What’s the point in a fair fight?
We first played Future Soldier at last year’s Eurogamer Expo back in September. It was running a multiplayer build and it was awful; the shooting felt wrong, objectives were unclear and the animation was a mess. Fast forward just over half a year and Ubisoft have really pulled something special out of the bag. Future Soldier is somewhat of a reinvention of the Ghost Recon series, but it stands on its own as a fantastic game.
In the single-player campaign you work in a team of four to complete missions all over the world. You’re tooled up with futuristic (but not sci-fi) gear such as active camouflage, transforming UAVs and sensor grenades that paint targets onto your HUD. You’ll spend much of your time sneaking through the levels using active camo, and then lining up targets using RB for your teammates to shoot. If you line up 2-4 you can hold RB or shoot a target you’re aiming at to drop them all at the same time. This might sound a little gimmicky (and a little familiar to anyone who played Splinter Cell:Conviction) but it really changes up the gameplay from your standard tactics-based shooter. Instead of reflexes deciding whether you live or die, careful planning really pays off. It’s in your best interest to scout out an area to see who is where, and then take out the enemies in groups to make sure no-one ever notices another enemy falling. If you do it right you can clear whole bases within a minute or two. It helps of course that your teammates never miss, can sensibly find their way to a place where they have a clear shot, and a headshot always results in an instant kill. Couple this with the ability to line up shots from your UAV and you can pass many missions by sitting back at commanding your troops from the drone. It might not be fair, but it’s fun in a puzzle-game kind of way.
Although Future Soldier doesn’t support drop-in co-op you can start a mission in a team of four players and while a lot of fun, if anything it makes the game more difficult. You need to rely on communication to drop enemies at the same time and humans make more mistakes than the AI.
The single-player game is lengthy, we finished the campaign in around twelve hours on the second-hardest difficulty. There’s a lot of replayability, whether you are playing through again in co-op or going after the ‘tactical challenges’ that provides a few extra objectives such as reaching a certain point in a strict time limit or taking out two enemies with one shot. The story is dull and forgettable. With the recent glut of ‘modern combat’ titles there aren’t any really exciting plot twists or anything you haven’t heard before. During a few cut-scenes (one set in London particularly) you really get the feeling they’ve gone a bit past taking ‘inspiration’ from other games. Although the stealth gameplay is superb, often the game forces you into contrived action sequences where you either need to protect an area from assault for a few minutes, or are cajoled into an on-rails shooter. These sections hold up nowhere near as well as the core gameplay, but they are a welcome change of pace. After keeping your finger off the trigger for half an hour it’s nice to let rip with a turret on a horde of encroaching troops.
There are some issues with the single-player campaign. If you lose a mission loading times are long and checkpoints are often spaced oddly. Many times you might find yourself having to repeat an easy firefight to get to a much more difficult one. This is an issue that plagues the whole game, for instance there are two ‘Press Start’ screens when you load up the game. Why two? It’s irritating enough when you put a disc in to have to wait through a number of splash screens, but extra barriers is just adding insult to injury.
The graphics are impressive most of the time, although you will come across the odd ugly texture or bland indoor environment. There’s enough spectacular set-pieces to accompany the Michael Bay fans out there, and animations and lighting are all dramatic yet believable. The game has also stolen the innovative HUD system from Conviction, painting objectives an information onto walls or in the sky. I find this a lot more interesting that simply printing it onto the screen and it fits with whole future-soldier aesthetic. Augmented reality is a thing now and the game portrays what it could be like on the battlefield.
Multiplayer functions much as you would expect it to, it’s a third person tactical shooter. None of the really impressive innovations from single-player make it over but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. There’s a Call of Duty-esque progression system, adding in the quirk of having to choose what to pick at certain levels. There’s also a deep weapon customisation system and an array of interesting gadgets. You can play standard team deathmatch, a number of objective-based modes, and the now ubiquitous horde-mode (called guerilla). My only complaint on the multiplayer front is that, as a long-time fan of Ghost Recon games, the maps are a little too enclosed. There seems to be a trend of setting combat games in urban settings lately and it really restricts the usefulness of many of the weapons and gadgets. Long-range fighting is a rarity and this means matches are shorter and more brutal than you might be used to.
Overall the game is impressive and entertaining. It’s not necessarily different enough or polished enough to be a classic, but in the Summer’s drought of games it’s well worth a look. It might be laughably easy, but then isn’t that what you want when you play as a team of the most tooled-up special forces soldiers in the world?
+ Brilliant targeting system
+ Varied locations
+ Satisfying gunplay
+ Decent multiplayer
+ Impressive graphics (at times)
– Takes ages to load (even if installed)
– Poor checkpointing
– Possibly too easy in single-player