It used to be that the name Tom Clancy raised images of techno-thriller novels packed with undercover espionage and the latest in futuristic military science. Now there are scores of Clancy fans who've never read a single line of prose from the best-selling author. They know him only as that guy whose name is on their video game. Make that video games. The Tom Clancy moniker has been on the front cover of some 50 popular games dating back to the late 1980s.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is the latest of that crop to hit the top of the sales charts. It showcases a bunch of super-soldiering tech and a series of round-the-world, stealthy missions aimed at assessing, assisting … and annihilating.
Deadly Deeds Done Dirty
The story starts out when soldier specialists are deployed in Nicaragua to disrupt weapons trafficking. However, after stopping a convoy of vehicles they uncover a highly radioactive "dirty bomb" that's then remotely detonated, taking out the whole team.
Your four-man ghost squad of elite soldiers are subsequently assigned the task of finding out where that dangerous device came from, what its intended purpose was and, of course, nipping any potentially deadly plots in the bud before they blossom into world-destabilizing crises.
In the campaign mode, you can play alone with a team of three other AI soldiers or go co-op with a handful of real-life gaming pals. In either case, realistic military maneuvers are key. You won't find any mindless running and gunning here. Tactics and stealthy teamwork are proven regularly to be every bit as important as a lightning-fast trigger finger.
In fact, part of the main challenge is to live up to the "ghost" name in the title—using high-tech optical camouflage to slip in and out for a quick rescue or to execute a series of stealth melee kills without being discovered. In addition, special spy sensor grenades, X-ray devices, hovering drones, walking heavy robots called War Hounds, and hundreds if not thousands of enhanced you-build-it gun combinations are all at the ready to help you and your team with each assigned mission.
Even more cool-as-a-cucumber carnage capability comes in the form of the sync shot. When spotting enemies, you can tag up to four of them from a distance, then signal for drones or your teammates to take them out in one slick move. That way you have the ability to control the squad's firepower without actually controlling their maneuvers—they move, take cover and interact with targets as needed to fulfill your orders.
The Realism of a Digital War
Between the clean graphics and the finely detailed missions, the game delivers a very realistic impression of what it might be like to work as a skilled military team member. In fact, if you start acting out of character with that team structure—moving beyond the mission parameters or shooting innocent civilians, for instance—the current session abruptly ends and, with a slap on the wrist-like move, you're sent back to try again. That's a nice touch, and a moral one, too. But, of course, when an M-rated shooter shoots for realism, you've also got to be prepared for it to bring along a certain amount of realistic ugliness.
While actually playing, you hear squishy-sounding thuds and see red blood-spray puffs when a bullet strikes home. While watching the video cutscenes, you're exposed to much, much more. From the opening battle with radioactive explosions and bubbling flesh wounds, to up-close gore-splashing assassinations, to a skyscraper disaster that involves sheets of broken glass ripping and impaling city dwellers, the goings-on can be brutal. And there are no content filters to eliminate that spattering mess or the f- and s-bombs that pepper the dialogue.
This is not one of those games designed to spill its goop as a way of entertaining players with grisly gore. And as some of its realistic war-themed peers also do, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier generally lauds the heroism and bravery of soldiers who fight and die to protect our nation and its freedoms.
But that also means the enemy you face in the crosshairs of your weapon here isn't some purple alien or snaggletoothed monster: It's a face that looks like the neighbor next door or the classmate at school. Whether it wants to or not, the game teaches tactics that can be just as deadly on or off the battlefield. It can even be accused of helping desensitize someone to the horrors of pulling a trigger.