Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
The biggest offense for a game is to be inoffensive. To be thoroughly competent in all of the expected ways and yet contain no surprises. That’s the feeling with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. After years without a proper entry in the franchise, its return is met with a departure from what the series once was. Leaving behind tactical shooting for the bombastic kind, it’s a by-the-numbers third-person shooter that dabbles in future tech briefly but does so in an uninteresting, believable way, and doesn’t leave much of an impression when it’s done.
Future Soldier’s campaign is about a pack of future soldiers in the near-future doing futuristic soldier things. There are invisibility cloaks, spy drones, rocket-armed robots fighting alongside humans, and unreadable HUD elements lofting through the sky. It’s a campaign made of multiplayer map parts and serves a functional purpose. It’s a quick stint through the requisite environments that mixes up stealth and action segments to good enough affect without the combat patterns ever losing their luster.
The campaign plays out in a linear way although the pathway is rarely linear. Some environments are rather large and while there’s more room to explore it never feels like it’s handled with a purposeful open-ended design but that it’s the same linear structure broadened into wider paths. This can be played co-op although AI teammates are surprisingly efficient and one of the title’s strong suits is the ability to quickly mark out targets for the AI to take out. The campaign exists as the kind of multiplayer tutorial that’s been passed off as standard in recent years but it never feels like it gets its hooks in or that any of the content’s especially compelling.
There’s also a tacked on invite-only horde mode alongside a more fulfilling competitive multiplayer. This is the real meat of the experience with good progression systems and the unique gun modification system providing a substantial hook for continuing to play and level up your base character classes. The action puts a fine emphasis on teamwork across some fairly standard objective-based modes. It still never fully captures the allure of full-on tactical mechanics but this is where it comes closest and in a team where players balance class strengths off one another, there’s a good chance they’ll come out ahead.
What Future Soldier has that especially differentiates it is a loose kind of stylistic purpose. Everything from the movement through the environment to the aesthetic touch of the active camo presents a confident third-person shooter that’s too comfortable drifting into complacency. There’s an outline here for something more and it’s a shame the actual contents of the game don’t match these subtle stylistic flourishes.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier does what is expected. It does little else and rarely deviates from the concepts accepted as standard. There’s a sense of regret there with the opportunity to be something bigger, something more, but rather than expounding on the stylistic ambition, Future Soldier camouflages itself with borrowed ideas, blending seamlessly into a crowded genre.