Where Future Soldier's combat occasionally falls down is pacing. Some stages drag on a little too long, while others stumble when on-rails sections rear their ugly head. Shooting a minigun from a helicopter feels played out, and it doesn't help that in GRFS the on-rails guns are far twitchier than the rest of the weaponry. They're disturbing disconnects (in terms of ethos and action) from otherwise polished shooting scenarios. The only thing to recommend them is that they're mercifully scarce.
What feels oh-so-right about Ghost Recon is Gunsmith. One of the most in-depth weapon customisation systems in any game, Gunsmith lets you fiddle with every part of your chosen weapon. Muzzle, barrel, stock, magazine, rail, trigger, scope, gas system, paint, under-barrel - you can adjust everything on every weapon in the game (think of it as the Forza of guns). And there are plenty of guns too, ranging from rifles (sniper, assault) to shotguns, sidearms and SMGs. Once you're done, you can head to the firing range to test out your new homemade murder device. Amazingly, even the smallest changes can have a big effect on combat, so you really need to pay attention to marrying up your arsenal with your play style. With no reality-busting perks or superhuman powers, there's something refreshing about geeking out over a simple assault rifle and making it your own.
Creating a specialised weapon setup gets even more critical when you head into co-op. You can play the whole campaign with friends, and we recommend doing just that. Providing your friends aren't ballbags. Or Russian ultranationalists. Coordinating synchronised shots requires teamwork, and although you can do it without talking, you'll get better results from discussing strategy. The whole story has been built to give co-op players slightly different roles, and in some levels - like the one set in the Arctic where you control a devastating mech - players will squabble over who gets to play with the best toys.
There's a horde-style co-op mode too, which doesn't make the most of GRFS's tactical elements, so it's slightly weaker than the co-op campaign. It is tough, though, so will appeal if you're trying to recapture some of that hardcore Ghost Recon challenge. Or head online to be routinely murdered by people distinctly more skilful and less employed than you. We can't say how the Future Soldier community will develop, but previous games have drawn a fiercely competitive crowd (if a friendlier one than that around younger shooters like COD).
In all, Ghost Recon Future Soldier is a pleasant surprise. Much like Splinter Cell Conviction before it, the gamble of ripping up the initial concept and starting from scratch seems to have paid dividends - good news for the recently 'back to the drawing board' Rainbow Six Patriots. The authenticity of the soldier movement and weaponry given to the game by its spec op consultants is a triumph, and it combines with the imaginative locations to create a game that... well, it just makes you feel like a badass.
Some may grumble that Ghost Recon has dumbed down to grab the COD dollar. They're wrong. While thematically similar, this crafted, tactical shooter is a world away from the pop-gun cinema of Activision's arcade shooter, and - in the end - finds greatness on its own terms.
A new direction for Ghost Recon, but one that brings together spec ops realism with excellent player control and an interesting, globe-hopping story.
- Smart, tactical antidote to COD's whizz-bang arcade shooting
- Amazing feeling on empowerment: you feel like a highly trained soldier
- Gunsmith mode is superb
- Great co-op campaign
- Some of the mission pacing is off
- On rails shooting sections? Again?