Much has changed since Tom Clancy's advanced warfighters began their transition to future soldiers. Tooled up with a bag of MacGuffins straight out of a military research facility powered by amazing science, our new quartet of quick-shooting military men come packing some fancy prototype weaponry. There's whizzy camouflage suits that turn you invisible when crouching, pocket-sized drones that can transform into UAVs or cars, and enough of Ubisoft's signature screen overlays to make you wonder for a few seconds if you're actually playing the game from within an Animus.
There's plenty of fun to be had by tinkering with Mr Clancy's fanciful future toys, such as marking up a building's worth of targets with a sensor grenade or driving a cloaked remote control car around the heels of your unsuspecting foes. A weighty sense of player momentum and heavy weaponry keeps you grounded in some semblance of reality, though, as does a competent suppression system and some delightful bullet recoil.
Far more important than all the technology America can muster, however, is the power of teamwork - which sounds awfully like the kind of lesson a gang of heroes discovers over the course of a Saturday morning cartoon, but you just can't beat the classics. Using a fairly intuitive marking system and some on-screen prompts, your team can designate up to four targets to be taken down in unison, dispatched with lethal AI precision in single-player or in a slightly clumsier but ultimately more satisfying manner when playing with a group of friends.
A lengthy single-player campaign gets off to a worrying start as you trek through a few too many soulless environments while unintentionally-comedic civilians run around looking terrified as weak, tinny screaming effects play out awkwardly in the background. The momentum of the campaign picks up dramatically, however, after you're forced to plod through a hidden Russian outpost buried in snowfields, and the end chunk vastly outshines what's come before.
There's a tangible sense that Ubisoft doesn't even know what it wants the game to be, fighting a war on two fronts as it attempts to both out-stealth and out-action a whole cache of other competing titles. This lack of clarity ensures the muddled set-pieces never quite play out with the right sparkle, and that the stealth is never quite complex enough to really satisfy.
Future Soldier's multiplayer, much like its single-player campaign, can never really escape the fact it feels stitched together from other designs, and in doing so it gains scope and diversity at the cost of a clear, unified direction; it almost becomes more than the sum of its parts, but not quite. Regardless, its punishing arsenal and focus on strong teamwork will likely help it become a prime stomping ground for hardcore shooter fans over the summer period.
While there's enough to like about Future Soldier, it doesn't quite live up to the pedigree of the series. Occasionally ambitious but ultimately too afraid to deviate from the genre's well-worn formulas, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier feels like it's stuck in the past.
Virgin Media verdict:
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