In the overpopulated world of third-person shooter games, the Ghost Recon series has always managed to stand out because of its very clever use of tactics and gadgetry.
As with its sister series, Splinter Cell, it had been known for its cerebral approach to stealth gaming, with especially the two Advanced Warfighter titles giving gamers a much more immersive and realistic approach to tactical special forces warfare than the range of paint-by-numbers shooters that are so prevalent today.
The Advanced Warfighter titles sacrificed style for substance and for Ubisoft to bring out a bombshell of a follow-up should have been a very straightforward affair: keep the substance, flesh it out with more gadgets, polish up the style and BOOM!
Instead, Future Soldier is high on style, but dumbed down so badly that it's less a special forces operative with pinpoint precision than it is a redneck with a shotgun.
This is not to say that the game is bad – far from it. There are enough reasons to warrant a purchase – and we'll get to that in a second. But at its heart, Future Soldier has let go of the key success factors of Advanced Warfighter and exchanged it for a more arcade-like gameplay style.
Graphically, Future Soldier is a good-looking game without being anything special. It borrows heavily from the Call of Duty series in terms of atmosphere, with moments that look brilliant, but unfortunately interspersed with more scenes that could have done with some extra polish.
In this sense, at least, the game improved on Advanced Warfighter, which had a much more clinical, technical look about it. Unfortunately Ubisoft tipped the scales a little too far, making Future Soldier more in line with the arcade style of gameplay that the recent Call of Duty games have become known for.
Fair enough, it worked for CoD in terms of sales, but Ubisoft could very easily have created something astounding.
Chief amongst their failings in this regard is the extreme linearity of the game. In more ways than one, Future Soldier leads you around by the nose. You're presented with one scenario after the other, which more often than not simply calls for synchronised take-downs. The hardest part is figuring out which combination of enemy soldiers to take out so that you don't alert their comrades.
It's a far departure from the likes of Advanced Warfighter 2, where you had to do some serious recon before you even touched your rifle's trigger. In Future Soldier, the aim is much more on progressing quickly than it was on the stealth and tactical decisions that made Advanced Warfighter 2 such an intriguing game.
The game is also way too easy – especially in the first half. It does get more challenging the longer you play, but it's still not nearly as hard as Advanced Warfigther 2. One assumes that the reasoning behind the easy first half of the game is to allow for a more gradual learning curve, instead of the high entry point that Advanced Warfighter 2 required, but the balance is not quite right.
At least the linearity and the low difficulty of the game is offset in part by the length of the single-player campaign, but the element that really saves the title from landing in the bargain bin almost straight away is the multiplayer modes.
The co-op part of the game in itself is already massively pleasing. You can play the single player campaign with three of your mates, which gives the entire campaign a completely new breath of life. Tackling the missions with your friends is somehow a much more engaging experience than when you engage it on your own.
The online multiplayer mode is also on an entirely different level to the single-player campaign and you'll most likely find that you use the first couple of missions of the single player mode to get used to the tools at your disposal and then leave it be for some online fun.
This kind of disparity between the two modes will make complete sense if they were developed by two different teams – and no doubt they were. But it's a pity, as Future Soldier could have been one heck of a game if the ideas from one mode were incorporated and fleshed out in the other.
As it stands Future Soldier, if not exactly a waste of time, is not really a memorable game. In a world where none of the previous Ghost Recon games existed one could easily have been much more lenient on it, but alas with such a stellar pedigree behind it, Future Soldier is an okay game but a very disappointing addition to the series.
Score: 7.5 out of 10