Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier opens with an ambush in Nicaragua, as a dirty bomb goes off – a brief tutorial to get a feel for the controls that quickly becomes an introduction to the horrors of war as you fall off a cliff with your arms burning like pork steak on a napalm barbecue.
We’re then despatched on a revenge campaign, beginning with a mission to Bolivia to blow up annoyingly skittish civilians and that old action movie staple, the fresh watermelon. Cover-based shooting is the modus operandi, as you crouch, crawl and – in my rather pacifistic way – cower your way across the various locales.
Reinforcing the old career’s advice theory that joining the army is good way to see the world, Africa is next, specifically Zambia, where you first get to use your neat camo-gear in the search for information about the perpetrators of the barbecued Recon group from the intro sequence.
Said camouflage gear soon becomes a large part of the game, blurring your visual presence to blend in with the background and allowing you to approach unseen until the moment to strike arrives – hence the name of the team. Our recon unit is like a group of “ghosts” you see, stalking the both physical bodies and haunted consciences of the enemy soldiers alike.
The missions are nice and varied, some being straight stealth operations, crawling on your belly like a giant sand-coated slug, or hiding in doorways for an opening before dashing through gaps as soldiers turn away to light a cigarette (or kick a small child) perhaps.
Others are straight shooters as you blast away wildly en route to the extraction zone, ammo be damned. As you progress through the game new toys like flying drones are made available, so increasing your capacity for stealthy movement and tracking hostile movements.
The ability to mark targets and fire as one unit is neat too, meaning you can scope out any potential threats, mark them up, then retreat as your trusty team-mates take care of the dirty work. This tactical element becomes more and more necessary as you progress through the game, via Norway and Pakistan, facing ever more ardent challenges to American morality.
Before each adventure we are briefed about our enemies in cutscenes usually involving them doing something morally despicable, encouraging our blood to boil – not always the best tactic in a stealth operation.
Choosing your load out is simple, and the gunsmith feature whereby you can alter weapons based on a number of factors – grips, muzzles, optics et al – means you can tinker to your hearts content. The game does however stop short of letting you notch your kills into the barrel of your rifle – perhaps for the best, considering the game’s body count.
Memorable set pieces (an epic gunfight using only magnetic imaging in a fierce and blinding sandstorm springs to mind) and solid gameplay make this a decent buy for any shooter fan. The Tom Clancy licence is perhaps appropriate too, as like his books although never in (clear and present) danger of raising the bar for the genre, it does a solid job of keeping you turning those pages, or in this case pushing that start button for the next mission.