In the world of military fiction, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a bigger name than Tom Clancy.
He’s the big literary dog. And Ubisoft has tried hard for more than a decade to try to use Clancy’s name to impact video gamers.
The results have been largely successful, thanks to the Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon franchises (let’s not talk about HAWX or EndWar). Splinter Cell earned its blockbuster cred, but Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon have failed to carve out a sales crater the way Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare and Black Ops series have. Battlefield 3 has also arguably made a bigger splash in the past year, elevating that franchise above the Clancy-named efforts.
And to be honest, multiplayer is why those other games have staying power. While I’m not a big fan of multiplayer, there’s no denying that today’s youth love going online to battle and trash talk one another for hours on end using the same maps and make-your-own-entertainment approach.
Given that, how does the latest Clancy-inspired title, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Ubisoft), stack up? Time will tell, but in my books it’s right there with the big boys in terms of campaign gameplay and even this crusty old-school gamer found the multiplayer to be worth more than a passing glance.
Story-wise, Future Soldier is set in the ‘near future’ and terrorists still have a hate-on for America. A plot to unleash nukes sends a group of four Ghosts on a series of 14 missions to take out high-value, high-risk targets around the globe.
I know, the usual plot of a terrorist group trying to nuke the Yanks. Yawn. But that’s just the excuse to strap on some killer tech and guns and head into some truly intense campaign missions. With more than 50 weapons that you can strip down and customize, optical camo suits that let you blend seamlessly into the environment (think Metal Gear Solid meets Predator), drones galore and squad-based tactics that include sniping groups of enemies en masse after setting targets for your AI-controlled teammates … well, it’s pretty awesome third-person shooter action.
The various campaign missions require you to use a variety of tactical approaches in order to succeed. There are times where stealth is the best option and others where running-and-gunning rules the day. You can try to mix these approaches up and there are some trial-and-error moments as you make your way through the game. But overall, the gameplay and mission setups do a good job of hinting at the best way to approach the various scenarios.
I really enjoyed the responsive squad-based combat. When you have AI-controlled soldiers who respond intelligently and logically, it’s a real plus. You feel like the developer actually has your back and that’s a good feeling.
While the plot is clichéd and the scenarios are pretty cookie-cutter, the ability to attack the enemy using cool tech and different strategies elevates Future Soldier above the average squad-based shooter.
As for the multiplayer, what attracted me was that the gameplay focuses largely on a squad-based concept. Rather than a team of lone wolves just seeking to amass as many kills as possible in the hopes of winning achievements or trophies, Future Soldier wants gamers to truly gain an insight into what it means to be part of a team. And while the skill level and approaches of your teammates goes a long way to determining how much you’ll enjoy the various modes (there are 10 maps and four different game types in the initial release, with DLC coming this summer), Future Soldier had me sticking around a lot longer than I usually do.
Overall, Future Soldier won’t redefine military squad-based shooters, but it sure makes for an entertaining romp.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5. Rated M.
* Coming soon in future columns, watch for reviews of Game of Thrones, Dragon’s Dogma, Dirt Showdown and more.