Ghost Recon returns to claim the tactical shooter crown
When the market was flooded with unrealistic first-person shooters, Red Storm Entertainment enthralled us with the incredible Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six in 1998. Clancy was already an acclaimed author, and he founded Red Storm with the sole purpose of doing something different: creating a tactical shooter centred around stealth and tactics, with missions involving hostage rescues and infiltrations. Needless to say, the game (and subsequently, the series) appealed to a large section of gamers who wanted a shooter that looked and felt authentic. Ghost Recon then followed, incorporating large outdoor environments (Rainbow Six’s missions took place indoors, primarily), and the series’ evolution has seen its transition from an FPS to a third-person tactical shooter. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is the latest instalment in the series.
The plot in Future Soldier isn’t of any real consequence. Its purpose is to merely transport the player to various exotic locations around the world which are filled with mercenaries, freedom fighters, gun-runners and general all-round scum. And that’s the way it should be, and while the older games in the series didn't make a big deal out of it, Future Soldier attempts to reach out to the player with emotional content that falls flat, not just because the game looks quite occasionally poor by today's visual standards (the character models, particularly when they're not “geared-up”), but also due to some mediocre writing. This and some inconsistent (at times game-breaking) squad mate path-finding are the only areas where Future Soldier will let you down — in every other department, however, it's aces.
Everything from the campaign's pacing, weapon-kick, camera movement as you frantically rush from cover to cover, near-future equipment, to the sound of four silenced weapons as they drop an equal number of bad guys simultaneously just feels right. The squad command system, which now requires target ‘tagging’ rather than issuing move orders, feels perfect as well, with excellent AI buddies who kill, revive, suppress and selflessly take up advanced positions that you're too scared to. But then again, they're not so excellent that you end up playing spectator — you can play the spectator who gives the orders, though. The game is a collection of wonderful tactical set pieces that can be tackled in multiple ways (all require effective use of squad command and your best friend, the drone), and at times, the best way through a bunch of bad guys is to avoid confrontation altogether. Of course, there's always the extra amount of fun that can be had taking out twenty bad guys with silenced rifles, or conversely, unleashing a few hundred rounds of LMG fire from an elevated position. All approaches are viable if played right, and Future Soldier lets you play out each situation in any way you see fit. Except for the linear scripted events, but these are often so intense (VIP extractions, in particular) and cinematic that you almost forget how incredibly linear they are.
As a squad based tactical shooter, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a resounding success, thanks to an excellently paced campaign that is packed with the series' trademark set pieces, frantic hostage rescues, well implemented co-op and multiplayer and some of the coolest gear you will see in an action game. There is something here for players who prefer a hands-dirty approach as well as strategic masterminds, who would rather delegate, relax and let their squad mates do the killing for them. Yes, its visuals are largely unspectacular and occasionally atrocious while the writing leaves a lot to be desired, but nobody plays a Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon game for the nail-biting narrative (remember Rainbow Six Vegas 2's ridiculous ending?). It's the hardcore tactical action we want, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier delivers. The game is presently available on PS3 and X360, with the PC version expected to arrive at the end of June.
Keywords: video games