If Ghost Recon: Future Soldier were music, it would be an orchestra building towards the crashing crescendo. Far from the heavy metal riffs of the Call of Duty and Battlefield series, the latest title in the long running strategy shooter series takes time to establish and almost forces you to appreciate itself in the process. That crescendo though is the sweet sound of when things go wrong and you're forced to adapt your plan in the midst of chaos.
Future Soldier is one of those rare games that seems to benefit even from its failures. Sure, you can say that it tries too hard to please too many people -- but in the end, you can't argue with results and Future Soldier is a fun and deceptively deep shooter with some brains behind its brawn.
In an interesting turn, Future Soldier starts with the death of the squad of top soldiers, it's then that you step into the combat boots of the B-team and the game begins proper. Their goal is simple, track down the weapons chain the produced the bomb that killed their fellow soldiers, and it's a goal that takes them everywhere from Nigeria, to Moscow and Norway.
The changing locales do a great deal to make the twelve missions in the game feel remarkably different. On top of that, each of these locales are recreated impressively -- take the Nigerian level for instance, as you progress through the level's marketplace, you'll be dodging, and hoping not to take out a ton of civilian NPCs.They may be small touches, but they go a long in immersing yourself in the game's universe.
Compared to the majority of shooters on the market these days, Future Soldier's pace is a decidedly slow one. Here enemies don't pop up from corners like fun-house soldiers, and you're going to have to think about each of your moves to survive. Your best bet in most cases is to utilize cover and methodically take out enemies one by one until you've cleared the area enough to move on. It can be a difficult, almost punishing endeavor, but it's an extremely rewarding feeling when done perfect.
For what it's worth though, Future Soldier does a wonderful job pushing you in the right direction to complete your missions. As the title suggests, you're equipped with some impressive future technology, like a camouflage vest that allows you to sneak past enemy patrols for a brief period of time and a number of drones and sensors that allow you to see and get the jump on your enemies.
The most useful tool the developers give you though doesn't come from the future, but from Sam “Splinter Cell” Fisher. The game makes use of a slightly improved version of the tagging system from Splinter Cell Conviction, which replaces the direct order system found in previous Ghost Recon games. In short, the tagging system allows you to assign a specific enemy to each member of your squad (up to four) and does a great deal in helping you take out multiple enemies at one time. The game features impressive AI, and when instructed to, your squadmates will do a everything in their power to keep said enemy in their sights. Issuing the order to take out those enemies is a remarkably satisfying feeling.
That's not to say that Future Soldier is a slow and boring endeavor, far from it, in fact it's paced wonderfully. Like most anything, the constant over the top set pieces of most shooters makes even the most thrilling action sequences seem mundane, and it's there that Future Soldier establishes itself. Rather than constantly throwing you into these sequences, Future Soldier peppers them in, and they have much more of an impact this way. Of course, when the game allows you to screw up and continue missions, there's a bit of beauty in the chaos, as you're forced to adapt your plan on the fly, and thanks to the game's impressive AI, it's always interesting.
Visually, Future Soldier is a mixed bag, in one instant you're mixed with breathtaking views and wonderfully animated characters, but in the next, its bland backgrounds and seemingly unfinished textures. Things like these would be excusable in a run and gun shooter, but they're far more noticeable when in a game that almost requires you to slow the pace down on a regular basis.
It'll likely take you between 10-12 hours to fully complete the campaign, but it feels like an incredibly different experience when playing through with friends, if only for the chance to scream at that one friend who constantly messes up orders and botches missions. The game features a traditional multiplayer suite as well, but while it is functional, there's really nothing new or innovative about it.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is one of those rare games that benefits even when it fails. It tries to please every type of shooter fan, but never gives up on its core principles -- and the result is a fun, if not predictable action title. There's a lot to like here, but admittedly some will like it more than others.