Also available on: PS3, PC Developer: Ubisoft Paris / Ubisoft Red Storm Publisher: Ubisoft Genre: Third-person tactical shooter
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier feels like a game that will divide opinion. Some people will love the epic set pieces and moments of chest-pumping military panache, but hardcore Ghost Recon fans may lament the shift from tactical shooter to Call of Duty-inspired action game.
One thing is pretty clear, however; the majority of players will have lots of fun playing this game. Sneaking about under the cloak of darkness, taking out terrorists without raising a whisper, battling a globe-spanning threat with a band of 'ghost' soldiers; Future Soldier just never gets old.
Ubisoft has significantly tweaked the Ghost Recon squad tactics for Future Soldier's single player game, reducing the commands to initiating simple attacks, tagging threats, focusing fire and ordering a downed teammate to be healed.
The three computer-controlled 'Ghosts' in your squad will generally mirror how you play, but not without a good degree of intelligence. They will go stealthy or aggressive as the situation dictates, and frequently save your skin in a tight spot.
Future Soldier is certainly a lot less strategic and tactical than Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, but the simplified system also feels punchy and satisfying in its own right. Working similarly to Sam Fisher's room-clearing takedowns in Splinter Cell: Conviction, the 'Sync Shot' system involves lining up multiple kills in one go.
There are some great moments in sneaking up to a group of enemies, tagging them with your advanced augmented reality head visor, setting up the squad and then when you take out one of the foes, the teammates instantly do likewise in a symphony of slick violence.
As the suffix would suggest, you go into battle against a global geo-political threat armed with some of the most advanced kit available. 'Active cammo paint' is lathered on your suit, meaning when you crouch or go prone, you go invisible.
Well, almost invisible, as the paint is not perfect; the cover is lost if you move too quick and you can sometimes be spotted at close quarters. You also get access to sensor grenades for scoping the environment, a remote UAV drone that can tag enemies from the air, magnetic mines, and a giant, heavily armed remote mech unit called the Warhound.
The story in Future Soldier treads a little too close to Team America at times, in a mix of bullish military bravado and overly simplified political storytelling. There are some decent moments when the pack of Ghosts clash with the regular grunts, but mostly they just spout the usual clichéd quips and vitriolic rallying calls.
However, the blockbuster sensibility matches the shift to much broader action, meaning the campaign trots along without ever being grating, apart from the third act, which becomes far too frantic and shouty.
Future Soldier treads a pretty difficult line in attempting to bring together action shooters with squad tactics. Recent games in Sony's SOCOM franchise and Codemasters' Operation Flashpoint failed to really strike the right balance, but Future Soldier somehow manages to find a positive formula.
You lose the sense of real tactical freedom, but gain a more engaging and impactful shooter filled with well-designed set pieces and a rich variety of mission objectives.
Whether it may be a tense sequence infiltrating a refugee camp in Nigeria, or trekking through the snow in Russia to storm an oil tanker, the levels are linear but also really well thought out, while the varied maps are hugely enjoyable places to be. The colour palette is rich, while the shift between different combat areas feels intuitive, with enough challenge without ever getting overbearing or frustrating.
What the game really does best is make you feel like a military badass. The tactical options, advanced equipment and varied weapons make the art of bringing death to bad people an unadulterated joy.
After ploughing through the campaign, there are incentives to return to the missions in the additional challenges set for each level, such as killing eight people with an assault rifle in 30 seconds, for example. You can also team up with a friend to take on the campaign, and there are some decent options in unlocking and customising new weapons.
Future Soldier possibly places even greater emphasis on its online multiplayer game, even putting the tab above 'campaign' on the main menu. The competitive game adopts all of the best bits of the single player game, including the AR heads up display for identifying enemy threats and scoping tactics, along with the gadgets, such as the UAV drone for aerial surveys of the battle ground. However, players must earn XP and rank up to access the full extent of the kit and upgrades.
Maps support up to 16 players on Conflict matches, involving objectives being delivered in stages, along with the Saboteur mode, tasking players with planting a bomb behind enemy lines and then detonating it.
Siege matches will appeal to the hardcore as respawns are disabled, while Decoy involves players deactivating enemy hardware. All classes - Scout, Rifleman and Engineer - can be levelled up depending on your playing style.
Future Soldier could have ended up a real mess - and some hardcore Ghost Recon fans may still think it is - but the majority of players will find a really engaging game in both single and multiplayer. Ubisoft has managed to simplify some of the tactical aspects of the series and unite them with a broader action focus.
At times the game stumbles into Call of Duty cliché, but mostly it ticks along at a good pace and succeeds in really making you feel like the ultimate soldier, attempting to save the world... all over again.