Instead, its USP lies in the Ghost’s high-tech gear, with optical camouflage suits, miniature drones and sensor grenades all playing a key part in the gameplay. The camouflage suit is nicely limited by the fact that it only works while you’re creeping around slowly, while the drones and sensor grenades are vital to establishing enemy positions and preparing takedowns.
Stealth and Strategy
This is where Future Soldier gets closest to Advanced Warfighter; while you’re not actually ordering your squad around anymore, you can highlight targets and synchronise sniper fire, and setting up a perfect, clinical strike remains one of the most exciting things about the game. Meanwhile the game’s Gunsmith feature, Kinect-powered if you have the 360 peripheral, allows you to tinker and upgrade all of the game’s huge selection of weapons, with a vast range of scopes, magazines, under-barrel attachments and suppressors.
Future Soldier is not afraid to mix things up, either. Along the way you’ll have stealth missions with ‘No Alarm’ instant fail restrictions, escort sequences where you’re dragging someone or something around with only one hand free to shoot, airstrikes to control, and the game’s most lovable addition: the warhound. This hulking, walking, robot tank has weapon systems under your control, and watching enemies scatter as you lay down mortar fire or watchtowers crumble as you fire off missions is a joyous thing.
If the action has a fault, it’s that there aren’t many really astounding set-pieces. We’ve seen variations on the fight-in-a-blizzard/fight-in-a-sandstorm/last-stand-in-a-shanty-town before, and Future Soldier doesn’t do these noticeably better.
That said, the level of quality is consistently high, the difficulty level is almost perfectly graded, the weapons are satisfyingly powerful and distinctive in character. And the more the game goes on, the more it seems to open up its levels so that you’re not simply battling through a corridor, doing what you’re damn well told. While nowhere near as open as a Far Cry 2 or Crysis, Future Soldier isn’t anywhere near as restrictive as Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft has done a nice job of transitioning Ghost Recon to a more online-focused universe. The campaign has clearly been designed with co-op in mind, and there’s a great variation on the Horde/Firefight/Spec Ops mode called Guerilla, where the conventional waves of incoming enemies are punctuated by smart stealth sequences.
The competitive mode brings us persistent characters and unlocks, and a series of game types that go beyond deathmatch and team deathmatch to bring objective-based missions with shifting goals and rich opportunities for teamwork. While Future Soldier has borrowed aspects of Modern Warfare, it still feels like a different experience - less fast-paced and twitch-focused, but smart and engaging. It deserves to do well.
Maybe we’re past the point where any military shooter can set a new benchmark on this generation of hardware, and Future Soldier doesn’t really try. Yet for all its nods to Modern Warfare, there’s still enough distinctive Ghost Recon character to interest those who have grown tired of Activision’s monolith. Scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find more than a solid shooter: a game with its eye on the mass market, but its heart still in the right place.
Future Soldier feels inspired by the success of Modern Warfare, and accusations of dumbing down aren’t entirely misconstrued. All the same, this is a smarter, more tactical brand of military shooter, with a great high-tech toybox, good multiplayer options and a strong campaign. It might not redefine any genres, but it’s a worthy alternative to the big names.