There has been a longstanding tradition of military fantasy in video games—you're a part of an elite team who have been honed into lethal killing machines by years of intense training. The rules of engagement are clear—we're the good guys, they're the bad guys, and we're going to operate as a well-choreographed unit to take them down.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the latest game in the Ghost Recon series, plays like an attempt to put you into the brain of a highly trained special ops soldier. It does this via careful streamlining of the Ghost Recon formula, and in the process looks to allow for more dynamic, intuitive, and exciting gameplay. What would it feel like to truly have had millions of dollars' worth of special forces training? Future Soldier aims to let us know.
"Do not go straight out into the open and get mowed down! Take cover, for God's sake!"
When playing Ubisoft's past Ghost Recon (and Rainbow Six) games, I often found that a combination of a difficult interface and bunk teammate AI would have my supposedly badass team acting like a bunch of untrained clowns.
"No!" I'd find myself screaming at them. "Do not go straight out into the open and get mowed down! Take cover, for God's sake!"
"Roger, moving out," they would say, before going straight out into the open to get mowed down.
Ghost Recon Future Soldier takes a stab at addressing this problem. It does so via careful streamlining of the Ghost Recon formula, and in the process looks to allow for more dynamic, intuitive, and engaging gameplay.
Looking back at these first few paragraphs, you'll see that I've used the word "Streamlining" twice. So, let's get it out of the way—yes, Future Soldier has been streamlined significantly over its Xbox 360 predecessors, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter and GRAW 2. And yes, those games themselves were streamlined versions of the slow-paced, unforgiving Ghost Recon games on PC. But Future Soldier is quite a bit of fun to play, and by closing off some options sometimes feels like it offers more tactical variations for approaching a given situation. The fluid automation of targeting and shooting allows your characters' "training" to handle the smaller stuff while you focus on tactics, positioning, and strategy.
In Ghost Recon Future Soldier, players will assume the role of one member of a four-person Ghost squad. (For more on the specifics of combat, check out the video here.) While visiting Ubisoft's San Francisco headquarters a couple weeks ago, I saw the game in several bits—first, the opening chapters, a stealth mission from near the beginning, and then a much more open map from later on. The Ghosts are elite fighters, the best of the best, blah blah, America Fuck Yeah, etc. As I played, I was dimly aware of some sort of plot happening, a typically Tom Clancy-ish military techno-thriller about an arms dealer and some…people… and some… other things. It was mostly entirely uninteresting.
But that's alright—I liked both GRAW games, and never really had much of a handle on those games' stories either. However, the bland narrative is a bit of a disappointment in light of the comparatively ambitious storytelling on display in the upcoming entry in Ubisoft's other marquee tactical shooter series, Rainbow 6.