Behold: it’s another modern military shooter, featuring people with call signs, Eastern European locations, liberal use of the military alphabet, excessive testosterone-fueled screaming, and a selection of weapons and attachments that are all old hat by now. Thanks to the runaway success of a particular franchise, the market is now saturated with titles like these. Personally, I see the genre being as infamous as World War 2 shooters at this point; Battlefield 3 was the last hurrah for the present day oorah aficionado. We need something new.
However, the games based on Clancy’s fanciful tales are hardly to blame. The franchise has been representing military gaming for years with some respectably detailed tactical shooters from yesteryear. Nowadays, the focus is steadily shifting towards arcade-like gameplay, with mixed outcomes. Rainbow 6: Vegas quickened the pace of the tactical action shooter, resulting in a solid title, whereas H.A.W.X struggles to stay relevant against specialised series like Ace Combat.
Future Soldier does away with the battlefield simulation of the original Ghost Recon games and takes a more relaxed approach. The third-person shooter emphasises the use of cover, coordinated attacks from stealth, and appropriate inventory use, rather than checking corners, conserving ammo, and engaging targets safely. Times are changing, and kids these days don’t want to spend their afternoons skulking around patrolling guards and such. They’d rather fulfill bonus objectives such as “kill 3 enemies with 3 shotgun shells in 3 seconds” and the like.
The action is much more intense as a result, and in some ways it’s for the better. Even the stealth elements carry some form of tension as you coordinate kills with your AI teammates (controllable by humans), marking targets and synchronising shots. Your gear certainly gives you a greater sense of omnipotence than before as you strut around with x-ray and night vision modes, optical camouflage, drones with thermal cameras, sensor grenades, and mechanised walking assault platforms. Teammates are quite effective at communicating enemy positions, and can dish out the pain if needed (as long as you keep on marking targets for them to shoot). It’s a pleasure to wield so much power.
The most cringe-worthy thing about the whole game (apart from its very rough graphical presentation) is that it simply doesn’t take itself seriously anymore. There was something about Clancy shooters that conveyed a sense of military discipline. Now they’ve substituted proud members of an international anti-terrorist team with a pack of cocky, shit-talking jarheads. I was expecting the team to constantly bump elbows and slap fingers while throwing up hand gestures at the fourth wall. At least we’re not at Call of Duty‘s level of excessive explosions and slow-motion chasm jumps.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is a guilty pleasure. It’s not the prettiest package, but it has some elegant mechanics, enjoyable action sequences, and some excellent co-operative opportunities. If you’re willing to forgive the lack of tactical detail normally found in older battle simulators, you’ll actually enjoy yourself with this.