Well, well, well, would you look at this? One of the best games of 2012 so far is “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.” It doesn’t reinvent the war game. It just executes it masterfully.
You portray a U.S. special op, the kind of super soldier that: A) If your mission succeeds, the media will never know; and B) If your mission fails, the government will deny your existence.
In “Future Soldier,” you are accompanied by three special-op comrades. The four of you are dropped into a series of missions in dangerous lands overrun by warlord thugs.
This isn’t a sandbox adventure, so you don’t get to run around villages, willy-nilly, killing bad guys on a whim.
Instead, you have very specific goals. You are helicoptered to an entry point. You sneak around bases; quietly kill certain bad guys; extract a prisoner or gather intel; then escape via helicopter. You occasionally have loud shoot-outs.
There are real people in the U.S. military with jobs like this. For the rest of us, we pretend.
This is the best “Tom Clancy” game in years, and maybe ever. The game’s designers have developed intense, difficult and finely illustrated battle missions for you to carry out.
The cool effectiveness of “Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” rests, as I said, in its execution. It is designed spectacularly.
While you creep around terrorist tents, buildings and hideout-hills, you are equipped with several super-cool tactical accoutrements.
First, you get the ability to toss a robot-esque ball (the size of a tennis ball) into a terrorist lair, or use a small flying drone to survey a field.
Those two techniques let you visually “tag” each bad guy in the order you want your three cohorts to shoot them. (This isn’t a new technique in war games, but it works like a charm.)
My two favorite abilities in this game: 1) A cloaking device, much like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility; and 2) goggles that let you see X-ray vision through buildings and cars.
As is the case with war games generally, “Future Soldier” doesn’t show us many film scenes of characters’ discussing why evil exists. Rather, you are painfully aware evil exists, due to bad guys’ underhanded murdering, so you take them out.
The game comes with cooperative and decent online-multiplayer modes.
The solo campaign has good replay value potential, because you can replay missions on the hardest setting, or try to achieve challenges, such as sneaking through a level without killing a single bad guy.
By the way, I don’t want to bag on the new “Max Payne 3” game. But the visual style of “Max Payne 3” is so frenetic, I infer that game’s imagery frenzy is trying to mask its less-effective gaming.
By comparison, “Future Soldier’s” visual style is as straight-forward as war games get. It doesn’t need crazy visual editing, because it so wonderfully conceived that it feels 100 percent confident it will kick your butt. And it does.
(“Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” by Ubisoft retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC - Plays fun. Looks terrific. Challenging. Rated “M” for blood, intense violence and strong language. Four out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.