Publisher:Ubisoft Platform: Xbox 360 (tested), PS3, PC UK Price (as reviewed):£34.99 Incl. VAT US Price (as reviewed):$59.99 Excl. Tax
Since it was confirmed back in 2009 we’ve been dubious about the latest instalment in the Ghost Recon franchise. The announcement of a new direction for the traditionally tactical series couldn’t help but feel prompted by the success of the blockbuster action of the Call of Duty series and, perhaps more worryingly, its E3 presentation focused on using the Kinect to take guns apart and put them back together.
The CoD influence is clear from the off, casting you among a team of military stereotypes that gamers know like the back of their hands; complete with obligatory wisecracking redneck and stern black dude. The story’s also depressingly familiar, concerning a race against time to prevent the bad guys from nuking America, presumably because they’re jealous of how it’s number one and all that nonsense.
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As the story unfolds you’ll visit shanty towns, refugee camps and cities, spanning locations from Pakistan to the Arctic Circle and Africa. These places have featured in games before, but not to this standard. The locations have more character than all your team members combined, feeling lived in and authentic. Clever level design makes each area feel larger than it really is, providing several approaches and the fast paced game play leaves little time to pore at every detail to find the repeated textures or notice the same civilian character models being used.
The game’s quick tempo is undoubtedly one of its strong points, bringing a sense of urgency and import to proceedings, but this comes at the sacrifice of the deeper tactical elements that used to define the series. Apart from tagging targets to kill, you no longer have control over squad mates’ actions and they will run to cover, flank and lay suppressing fire all by themselves. Thankfully they’re pretty good at it, and more importantly, you still feel like the one in charge and your input is always key to the success of an assault.
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GR: FS fluctuates from stealthy sections to insane shoot-outs. It does both competently, but is most rewarding when you’re creeping round with Predator style camouflage, silently dispatching enemies.
The stealth mechanic used most often allows you to tag multiple enemies either by eye or with a drone, after which your team-mates scatter to appropriate positions and at your command all fire at once. The sound of suppressed shots followed by bodies crumpling to the ground never gets old and instils a sense of empowerment missing from the scripted set-pieces.
These set-pieces are visually spectacular, complete with obligatory slow-motion breaches and on rails turret sections - some are even original - such as the bits that see you manhandling people with one hand and clearing a path with your pistol in the other. The problem is they feel tacked on to a game that would be fine without them and are at odds with the idea of your team being a crack squad of ‘Ghosts’ who are supposed to get the job done before the enemy even realises what’s happening.
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The near future setting gives Ubisoft the chance to get creative with battlefield technology, and along with the Predator suit, you get to play with sensors for revealing enemy locations, drones for targeting enemies and cloaked remote controlled cars among others. It’s a lot of fun taking advantage of the technical superiority you have over enemies and it’s sections that use these gadgets intelligently that hint at what kind of game GR: FS could have been if it had emphasised strategy more.