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Why…in my day, there was no Call of Duty or Battlefield. If you wanted to fight bad guys in a squad-based setting, you had to play Rainbow Six. That’s one of the first games that showcased cool technology and squads you could coordinate with to take down the bad guys. Then along came the copycats, and Tom Clancy games were mostly forgotten—a few came out, but they didn’t make much of a dent.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is an attempt to wrest back the throne. In some areas it succeeds, and in others it’s frustratingly generic.

The game starts out with an explosion that blow up a Ghost Squad (behind-the-scenes, we’ll-disavow-knowledge guys). Now your Ghost Squad’s been tasked with finding out who did it and why. This leads to a pretty generic plot involving Russia, revolutions, and kidnapped officials. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before.

The toys are what make Tom Clancy games fun. I still remember using a heartbeat sensor in Rainbow Six to find out how many bad guys were in a room, and where they were.

This time you’re given more cool toys, such as drones that let you fly up overhead and tag enemies, and a mechanized walking “dog” that just wrecks everything in its path for the missions its in. It’s fun, but part of me felt like you could send half a dozen of them into any battlefield and never worry about your own men being killed.

Another big tech feature was the electronic camo that let you become partially invisible, as long as you didn’t move too quickly. What bugged me is that I could be standing still with that camo active and an enemy would still be able to see me, while the other members of my squad could dance the Charleston in front of enemies and they’d never see them.

One thing that’s useful is that you can “tag” enemies and coordinate with your squad as to when to take them out. On your word, four enemies are down at once. Unfortunately, that’s about all of the coordination you can do—I highly suggest playing this with friends to get the full tactical benefits.

With all of these toys and tech at my disposal, I was excited about being able to tackle missions in interesting and creative ways. Alas…when I would try to go around to flank a force I would get a message from a squad-mate telling me “we’re not authorized to be in that area.” So we can send a squad of trained killers in to infiltrate and do whatever we want, but if I want to go through that alley, that’s forbidden. Those moments made me feel like I was on rails and that I was supposed to play the game exactly this certain way. And I get enough of that with the Call of Duty games.

One thing I did like was the fact that the missions seemed more realistic than the competition—relatively speaking, of course. No segments where you’re racing down a mountain on a snowmobile and picking off enemies while going 50 miles an hour. No Michael Bay moments, I guess. I played through on the default difficulty, and it seemed to be an okay challenge—but then I got to the very end and the difficulty completely spiked. And it’s not like the enemies get better or you have to really implement what you’ve learned up to this point. More like, “You have .05 seconds to shoot that guy while both of you are running or you auto-lose and have to go back to the last checkpoint.” It was super-frustrating rather than super-exciting.

Graphically it was hit-and-miss. Most of the time your team was wearing lots of gear and helmets, and it looked fine. But during the cut-scenes back at base, people were really blocky, like they’d been carved out of rock. But then you’d walk into an area and the smoke effects would be incredibly realistic. It’s a complete mish-mash.

One of the touted features is the Gunsmith one, which lets you customize EVERYTHING on your weapons, from sights to barrel length to trigger to stocks to paint. I can see how some people would dig that kind of minute detail, but I couldn’t tell much of a difference, so spent the game playing stock weapons.

There’s full co-op for the campaign, so you and three friends can play through it together. Multiplayer is fine, and includes objective-based missions—along with a guerilla mode that has waves of enemies coming at you. Decoy Mode is easily the best and most unique one: It has you searching for an objective among three choices—one’s real and two are decoys. The opposing team trying to defend can see all three objectives, too, but they don’t know which one is the real one either. You switch sides after each round.

Stuff to consider:

  • Alcohol—There’s a cutscene where the soldiers were drinking while off duty and back at base. It wasn’t emphasized or celebrated.
  • Violence—Lots of death and killing. When you snipe someone, there is lots of blood. It’s on par with other shooters.
  • Language—There’s a surprising amount of cursing in this—up to and including f-bombs.
  • Sex/Nudity—None.

In the end, the game is fine. It’s not “exciting” enough to break the stranglehold Call of Duty and Battlefield have. And there’s not enough freedom to make it appealing for the lover of “realistic,” tactical games. Maybe a rental—since the campaign only takes eight to 10 hours—or wait for it to drop to $20.

 

Scott Firestone IV is an editor for Group Magazine and youthministry.com. You can follow him on Twitter @firestone.

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