From Splinter Cell, to Rainbow Six, to Ghost Recon and even EndWar - all Clancy games share the same DNA. Yes, obviously, they're all about shooting men in the face from various distances, and saving the planet from dastardly terrorist groups (usually based in Russia), but one thing that often gets overlooked is that they're all world leaders in making you feel like a badass.
Future Soldier is no exception - no other game does spec ops as confidently or convincingly. However, in doing so, it treads a little too hard on Splinter Cell's toes, giving you a slight sense that you've played this game before...
Where do you stand on Splinter Cell Conviction? Some loved it, others not so much. If you're in the Conviction fan club you'll enjoy the direction Ubisoft are taking Ghost Recon in. Crudely, Future Soldier is all about arriving in an area full of bad guys, scouting them out, picking off as many as you can without raising the alarm, and finishing the rest off with the largest gun you can carry. It's Conviction's aggressive stealth on a larger scale, with more men to kill and more allies to murder them with. Winner.
Those who bemoaned Splinter Cell's move away from more traditional stealth will have similar problems with GRFS. Everything has been streamlined - from targeting to your use of gadgets - and although that makes the game more accessible, it cuts down on the hardcore factor. You don't have to struggle to be good at Future Soldier, and while that's a good thing through 90% of the game, you feel a little spoon-fed for the other 10%. And some people love a challenge...
What remains constant from GRAW to GRFS (acronyms FTW) is the Clancy-ness; that uber-military styling so many shooters have since adopted. It almost feels self-parody now, requiring a Masters in Oscar-Mike-ology from the University of 30 Clicks Northwest to keep up. As far as we can tell, bad people are trying to occupy Moscow, except it isn't the Russians because the Cold War is over. It's ultranationalists; and just like Nazis, zombies and aliens, you can shoot ultranationalists all day without upsetting anyone. Phew.
Although the plot is near-unintelligible, it does have you hopping the globe to a variety of regions you don't often get to ruin in shooters. The Nigerian desert, an oil-tanker in the Norwegian Sea, a traffic jam in Peshawar - these are all unusual and spectacular places you'll visit during the campaign. The simple fact that you're not crawling down Fifth Avenue yawning as the Chrysler building explodes makes Future Soldier feel a little different. Each stage looks decent enough, and what they lack in visual polish, they make up for in massive scale. Stages can last for up to an hour at a time and they're filled with opportunities to get creative when you're picking off bad-guys.
As we alluded to before, Future Soldier makes you feel like King Gun. There's a smoothness to the movement of your soldier thanks to real spec ops hardcase mo-capping and consultation, and it genuinely makes a difference in combat. From opening doors and clearing rooms, to sprinting from cover to cover in open battle, this game feels right. Headshots are brutal, weapons handle genuinely differently when you tinker with them in Gunsmith, and scenery falls apart as you riddle it with bullets. What's more, the tactical side is well implemented and finely balanced. Early levels teach the basics of commanding teammates to take simultaneous shots (you can tag up to four enemies at once before giving the kill order, in some cases completely clearing that area of hostiles), while later stages ask you to consider how many you can pick off quietly - swinging a firefight in your favour - before setting off the alarm. Get it right and you can clear whole levels without ever being spotted.