Review | 5/30/2012 at 8:47 AM

Ghost Recon Future Soldier Co-Op Review

Now you see me, now you don't.

It has been way too long since we've had a proper Ghost Recon title. Like many other Tom Clancy games, the series originated on the PC and has gone through an evolution thanks to a large console userbase. The latest title, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier, further follows the trend of integrating cool gadgetry into your arsenal, making you feel more like a Halo Spartan than a modern fighting machine.

As the franchise has evolved, the game has gotten less and less tactical and more about the action. That said, Future Soldier takes things back in the right direction, providing players with more tactical options provided by the scenarios than Advanced Warfighter 1 and 2 was capable of doing. You are still forced down a mostly linear path for the battles at play, but how you handle them is where your freedom comes.

Taking a cue from Splinter Cell Conviction, Future Soldier has implemented a method of tagging enemies and then synchronizing take downs of said enemies. The co-op implications are obvious, but these can be done in single player giving you control of four soldiers at anytime. Approach a firefight, discover the enemy, tag them and wait for the shot and fire. All four soldiers will take down their targets making for quick work of anything in your path. At times it's pretty obvious the game is gift wrapping this for you - “oh look, there just happens to be 4 guys playing soccer by this truck” - instead of, ya know - 6 or 8. Your drone, once available, plays a huge part here and allows you to get an overhead view of the battlefield as well as tagging enemies for takedowns.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier does an amazing job with pacing and introduction of its gadgets. With so many knick-knacks at your disposal, simply throwing them all at you and saying have fun would never have worked. Instead the first handful of missions gradually give you access to things like the drone, sensor grenades, and various other objects that help you survey the battlefield and deal damage to your enemy. Even in the missions themselves the game reinforces how to use these early on, because later, it becomes absolutely crucial that you do.

It's here that you realize this is still a Ghost Recon game, despite the more action oriented feel to the battles. Standing out in the open gets your ass capped in seconds. Moving between cover is a dangerous affair. You absolutely have to provide cover fire for your team and order them to do the same for you, taking down enemies one at a time and creating space much like a soccer player would challenging multiple defenders to open a passing lane.

While the story is mostly cliche, there are a good variety of missions and locales to keep things interesting. Close quarters combat is mixed with wide open affairs throughout desert, snow, and jungle areas. Ok, so the maps are cliche too. But there is a broken down city level! Damn it. Shanty town! Yeah, it's all here. But it's good, trust me.

One highlight of the campaign is something I described in my E3 preview, these mini-on-rails segments that have you working with your team to escape a scenario. They are adrenaline filled goodness at just the right length, and don't appear too often to make them boring. They break up the pacing just right and are damn fun to boot.

The entire campaign in Future Soldier is playable in co-op, though you'll need to bring your own friends because there's absolutely no form of matchmaking whatsoever. You can join any match, provided you can find one. What's bizarre is you can set a match to be private, friends only or open. Despite having an open option there isn't exactly a way to FIND public games. You aren't limited by mission progression for joining a game, but your progress won't carry back to your saved game other than any unlocks you may have earned by completing bonus goals. The game originally touted drop-in/drop-out play, but that's not supported. The only time someone can join is before a mission begins. Now that all the technical stuff is over with, how does the co-op actually play?

I found it a bit odd actually, it felt more difficult. Usually you play co-op to make a game easier, but segments that require stealth (and cause failure on alarms) can be quite frustrating. There were times we had to do numerous reloads trying to work our way past some guards. The timed shot aspect that works so well in single player isn't as smooth in co-op without a bit of practice. I wasn't able to get a four player session going, but I can see the campaign being very attractive in LAN party atmosphere.

Co-Op extends itself outside the campaign into something called Guerilla Mode. This is Future Soldier's take on co-op survival modes. You have 50 waves of bad guys to survive, with each one getting more and more difficult. Between waves you can run around to various crates to switch weapons or refill your ammo. If you manage to survive a certain number of waves you'll earn bonus equipment too from something called Wave Streaks - items like a mini turret or radar boost become available for a one time use.

The levels for Guerilla mode are mostly arena-like, but the mix up of moving from location to location every 10 waves helps keep things feeling fresh. Every handful of waves there's a bonus wave where taking down all enemies without being detected will earn you bonus points. These points, which are also earned for completing actions in quick succession go towards your overall score and leaderboard position.

While I enjoyed most of my time with Future Soldier, I do have a few gripes. The biggest is the atrocious menu system and the difficulty to tell just what certain options were. I also ran into several issues where AI teammates wouldn't get to a trigger location to start the next scene. Also, seriously, what is up with rolling metal garage doors in co-op games blocking your path and needing a group of soldiers to lift them?

Ghost Recon Future Soldier feels like one of those games you'll either be drug down by its annoyances, or you'll look past them and find a really fun experience underneath. Those of you worried that this Ghost Recon game is a departure for the series, rest assured, this is a tactical FPS true to the franchise. The new, more action-oriented sections of the game really help break up the slower stealth sections, while the variety of guns and customizations should help keep the core audience happy. It's been awhile since we've had a proper Ghost Recon game, but I think it was worth the wait.

This co-op review of Ghost Recon Future Soldier is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.