Friday, 27 July 2012

Game Review: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

In a world filled with bland and repetitive shooters like Call of Duty and (sometimes) Battlefield, the Ghost Recon series has always stood out from the rest due to its cerebral aspect of battle. The series has forever been on the cutting edge of military technology whilst combining it with refined and satisfying gameplay. ‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’ takes the formula of previous entries in the series and subtly improves and adjusts it to deliver a more cinematic game with a clearer focus in combat. Simply put, it is tactical warfare at its finest.

After a Ghost team is eliminated whilst attempting to recover a nuclear warhead the US government dispatches another team to track down their murderers and the warhead. Facing rising odds and the threat of other covert agencies the Ghosts race to prevent the launch of the weapon as well as uncover hidden conspiracies.

The story is well thought out and interesting but the method of storytelling used is not very effective as through all the jumping about to different areas any coherence in the plot is soon lost. As the game bears the Tom Clancy name its plot is typically a political thriller, it certainly isn’t the best story with the Clancy name but in certain moments it does provide scope that truly helps its storytelling. A particular highlight is a scene depicting a missile container strike upon London, the carnage is shown through video camera footage from a tourist, the destruction in this scene is very well executed through its showing of the glass raining down onto the streets from a shattered building. Throughout the entirety of the game I was never sure which character I was playing as, very seldom did the game give me any indication that the Ghost I was playing as was an individual and not simply a tool for the player to use. The real problem with this game’s plot is that it just isn’t interesting enough, it has done very little to shake-up the warfare storyline endlessly repeated in titles like ‘Call of Duty’, ‘Battlefield’ and ‘Medal of Honor’, at this point it’s definitely time for something in new in relation to story for modern day war shooters.

The Ghosts prepare for a door breach.

Luckily the gameplay in ‘Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’ is fantastic. Featuring state of the art teammate AI this game really delivers a visceral experience of the battlefield and methodical warfare. You certainly won’t get away with running and gunning here as any moment where you are not totally aware of your surroundings or have not mapped out your plan of action, you’ll be decimated by enemy forces. The numerous scenarios within the game are fantastic, you have to think about each route you could take to complete any given challenge effectively. Do you hang back and mark targets for your teammates to silently execute? Do you proceed on ahead and stealth kill each soldier in your path whilst your team provide backup? Or do you wage a war upon a host of enemies by utilizing a surprise attack? The possibilities are endless, there’s no doubt in my mind that the intelligent gameplay is what makes this game compelling.

Whilst the variety available to handle situations is impressive it is sometimes completely ignored and instead the player has to contend with a forced gunfight where they have no option to employ stealth. I found this extremely disappointing; it made it as if the stealth gameplay was not truly a part of the game but rather something that could only be performed in certain areas much like a novelty weapon. This demonstrates where the developers have gone wrong in their design of this game; they resulted to common gaming missteps by disregarding a key aspect to the game, its stealth. This doesn’t even make sense in a story perspective, the Ghosts would most certainly not risk a gunfight when stealth is available, the whole point of their unit after all is that their very existence in enemy headquarters cannot be proved.

One of the most standout missions in the game has the player infiltrate a prison without their team, stealth is paramount here as if discovered the enemy would quickly kill the player. The mission’s gameplay and the stealth is executed excellently, it even reminded me of playing what is widely considered the king of stealth action games, ‘Metal Gear Solid’.

The incredibly detailed customisation options.

The level of immersion felt in the game is staggering. Each enemy is quick to judge inconsistencies in their surroundings including everything from a shimmering in the air that just may be humanoid to a comrade who is late with their patrol, it really feels like the enemies are thinking rather than just following routines until they are taken out by the player. A great example of the level of immersion this game provides is during a level involving a covert assault on a Russian airfield. Towards the end of the mission the Ghosts find themselves heavily outmanned and thanks to the addition of an enemy tank, outgunned. The panic I felt as my team fell wounded around me was palpable, the rapid gunfire coming from all angles only added to the fear building up. Throughout this time the Ghosts had been radioing back and forth to base requesting support. At the moment when I thought all was lost and enemy soldiers would swarm me, an airstrike prompt appeared and once ordered I was given a first person control of a guided missile to dive-bomb into a tank. The explosion brought the end of the mission and a real sense of victory.

The great variety of technology available in the game can sometimes be to its detriment when some missions feel more akin to tutorials set-up to train the player how to use a new weapon rather than a fully fleshed out level. This overabundance of gadgets also makes the customization options within the game very intimidating, to a veteran of technical shooters the feature is perfect since it allows you to essentially build your firearm from scratch choosing minute details such as types of triggers. For more novice players though and even for those who are fans but not as invested in the series as others, they will find the system a little off-putting when they are asked to configure things such as the under barrel of their gun.

‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’ is an extremely solid game but as a story its unmemorable and often dull. In every point where the gameplay excels the story drags on the player and calls a halt to the action for drawn out cut scenes. This game may not impress you with its plot but damn does it play well.

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