Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
PS3, Xbox360, PC (out next month)
When will those pesky foreigners learn? Having been blasted here, there and everywhere across umpteen episodes and expansion packs since Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon first tough-talked its way into the third-person shooter realm in 2001, they're still intent on causing international mischief. This time, the all-American elite Special Forces unit is needed to clear up global strife in the future, one that, interestingly, has taken a few hints and tips from the all-conquering Modern Warfare series, with a splash of Gears of War for size.
While the first Ghost Recon required nerves of steel, a tactical-focused shooter where one bullet could ruin everything, things have - thankfully - calmed down a little. Stealth and patience do still play a major role as you infiltrate terrorist strongholds and underground lairs, but you can now make the odd reckless charge into battle without risking it all.
The future - predictably - is not a peaceful one, and the main game mission sees you play Kozak, the leader of a four-man Ghost team (including obligatory character staples, such as a wisecracking redneck) that must head off on the trail of a dirty bomb. The future has, however, provided a few nifty equipment advances, most impressively the "optical camouflage" that is very handy when you want to sneak up on people unnoticed and, well, shoot them dead. There's also X-ray vision, mini drones that you can control for spying and even a vast weapons platform spitting out mortars. What fun.
The squad micromanagement that feature in previous Ghosts has gone, making things considerably less complicated. But there still is some team control, as you can mark targets up for four "hostiles" for you and your comrades to "neutralise" at the same time, a somewhat satisfying activity.
The main story mode is a meaty affair, with a complex plot and plenty of cover-based run-and-shoot action that takes you from drug barons in South America (where else?) to warlords in Africa (ditto) and beyond. However, the cutscenes between missions do let the side down somewhat, involving head-slappingly clichéd banter, while heavy metal and - at one point - Bob Marley blasts out of the stereo. Perhaps use this time to make a cup of tea.
Once you've rid the world of troublemakers after 12 sizeable missions, it's the turn of Ubisoft's multiplayer mode to shine. There are several modes, playable across 10 maps, for you to showcase your skills to antisocial teenagers across the online world. In Conflict, it's all mainly about holding and defending positions, while Decoy sees three objectives in play at the same time. For hardened gamers, go for Siege - there's no respawn.
The key to online success is teamwork, so you'll have to contain the inner maverick inside you who wants to go it alone if you want to get anywhere (or you can just do it anyway, for fun).
In all, Future Soldiers is a stylish and well-polished return for Clancy's pixelated heroes. Together with multiplayer mode, it could well keep you going till Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 barges into the limelight this November, or should at least have you shouting "RPG!" at inopportune moments throughout the day.