The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
A lot has changed since the Ghosts’ last tour of duty.
In the five years since Advanced Warfighter 2 shipped, Battlefield has
entrenched itself as a major contender in the console space and Call of Duty
took over the world. The Ghosts have a lot of catching up to do to stay
relevant in the hyper-competitive military shooter genre, but after a troubled
development and several delays, this Future Soldier looks more like a military
game of the past.
The Future Soldier campaign, which focuses on the
Ghosts’ attempt to thwart a Russian coup, succeeds when it sticks to the
tactical approach of its predecessors. The game is at its best when you treat
the micro sandboxes like puzzles, keeping your squad camouflaged and picking
off unaware enemies in groups of four using the innovative Sync Shot mechanic
without alerting other targets. Your teammate AI is sharp enough to move
without being spotted, and they wisely call out enemy positions as they see
them, so there is no disadvantage to playing through the campaign by yourself.
You can also play through it with three friends, but I recommend increasing the
With several high-tech gadgets like active camouflage,
drones, and a remote-controlled robot armed to the teeth with an unlimited
supply of missiles, churning through these enemies is much easier than it was
even in the Advanced Warfighter games. Sneaking through enemy encampments like
the Predator, using drones to mark tango positions, and lining up simultaneous
kill shots is empowering to the point of being overpowering. The technology
makes the early missions easy, but the battles even out later in the game when
a Russian Special Forces team uses similar gadgets and disrupts your
technological advantage with EMP blasts.
Ubisoft occasionally diverts from sandbox levels to mix
up the action, but the majority of these sequences falter due to their
overreliance on genre clichés like corridor-based level designs and mandatory
gun turret sequences. I’d rather spend my time trying to master the micro
sandbox puzzles than performing Rainbow Six-style breaches, VIP escort, and
stealth follow missions. One sequence even leaves your Ghost team behind as you
tackle a Medal of Honor-style infiltration job. These missions betray what
makes Ghost Recon unique and ultimately feel like a step backward in game
Future Soldier also looks aged. Ubisoft seemed to
channel all the graphical horsepower into creating particle effects like
sandstorms and smoke. While they look impressive in certain scenarios, the ugly
textures, pop-up, and cardboard cutout grass that pierces straight through your
prone soldier are much more prevalent and break the sense of immersion. Held up
against the high graphical benchmarks of the genre, Ghost Recon looks
technologically malnourished. The invasive HUD also mars the sensory
experience. Having your ammo count, teammate positions, enemy positions, ammo
crate locations, objective location, and data about your current location all
on the screen at once is information overload.
The third-person control scheme, while adequate, could
also use refinement. Rather than streamline the controls, Ubisoft chose to
preserve the awkward zoom system from the previous games. Holding the left
trigger gives you a third-person zoom, and pressing R3 provides a first-person
ironsights view. Having to click the R3 button to go in and out of ironsights
is cumbersome and gets you in trouble, especially during frantic multiplayer
firefights. The stickiness of cover is also inconsistent, and I found it tough
to aim around the corners of cover objects.
Multiplayer has always been a big draw for the Tom
Clancy shooters, and Future Soldier preserves that legacy with a robust suite
featuring five competitive game modes, class-based progression systems, highly
customizable weapons, and a Horde-like mode called Guerrilla. Most of the modes
are boilerplate, but I enjoyed Conflict mode, a timed competition that rotates
the location of objectives throughout the map.
The point system smartly awards players for working
together, but the clunky user interface and unrefined controls may turn off
shooter aficionados. Thanks to poor design, navigating the menus to unlock new
gear takes longer than you have in between matches, and Ubisoft doesn’t let you
customize matches as in past Ghost Recon titles.
Tom Clancy shooters have always drawn in
military enthusiasts, but after a five-year hiatus Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
is facing a much different battlefield. The co-op and competitive
multiplayer offer adequate experiences, but the aged graphics, unrefined
controls, and cliché-ridden campaign betray the Future Soldier premise and
compromise the game’s ability to compete with more technologically refined
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.