"Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" is a video game that doesn't really know what it wants to be. It's a slight departure from its roots, but at the same time, seems to borrow from every major title in the genre. There is a dash of "Gears of War," a smidge of "Modern Warfare," and a sprinkling of "Black Ops," to name a few. I've heard people complaining about this since the game's release, but personally, I don't mind. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then "GRFS" flatters all who came before it. Adding enough original material to hold its own, players should give it a fair shake before dismissing it.
Single player mode takes players on 12 missions in eight locations around the globe, and it's all very pretty. In "GRFS" players join an elite team of special-ops soldiers. Armed with practically anything you can think up, your team's missions usually rage from locate-and-eliminate to locate-and-rescue. Stealth is the main focus of the game. For those who choose to go guns-a-blazing, you'll find the number of gun-toting enemies drastically multiplies when the alarms have been triggered.
Aiding in keeping things stealthy is the inclusion of optical camouflage, which turns you and your team into something you'd find in a "Predator" movie. You can practically stand a few feet from your enemy and they won't see you as long as your camo is on and you're moving slowly. It comes in handy when sneaking up on a guard to eliminate him from the equation.
Do you like customizing your weapons? Yes? Great! In "GRFS" you can customize your various armaments down to each gritty detail. With the touch of a button (on the selection screen) your gun and all its inner workings separate from themselves, allowing players to select individual parts to upgrade. Chose from dozens of attachments and components and test your new design in the game's firing range before starting your next mission.
Wearing what can only be described as Google goggles on steroids, players have real time data flashing on the screen at all times. At times it was odd, seeing paragraphs of data seemingly floating in midair all around, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Throwing a special sensor "bomb" allows players to see all nearby enemies. Launching an unmanned drone lets you scope out the terrain from up high. If you're feeling lazy, mark targets from the air with your drone, and send in your team to eliminate the targets in one coordinated effort.
Speaking of coordinated efforts, the game features Sync Shot, which allows you to coordinate an attack by you and your team. There is something satisfying about taking out four baddies at the same time - without anyone ever knowing your team was there.
With cover swap, players can dash from one covered area to another during firefights. You can peek around walls at your targets and jump over barriers to achieve a better vantage point. I was impressed at how fluid the movements were when running from one area to another without getting spotted.
Multiplayer is king these days, and "GRFS" offers a nice variety of modes to satisfy any gamer. I'm a huge fan of co-op modes, where you can join three friends and go to town on all 12 missions. It's one thing to coordinate attacks with the A.I. in the solo campaign, but coordinating the same attack with a bunch of friends in real time is extremely fun and fulfilling.
Guerrilla mode has been added to the co-op game, allowing players to face waves of enemies while compete specific tasks and goals. It's a pretty nifty addition, adding more replay value and difficulty to the game.
Those more interested in standard multiplayer gaming will get to take on three classes of soldier (rifleman, engineer and scout), each with their own set of skills. I'll say this, the multiplayer in this game truly gives a reason to wear your headset and communicate with your fellow teammates. The better you communicate the more dominant your team will become.
What sets "Future Soldier" apart from its peers is the team aspect of the game. Sure, "Modern Warfare" has you jumping into a warzone with a few other soldiers, but it often feels like they're just there for show and you're doing all the work. Here, your teammates are your lifeline. Get hurt and your teammate will heal you. Need to take down several enemies in a single blow? Organize your team to take them all out at once. "GRFS" has its heart in its roots, and although it may borrow slightly from other games, I had a blast playing it. And yes, that pun was intended.
"Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" is out now for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.