Teamwork and tactics winner
REVIEW: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. (Xbox360, PlayStation 3, PC) Ubisoft Games. $89.
As well as having one of the most convoluted titles of any game released this year, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier also has the rare honour of taking its inspiration not from a Hollywood blockbuster or hit TV show, but from a series of novels.
Literary adaptations are few and far between in the gaming world, and although military thriller writer Clancy isn't exactly Dostoevsky, at least he's not Dan Brown.
As you may have guessed from the snappy title, the game is set in the not-too-distant future, and centres around a special forces unit known as The Ghosts, a highly skilled counter-terrorist troop of elite soldiers that forms the last line of defence between the free world and the blah, blah, blah – you get the idea. Unlike the source material, the plot and premise are anything but novel.
What sets Future Soldier apart from the rest of the crowd is its emphasis on the technology of tomorrow. Tellingly, it stops short of laser guns and forcefields, with the gadgetry at your disposal based on real-life military research and prototypes of hi-tech hardware. This grounding in reality makes for a more believable experience, and although there's a touch of James Bond to some of the weaponry, it's all very practical and functional.
Remote-controlled drones, already part and parcel of modern military arsenals, are a key feature, and using a heli-cam to hover over an enclave of insurgents and gather intelligence before your squad storms the compound is often essential to avoid a bloodbath. Likewise, a smart visor that overlays text identifying targets, locations and landmarks works as a visual GPS to help you to navigate far-flung foreign war zones. Perhaps the most advanced gizmo is the optical camouflage, reflecting ambient light and rendering you almost invisible in tight situations.
All this kit is vital to complete the various objectives laid out in each mission. This isn't your standard "gun down anything that moves" shooter. Certain missions require you to locate, rescue and escort hostages to safety. Others involve tracking targets and silently dispatching them without raising the alarm. Stealth and patience are essential. Simply running and gunning, Call of Duty style, is a one-way ticket to the game-over screen.
Teamwork is also crucial for each member of your four-man squad. The AI used for computer-controlled allies is surprisingly intuitive, but teaming up online with other players from around the world is when you truly appreciate the co-operative camaraderie at the heart of the game.
It makes a refreshing change from the one-man-army approach of Call of Duty and other first-person shooters, and there's a certain satisfaction when your well-oiled military machine pulls off a perfectly synchronised manoeuvre.
Possibly the best example of this tactical teamwork is the new "tag 'em and bag 'em" sync-shot mechanic, where you're able to identify and mark targets at the press of a button, wait for your squad-mates to get into prime position and then take out an entire patrol of enemy soldiers with a single simultaneous burst of gunfire.
If there's fault to be found with the game, it would have to be in the graphics department. The console versions suffer from frame-rate issues, particularly at times when there is a lot of on-screen action. Animations can seem stiff and robotic and ugly textures on some of the cardboard cut-out scenery occasionally detract from the immersive atmosphere.
Graphical glitches and stale storyline aside, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a surprisingly solid shooter, with enough depth and diversity to encourage multiple play-throughs.
The focus on futuristic weaponry will appeal to gadget fans, and the slower pace, emphasis on teamwork and military tactics make it the ideal alternative for Call of Duty fans longing for something a little more cerebral.
- © Fairfax NZ News