Several things happened today.
My mother ran the Race for Life for Cancer Research UK
I finally finished decorating the living room
A neighbour gave me a brand new £700 bath and screen for nothing
And I finally got to grips with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
Fortunately for you it’s the last point that I will be discussing.
I played the first Ghost Recon game back in 2001 and thought it was awesome because it was a hardcore tactical shooter. So much so I would often find myself hurling abuse at the TV because one of my team members dared to poke a toe out from behind cover only to have it blown off by a terrorist 200 metres away armed with nothing more than a rusty AK-47. Ghost Recon rewarded tactical acumen, carefully planned kill boxes and a methodical approach to combat and brutally punished you for making the slightest mistake. It was an agonisingly tense game that was brilliant, harrowing and fucking torture all at the same time. And, bizarrely, I loved it.
So much so that I bought the expansion and then Ghost Recon 2 and even Summit Strike. I seem to remember enjoying them as much despite their shift towards a far more action orientated game. It seemed to be the right amount and you actually got to see the guns you were firing which was a real treat… Summit Strike was bat shit hard though and I didn’t get very far into it before I lost interest and flogged it on Amazon.
Then Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter reared it’s next-gen head and I just didn’t get on with it. It was more shooter than tactics but you’d still get dropped like a sack of shit if a bullet so much as grazed you. It was also third person That said it did look very cool.
So what made me put my hand in my pocket and buy Ghost Recon: Future Solider? Well, for one thing it looked gorgeous. The other was Mass Effect & Batman. Both game series’ made me love the third person genre and made me willing to give Ghost Recon another try. And I’m glad I did.
As I mentioned it looks lovely and the cut scenes blend into the action pretty much seamlessly which keeps the pace and makes it all very cinematic. The combat is fast and the enemy AI varies depending on who you’re fighting. Untrained militia will not be good shots or have the training to try to outflank you. Private Military types do. Positioning is the name of the game. Helped with a host of cool gadgets including augmented reality HUDs which looks the tits, magnetic vision (no really), cloak technology, and remote UAVs that can tag targets for your boys to cap. You can also assign targets to your fellow team mates to allow you to simultaneously spaff 4 bad guys at once. Assisted by the fact that the AI is, finally, not shit in a Ghost Recon game. In all other versions – except probably Advanced Warfighter because I didn’t get far enough into it – your team was populated be complete morons.
Your fellow Ghosts respond to enemy fire, navigate the best route in the environment and will mang people without you having to spell it out for them. Which is nice. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that despite not being the unit leader – that falls to the Ghost cleverly code-named Ghost Leader – it falls to you to give the orders such as the aforementioned target assigning or calling air support. I know this is just to make you feel more involved in the action but why not make you team leader like in all the other games?
A new feature is the ability to customise your weapons to an absolutely mental degree. Triggers, gas parts, barrels, fore grips, stocks, magazines the lot is all available to be tinkered with. This means you can tailor your weapons to suit your style of play. It’s a bit of a gimic but it looks ace and is quite a bit of fun. It’s a bit wasted on me as the default options suit my mid to short-range style of combat.
I’m yet to tackle the multiplayer yet but I have every faith that the ability to customise your character is just as abundant and slightly pointless. But co-operative campaign is a big fat green tick in my book and when there’s four of you who know one another you can have a lot of fun kicking and ass and taking names in a way that I don’t think has been done in this kind of game before. And I’m really excited about it.
Certain niggles still remain that haunt pretty much every Tom Clancy game ever such as the engine doesn’t render quick enough so pop up is still a problem which is pretty unforgivable with the calibre of graphics being banded around at the moment and shipping in the next 5 or 6 months. It glitches at times too so, at one point, a Nigerian refugee carrying water on her head panicked at the sight of the Ghosts and legged it. Her container of water stayed where it was. Reloading weapons still takes an insufferably long time. In a close quarters fire fight, careless shooting will cost you. I suppose that’s the point. Mistakes cost lives. I wouldn’t feel quite so bad about that if I ever saw the enemies you go up against reload their fucking guns! Which is another time-honoured foul up that dogs all Red Storm games. And their seemingly infinite supply of ammunition. And another gripe – the loading screen features the controller, each of the buttons being highlighted in turn. This is actually pretty handy on the first couple of outings. However there isn’t a single mission that takes long enough to load that it tells you what each of the buttons do. Which is pointless.
That does seem like a lot of grumbling but they’re legitimate and after so many years of making Tom Clancy games, Red Storm really should have got their act together because none of them are new problems. For heaven sake, it still crashes if you’re ready to breach a room before the rest of your team ala Ghost Recon 2 and Rainbow Six.
All that aside though it is a hugely enjoyable game. The action is sufficiently intense that you will be mercilessly punished for over confidence and rewarded for using your team effectively. The host of gadgets and gizmos are actually worth it instead of sometimes useful. Although if you have the UAV sensor pods are pointless. Unless you let your UAV get shot down. But that’d make you and idiot. Red Storm has managed to get a good balance between the things that made the original Ghost Recon so good, and what the punch drunk masses that play Call of Duty want to see. Although one shot doesn’t kill you any more, that is because you’re wearing sophisticated next-gen body armour. Wandering around in the open will most certainly get you killed. I may have tried it. Although, cover crumbles beneath sustained fire forcing you to act, run for your life or get manged which is as it should be and makes you deal with problems tactically. Holing up and waiting for the enemy to come to you will be a waste of your time because, chances are, if they do it’s because you won’t see them coming.
GR: FS is a lot of fun and certainly worth of its name and heritage. If it’s a hard-core tactical shooter you want then you will be disappointed but to be honest I think this game reflects the situations our Special Forces find themselves in now, or will be soon as did the Ghost Recon of more than a decade a go. The world changes and it’s only right that military combat games do the same.