After a significant amount of delays, numerous development changes, and a short-lived multiplayer beta, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has finally hit store shelves. First glimpses of the game, which seemed to be years ago, revealed an aging series — a dwindling shooter amidst the current "big boys." Thankfully, Ubisoft's counterparts went back to the drawing boards, honoring a series that's been a vital part to the Tom Clancy franchise and the entire third-person shooter genre respectively. So, when we say we were unsure of how the final product would look, we aren't lying, but luckily Ubisoft has once again revamped a seemingly broken formula. Indeed, Future Soldier is a "silent" breath of fresh air in an incredibly noisy genre, and we're welcoming it with open arms.
The Clancy franchise has been evolving lately into a more straightforward approach to shooters; in other words, "we're busting in guns blazing, tango out." Recon, though, continues to be the outlier for Clancy, as seen in this most recent installment. Future Soldier identifies itself rather quickly and maintains it through most of the action. Players will quickly become accustomed to silent, tactical killing, using squad-based signals in a satisfying way. Fans who crave action should not shake this one off though. Future Soldier does not shy away from action. Instead, it conveniently spaces out its stealth and "guns blazing" sequences where players will always be on their toes. Add in a jaw-dropping tagging system, dubbed "Sync Shot," where you're able to pick out foes for your squad to kill on your mark, and you've got yourself a hefty diet of excellent gameplay.
In case you've been out of the loop, Recon once again revolves around the gritty military group called the Ghosts. Your squad of four begins its journey by responding to the death of another Ghost squad through crucial intel on the projected killer. The small scaled response quickly intensifies into a full-fledged arms race with warheads and lots of bad guys. The 12-hour campaign plays out forthright in that you're always aware of your tasks and why you're doing them. One would assume, then, that you're able to develop an emotional attachment to your squad, but unfortunately, that is not the case. Also, you'll begin to feel like your tasks are all the same: get to point A, retrieve your target, and then get to point B for extraction. Luckily, Future Soldier's gameplay makes this mission set-up worthwhile, especially during the later missions.
Your objectives throughout Future Soldier won't leave you fighting in one location (but you already knew that, right?). From the streets of South America to the cold air of Russia, Future Soldier branches out quite well. As you're presented greater threats throughout the campaign, you become aware of a true, futuristic war. Enemies begin to counterattack with gadgets that you'd expect to see in Star Trek or Men in Black III, but it's what sets the tone of the game. It also doesn't hurt that Ubisoft beefed up the graphics from earlier previews so that it can now stand toe-to-toe with today's shooters. It's nothing innovative but it's definitely a pretty game with detailed locations that you'll undoubtedly appreciate.
How well does Future Soldier's formula transfer to online play, you ask? Quite outstanding. Unlike other shooter's attempts to call their multiplayer team-based, Future Soldier's truly thrives off team play. Each mode depends on players' ability to utilize their class' strengths to counteract opponents. It'll leave you with an accomplished feeling when you win a match, and will leave you pondering your team's strategy when you fall in defeat — this is exactly what an excellent multiplayer should do. In addition to your standard modes, Future Soldier includes a Mass Effect 3-like "Horde" mode called "Guerilla" where players must fend off waves of enemies at various locations on a map. It doesn't quite offer the same experience as multiplayer, but it's something that you and three buddies can thoroughly enjoy.
In an industry that's not easily surprised, we can most definitely say that Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has done just that. The game's excellent stealth sequences pave the way for an above average story. Jump online and the action only reinforces the fantastic gameplay. Of course, Future Soldier has its faults and nit-picky issues like AI responsiveness and unpredictable in-game alarm alerts, but they're easily overlooked by the hours of third-person shooter fun that highlights the game. Whether you're a Tom Clancy connoisseur or a newcomer to the franchise's library, you'll quickly applaud Ubisoft for everything Future Soldier is. And it is everything we wanted it to be and more.