Saturday, 1 September 2012

Review: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (PC)

Moving at a slower step than most third-person shooters, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier rewards caution and scouting, setting up dominoes of perfect head shots, and team collaboration. Occasionally, the system branches into straight-up gun battles and on-rails blasting but that's more the exception than the rule.

The story involves something bad which must be stopped. Terrorists may be involved. I think. Russians (or maybe not) play some central role. The story points are presented in such a distracting way during pre-mission briefings, with plenty of "techno" wipes and pop-up information and pictures, that the What and the Who of each mission is completely obscured. Never mind the Why. When the missions starts the micro goals become much more apparent because it's splashed nearly in the middle of the screen. Idiots and the sight impaired should have no problem sorting out what each mission is all about checkpoint to checkpoint.

Truly, the game could have been a separate series of scenarios with no connective story beats and it wouldn't have made a difference in how I felt about the game.

The actual shooting and usable gadgetry is really good. Managing a drone, marking off targets, setting up a string of silent lighting bolts made of bullets, all the while sitting in cover (almost out in the open thanks to the cool active camo) is standard stuff and it's good.

It should also be reported that my opinion of Ghost Recon: Future Solider is almost exclusively formed through the single player Campaign using computer-controlled squad mates. After dabbling with online co-op  (when it worked at all) I abandoned the idea that playing with "smarter" human sidekicks would make the game "easier."

The computer-controlled squad respond properly to a given situation and they will make attempts at reviving you should you drop (most of the time).  For some reason, human players don't see the value in making a quick dash to help a squad mate. The AI does a pretty good job positioning itself, sticking to cover, and not reacting before everyone is in position or has their targets lined-up. Too often I found myself laboured with three human players that thought they were playing Gears of Wars' Horde mode. I suppose that with the right combination of players, this might turn into a better experience but my patience for nonsense has diminished over the years.

The fact I've played so much offline might be to the game's benefit because from the responses online to the game's network and connectivity issues, it seems like the right call. I'm in the camp that hasn't experienced these issues though mainly because I've stuck to the offline Campaign.

At its worst, Future Soldier is an uneven experience with some unchecked boxes as they pertain to PC ports (e.g. no option to invert the controls on a gamepad) and an unrecognizable story, but at its best it's a good shooter with a little more thought required than many other 3rd person shooters available right now.

- Aaron Simmer

The Good:
- Looks great
- Enemy is smart enough to use cover and actually try to flank the player
- Squad behaves much better than any human
- The slower pace of the shooting is welcome

The Bad:
- Completely forgot that the weapons are customizable
- Story was completely lost in its techno, arty method
- Human element is irritating rather than fun
- Matchmaking and multiplayer features dodgy connections
- References to Xbox 360 controller buttons even when using mouse and keyboard (and if you do play with a gamepad the controls cannot be inverted)
- Inability to change settings without dropping right out to the main menu

Score: 7.0 / 10