Ghost Recon: Future Soldier PreviewPublisher: Ubisoft
Platform: Xbox 360
, PlayStation 3
Tom Clancy’s vision of the future is a strange place. It’s part Minority Report, part Die Another Day and part Gears of War; all of it fun and none of it as tactical or strategic as you would expect a double suffixed Tom Clancy game to be. That’s mainly because Ubisoft has got a little too carried away with the futuristic concept and started to complement the expected targeting assists and surveillance drones with invisibility cloaks and wall-penetrating goggles.
Future Soldier adds some more realistic additions to the series, such as partially destructible cover, but it’s the exorbitance of your arsenal which leaves the strongest impression – and not always in a good way. There’s certain novelty value in being able to scan a room before you enter it, but functionally it’s an irrelevance. Levels are too linear and too forgivingly designed to make tactical thinking a necessity; enemies are so fearful or incompetent that you can often stroll calmly up to punching range. Allies, meanwhile, are so adept that they can usually clear their half of a battlefield before you’ve even remembered that you can order them around.
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While Future Soldier is a far cry from the careful planning and brutal skirmishes of the old Rainbow Sixes, however, it’s still shaping up to be an enjoyable game in its own right. It’s drawing heavily from the Gears of War mould, but that’s not an inherently bad idea; The constant shuffle from cover to cover, popping out to push fistfuls of lead into enemies and toss the odd grenade, gives Future Soldier a satisfying rhythm that’s broken only by regular, but short moments of scripted action. These sequences range from simple area transitions to more cinematic moments that see you carrying hostages and fending off enemies one-handed. This latter example is clearly only going to leave you smiling the first time you see it, but it’s perfectly evocative of Black Hawk Down’s ilk on that occasion.
Well, Black Hawk Down merged with Minority Report, anyway. One of the most distracting and annoying excesses of Future Soldier comes from the light-blue pseudo-code writing that decorates every level. It’s supposedly part of your HUD overlay, giving you information about your surroundings and making everything look just that little bit more ‘future’. It’s not an idea that’s new to the series and it’s not a bad concept at all, but there’s far too much of it on display and the result is that Future Soldier feels like it's part text adventure, as well as everything else.
Part Minority Report, part text adventure, part Gears – it should be clear by now that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier feels like an incredibly fragmented experience. Chatting to the developers makes it clear that Ubisoft thinks it's making a game with the tactical edge of old, but the practical reality is Gears of War with a Call of Duty aesthetic and the gadgets of Splinter Cell.
This unusual combination might sound like a sure-fire blockbuster thanks to these roots, but in reality Future Soldier is fighting on too many fronts to excel on any individual one. We still left our hands-on session with favourable impressions thanks to the core violence, but time and reflection has dulled this down to ambivalence. The shooting may be competent, but Ghost Recon’s strength is supposed to lie in providing more than just target practice, which is really all we’ve seen from the game so far.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is being published by Ubisoft on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It will be released in March 2012.