Fans of the original GRAW duo may begrudge Future Soldier’s new direction, but it’s impossible to deny that this a project that has been executed with bucket loads of real panache. In many ways it owes more of a debt to the Modern Warfare series than it does to its own predecessors, but there’s no reason to be weary; Ubisoft have simply re-jigged the strategic aspects of team play, rather than disposing of them altogether. The only control that you have over your AI teammates now is the ability to “focus” their gunfire, and you’ll probably be shocked by how much mileage Future Soldier’s creators manage to derive from that mechanic.
The AI needed to be particularly perceptive if Ubisoft were ever going to pull this off, and your assailants are aggressive and careful in turn. You’re constantly asked to deal with them when they’re coming at your from every possible direction as well, and trying to take them down without constantly focusing your team’s fire on them is a surefire way to get rushed into an early grave. Communication is key when you’re playing with friends on co-op, but there’s no campaign matchmaking; a disappointment, but then again playing Future Soldier with partners who weren’t keen on communicating with you would have been an exercise in intense frustration.
The near-future setting (as always) allows Ubisoft to include some lightly speculative weapons and equipment but pleasingly, they’re plausibly imperfect and occasionally downright rickety with it. Your team’s active camouflage is based on tech that already exists, but the visuals brilliantly convey the fact that it can’t be relied upon solely during stealth set-pieces. From a distance, you’re fine; up close, you’re dead. When you do get spotted by an enemy you’re never under any allusions as to why it happened, and the imperfect nature of the camo is brilliantly set in stone when you’re forced to sneak around a reasonably well-populated Nigerian village. Get too close to someone who isn’t brandishing a weapon, and their reaction will tell you all that you need to know about exactly how much distance you need to keep between you and your enemies at all times.
Multiplayer is more than solid, if derivative – for example, COD’s Sabotage and Hardcore modes appear as Saboteur and Siege respectively – but like any great multiplayer shooter released these days, the emphasis here is always on tactics rather than senseless action. Guerilla mode is Future Soldier’s version of Horde, and that is a real winner that forces you to (once again) communicate and strategise at every turn. Ubisoft may have filtered every available strategic play in Future Soldier through an action dynamic, but it’s never a mindless videogame… not even when you’re partaking in a chaotic turkey shoot from the side of an attack helicopter. Unashamedly gamey rather than rigidly realistic, and always stylish but far from empty, Future Soldier is a bit of a blast, really.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is due for release on Xbox 360, PC and Playstation 3 on Friday, May 25th 2012.
Watch the launch trailer for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier below: