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Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Graphics: 8.2
Gameplay: 8
Sound: 7.9
Control: 7.7
Replay Value: 8.4
Rating: 8

If you’ve often dreamed of being an elite member of the military who embarks upon top-secret, classified, highly confidential missions, you’re probably a Ghost Recon fan. And in turn, this means you should be excited about the latest entry, Future Soldier, which embraces the spirit and style of the franchise without trying anything too radical. It’s clean, relatively well polished, and ultimately fulfilling and rewarding…albeit a tad too familiar.

The team did a good job with the visual presentation, as just about every environment is highly convincing. There are a few small idiosyncrasies here and there but nothing to get in a twist about. The detailing is nice, one can sense the amount of time and effort dedicated to both the environment and special effects, and the general palette is extremely effective. We really feel the anxiety, the urgency, and the almost overpowering importance of the mission thanks to fantastic ambiance. The textures aren’t too great but the overall picture can be stunning.

The sound matches the graphics step for step and blow for blow; with every top-notch visual special effect comes a great audio effect, and this combines to deliver a believable, immersive experience. I think the soundtrack doesn’t come to the forefront often enough during the campaign, though, even if the music is nicely orchestrated. Then again, one doesn’t want rousing rock music when lurking in the shadows and being all stealthy, right? Anyway, the technical elements are definitely up to snuff throughout the production, even if they won’t drop your jaw.

Future Soldier is an enticing mix of cinematic goodness and quasi-realistic strategic gameplay. On the one hand, you’ve got the bad-ass sync shot, slo-mo breaching sequences, and plenty of high-octane drama that laces just about every field endeavor. That’s the crowd-pleasing Hollywood part. But at the same time, you’ve got the good-sized brain of this production, which involves careful planning, some trial and error, and capable AI. That AI can do some silly stuff now and then – both good and bad – but at least your allies are competent.

Stealth plays a major role. Many times, missions will require that you be stealthy, so you’ll always be practicing your silent techniques. Your comrades will always be ready to aid and assist; you can direct them as you see fit, and they will even perform their own maneuvers so they feel less like robots. As I just stated, they can do some crazy things every now and then, but for the most part, they seem awfully human. They will act and react, respond promptly to any given directive, and will prove themselves again and again on the field of battle.

You are part of a four-man team called the “Ghosts,” who are elite soldiers that are well above and beyond the standard infantry man. In fact, this is a major part of the storyline: The Ghosts are just different; they’re not exactly members of the National Guard, and they find it difficult to relate to the average G.I. Joe. This actually enhances the camaraderie among the closely knit group and surprisingly infuses the plot with more personality and emotion. The story still isn’t a high point (the focus remains squarely on the gameplay), but at least the characters can be intriguing.

Get More:, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier - UK Launch Trailer, PC Games, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

And why are they called the “Ghosts?” Well, they can actually disappear, for one. It’s not complete invisibility but it’s an optical camouflage that servers its purpose in a great many harrowing situations. You just have to remember that it goes away the instant you perform an action, like sprint or even fire your weapon. Therefore, it’s still a challenge to remain undetected throughout a mission, and you’ll always have to coordinate a plan of attack from start to finish. This can include up-close stealth kills to tagging far-off foes – sync shot FTW! – and letting your buddies take care of ‘em.

The sync shot isn’t tough to pull off and the accompanying slo-mo adds some much-needed panache. I say “much-needed” because despite the attention paid to small details, the fair amount of authenticity, and the excellent atmosphere, many of the firefights do feel a little generic. The solid effects can’t spruce things up all the time, and despite your careful executions and satisfying results, too much of the experience almost feels too low-key. Maybe it’s just me but it often felt…anti-climactic.

The other possible downside is that it may seem somewhat repetitive to those who don’t find themselves absorbed in the experience. Sure, there are always multiple ways of approaching a goal or obstacle, but issuing orders and sweeping through areas that feature many of the same enemies can get a little blasé. There is plenty of depth, however. You can fiddle around to your heart’s content with all sorts of loudouts and weapon customizations, even though the game will usually give you decent recommendations.

The multiplayer is a nice change of pace, primarily because you’re playing against all humans and of course, that’s always a significant alteration. In competitive multiplayer, you will play matches featuring two teams of up to six players, and as is the case with the campaign, running and gunning is not advised. At the same time, because the consequences of dying are low, you might just opt to run around like a chicken with your head cut off and see how many you can take out before going down in a blaze of glory. I suppose that could be amusing for a while.

And unsurprisingly, the co-op aspect of the campaign is a blast, which is all the more entertaining because that campaign is quite long. Therefore, when you put it all together, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a rock solid package, capable of holding your attention for a great many hours. There’s lots of cool tech and gadgetry, the strategy is tight, the control is good, and the technical elements really shine in certain situations. The AI is a little wonky and the gunfights aren’t always knock-you-off-your-seat explosive, but the fulfillment level is high. Give it a try.

The Good: Good visuals and audio effects. Great atmosphere. Allies are quite competent. Slick hi-tech gadgets and weaponry is awesome. Long campaign. Co-op is a blast and competitive multiplayer is fun.

The Bad: Story is a little weak. Enemy and ally AI can be erratic. Some encounters can feel bland.

The Ugly: “Only ugly when your co-op partner does something mind-numbingly stupid.”

5/28/2012   Ben Dutka