I should start out by admitting that I have found myself somewhat addicted to the Ghost Recon: Future Soldier multiplayer experience. When I first played the game’s MP during its beta, I enjoyed it, but there are so many other, similar games out there that I wasn’t sure if Ghost Recon had enough to keep my attention in the coming weeks–or even days–past the release.
Following the end of the beta, the review copy came (you can read my full review here), giving those of us with early access a free reign on the MP servers, allowing us to murder each other to our heart’s content while leveling up our characters and seeing what the game had to offer. This wasn’t a beta, this was the full game that a few lucky SOBs got our hands on early for review purposes. Then Ubisoft wiped all the accounts when the game officially launched, and all our progress was deleted.
I felt like I lost a puppy. Not my puppy maybe, but a friend’s puppy which allowed me to feel sad without the accompanying crippling emotional pain. The point is, I wasn’t sure if I would have the motivation to once again jump on Ghost Recon and start from scratch.
Fast forward two months, and I am still regularly playing it. There is an artful balance to the multiplayer that makes it an easy game to pick up, but requires and obsessive level of dedication to fully unlock.
Ubisoft timed the release of the “Arctic Strike” DLC well. The 10 multiplayer maps included with the game are massive, but many players are somewhat territorial about which of the four game modes they play, so after a while there could be a sense of fatigue regarding the original offerings. Most of us aren’t there yet, but the addition of three new additional maps (not counting the new guerilla map the DLC is named for) should keep the game feeling fresh for some time still. Adding a new game mode and several new weapons doesn’t hurt either.
So is it worth the 800 MS Points on XBL, and/or the $9.99 on PSN? Read on for our impressions of the new “Arctic Strike” DLC.
New Game mode
Stockade is similar to the non-respawn Siege mode, but with a key difference. When a teammate is killed, they are sent to the stockade. There they will become spectators, and they will also be in a queue with a number based on the order in which they died. When someone on your team kills an opponent, that brings the first person in line back in.
For a side to win, the opponents must not just be beaten, but almost dominated. That means games will generally be very short, or very long. Once a team begins to lose a few, it is almost like a power play for the other team. Alternatively, if both teams are playing cautiously the matches can feature a great deal of back and forth.
For most players this will be an interesting distraction and a possible evolution of Siege, but beyond that it won’t add much. Where this will make a difference is in clan battles. It is such a simple and elegant way for clans to really see who is best, and it would even make for an entertaining e-sport match. This mode is definitely for the more hardcore fans.
The first and most obvious thing to know about “Evicted” is that it is huge. Not just “kinda on the big side,” but massive. To give you an idea, it could take over a minute at full sprint to run from one side to another, and that doesn’t take into account the hallways, obstacles, and buildings in your way.
The level design itself is impressive, with the center dominated by high rise buildings and the fringes littered with various structures, walls, and items in that make for great firefights. There is plenty of cover, and when there are objectives forcing people towards certain areas, each section of the map has a character and life of its own.
Clean sniping lines and areas to duck behind make for decent ranged battles. Sub machine guns need not apply. The problem with sniping is that once the objective moves, you could literally spend the majority of the map without seeing a single enemy. This game is best for people with patience, and those that join as part of a group they can work with, specifically to help respawn closer to where they need to be. Of the three new maps, this is the most ambitious, but it also can be the most frustrating. It is exceptional and fast paced about half the time, but the rest of the game will be spent running to a location and looking for others.
Conflict works well here as long as you can spawn on a squad mate, but Siege and Stockade can make for a good time to check your email or read a book as your teammates wander around for minutes looking for someone to shoot.
A relatively small map set against a ruined city street, consisting of several alleys that surround a main street and connect to a few buildings. Running down the center street is risky, but there is plenty of cover to protect the bold.
“Riot” is almost the exact opposite of “Evicted.” It is cramped and favors maneuverable rifles, shotguns, and SMGs over ranged weapons, and setting traps on the cramped passages can lead to some big kills. Strategy will generally trump run-and-gun here, and a silenced weapon in the hands of a patient player can be a thing of beauty—assuming they are on your team.
Of the three, this is map will offer the most fast-paced games, with high kill counts and plenty of objective changes. Proper use of your equipment will make a huge difference.
Conflict will feature a lot of back and forth, but Saboteur can offer some of the most frantic and intense games available. Siege and Stockade benefit from the small size as well.
Set on a multi-tiered rooftop, “Skyline” feels similar to the map “Rig” from the original maps. You will need to keep your head on a pivot and watch for attacks from all directions if you hope to survive. That makes holding down an area difficult, and getting shot from the sides inevitable.
Engineer classes are going to love the open areas as their UAVs rack up a ton of points—assuming their teammates can move together. It is easy to get lost here the first few times, but once you understand the layout, if you can keep a group together you can circle this map and decimate the other team.
The multiple levels will make it tough on snipers, but ranged weapons will work well and SMGs are suited for players willing to camp out. A silenced gun from an elevated location can be devastating.
Of the new maps, this one offers the most variety, and can work for all the game modes.
Weapons, Level Cap, and the Guerilla
The name “Arctic Strike” is taken from this new guerilla co-op map. The map itself is fine, but it is nothing that will get people to rush off and begin to play the mode just because of it. Guerilla just isn’t a hug emphasis in Future Soldier, unfortunately. For those that have been enjoying it though, the new map will offer a solid challenge, but it won’t be radically different. Still, a good inclusion.
The DLC offers six news weapons, all of which are essentially the same as other weapons you will unlock as you play. There are a few that you can get a bit earlier thanks to this DLC, but none that are significantly better. That is in keeping with the game’s other weapons though. Most simply come down to a matter of preference. The six new guns are a nice touch of variety, but none of which will be a huge draw.
The raising of the level cap is going to be somewhat controversial. One of the issues with the multiplayer since its launch has been the time it takes to level up. It can take a long, long time to max out all three categories and unlock new weapons. Adding another 10 levels is fine, but it is more of a preventative measure that stops you from getting to the unlockable character slot you used to get when you hit 50, and it gives you nothing for it. Once you hit level 50, you have unlocked all the weapons and equipment, but you then have 10 more levels to go but there is nothing to earn. It will be great for the most incredibly dedicated fans, but the lack of reward will likely be a negative for many.
If you are playing the multiplayer, then this map pack is a no-brainer. At only $10, the three multiplayer maps alone help make one of the best multiplayer games this year even better. The guerilla map, weapons, and new achievements are just an added bonus. The level cap is actually a bit frustrating since there is no reward for the additional experience, but the hardcore may enjoy it.