealth, and you can even randomize your parts and options if you simply want to try something different. Before taking your gun to the field, Gunsmith allows you to take it to a firing range to make sure it operates exactly how you want it to. Too much recoil? Go back and tweak your firing power or stock. Not enough range? Increase your barrel length. The possibilities are near endless, with over twenty million individual gun combinations possible.
Finally, it is important to note that the game will be fully Kinect compatible, and as such will be one of the first hardcore shooters to utilize a Kinect control scheme. To aim, you move one hand, and to fire you open your other hand. To ready your weapon you act as if you are pulling a gun from over your shoulder, and to reload you act as if you are grabbing ammo from your belt. Finally, to zoom in you grab up as if you are lowering a periscope. Utilizing Kinect's microphone will also allow you to issue commands to your squad in the middle of gameplay.
Kinect will also be fully implemented inside Gunsmith, allowing you to move your hands in order to take a gun apart, put it back together, view it at different angles, and more. You can even ask Kinect to optimize your guns and select gun parts via voice recognition. All in all, Kinect probably won't be the main method for controlling the game, but will serve as a nice diversion to break up the hardcore gameplay.
Future Soldier is looking to be an awesome new shooter. It lets gamers be creative both in designing their guns and completing their missions. When you play it, it gives you this feeling of power, of grossly outmatching your opponents even though they come at you in large numbers. It gives us an interesting look into the future or warfare without getting too goofy and saturated with sci-fi. Overall, it's a great game, and if you are looking for something more than the same old Call of Duty rip-off, this is definitely a game to check out.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer