Ghost Recon: Future Soldier — Raven Strike DLC review

Ghost Recon Future Soldier - Raven Strike DLC

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier is, in my book, the strongest shooter we’ve seen this year (check out or full review for details). It’s a joy to play once you’re on the ground with a virtual gun in your virtual hands, and the use of cool military future tech, coupled with some excellent co-op play and team AI, comes together to create an exceptional gameplay experience. The game is marred by shaky technical execution outside of the actual play — I’m talking about multiplayer connections, matchmaking, Ubisoft’s unreliable servers, and a number of counter-intuitive design choices — but the bits that matter are so strong that it’s easy to overcome any frustration you might feel over the other issues.

Raven Strike is Ubisoft’s first campaign-focused DLC pack for Future Soldier. You get three story-driven missions plus a single new Guerilla map, that I frankly forgot about until I re-read the official press release, because the survival mode is so underwhelming in its own right. The map is set around a sawmill in the Russian countryside, the same basic setting that is the focus of one of the new campaign missions. It’s fine, I guess. As I said above, I feel like Guerilla is a flawed, half-baked mode with not enough of a hook to maintain attention over 50 waves. If you dig it though, well hey… new map. Righteous.

The campaign content breaks down into three missions that will each take your roughly 60-90 minutes on an initial playthrough. There’s a story, something involving a coup in Russia and your attempts to prevent Raven’s Rock, a group of hardline nationalists, from burning the country to the ground, but much like the original game’s campaign it’s largely forgettable and beside the point. What matters is the play, which Ubisoft described as more of a throwback to classic Ghost Recon titles, with larger maps and tougher missions.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier Raven StrikeI’m not sure how exactly the three new missions qualify as a throwback, though the first of them strips you of your fancy futuretech and none of them include any of the on-rails shooting sequences that marked some of the more climactic moments in the May 2012 release. The challenge is undeniably stiffer, but that’s a good thing. Overall, the three new missions offer a thoroughly entertaining expansion on the core game.

The first mission sends your four-man team through a nighttime swamp searching through the wreckage of an aerial transport shot down by Raven’s Rock. Between wading through chest-high waters, losing your stealth and sensor tech, and navigating through the nighttime fog, there’s a real need to change up the way you probably played through Future Soldier‘s campaign. You don’t have the tools that you had before, and so must rely on what you can see and hear in order to push through. There’s some great sneaking and sniping opportunities on this map, as well as a climactic “hold the line” gun battle to wrap things up.

The next mission shifts to the daytime setting of a rolling Russian countryside. Your gear is back but your orders, at least for the first couple sections, require total stealth. You can kill freely, but only if no alerts are raised. This section of the mission includes some very tense moments that require lots of team coordination and, as a helicopter begins running regular patrols overhead, careful timing. The stealth restriction eventually goes away, at which point you’re essentially running a free-fire gauntlet for the rest of the mission. There’s a nice mix of action here, and another “hold the line” combat scenario to finish things off.

The final mission brings your squad to the streets of Moscow, where they’re tasked with taking our four high-ranking members of Bodark, Russia’s own Ghost-like spec ops force.  This is, by far, the most elaborate of the three missions. You take your targets out in a pre-determined sequence (ie there’s no free-roaming element here), but the map layout and enemy placement — which includes more than a few vehicles and auto-turrets –create some killer challenges. Few games are better at making you feel like a badass than Ghost Recon: Future Soldier when you’re doing it right, and the third of these three missions highlights that very effectively.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier Raven StrikeUnfortunately, it’s not all good news to report. Raven Strike feels like a boiled-down version of what’s great and what’s not so great about Future Soldier. The missions themselves are exceptional and, frankly, worth the price of admission, but everything on the outside is still as janky and unreliable as ever. Solo play worked fine, but whenever I switched to play co-op, the pre-mission briefing video would not play for me — I just got a blank screen — and I would invariably be disconnected from my co-op partner as we transitioned from briefing to mission. My fellow player would then have to get to the first checkpoint save, quit, and reload directly into the mission, effectively preventing me from making any pre-mission preparations.

While a technical issue such as that could be chalked up to one person’s setup simply not working for one reason or another, there are also, once again, some issues with the design. All three of the campaign missions offer challenges to complete just like the main campaign missions. Unlike the campaign challenges, however, these DLC challenges are just there for the sake of it. There are no weapon or attachment unlocks tied to their completion like there are in the main campaign. It feels like lazy, paint-by-numbers design. The main game had challenges and so the DLC must have challenges, but screw the rewards. There’s no sense to it at all.

That said, I can’t help but recommend Raven Strike to anyone who had a good time playing through the Future Soldier campaign. The three new missions offer more of the same great gameplay, complete with some new twists and turns that weren’t part of the main game. Some of the design choices continue to be downright baffling, and the new Guerilla map is debatably worthwhile, but the 3-5 hours of entertainment that you’ll get out of the expanded campaign content make it all worthwhile.

(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Ubisoft)

Product Review

It's so fast it has a clip-on fan. But the Asus ROG phone isn't just for gamers

Is a gaming smartphone only something a mobile gamer should consider buying? In the case of the Asus ROG Phone, the good news is the device is so capable, and a genuinely impressive all-rounder, that everyone should take a closer look…
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Mobile

Master your new Nokia 7.1 with our favorite tips and tricks

At $350, the Nokia 7.1 is a nearly perfect budget phone. It has a gorgeous body, good hardware, and a capable camera. Recently purchased the Nokia 7.1? Here are a few of our favorite tips and tricks to get you started with your new phone.
Mobile

Google, Samsung, OnePlus, and Huawei face off in an Android battle royale

The good news is that there are some great options in the Android smartphone market right now. The bad news is that too much choice makes it tough to decide. We compare the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6T, and the Mate 20 Pro.
Gaming

Struggling to survive 'Battlefield 5?' Our boot camp will keep you in the fight

Battlefield V's multiplayer component can be overwhelming, but you can succeed against the enemy with a little help. These are the tips and tricks you need to know to win in Battlefield V.
Gaming

What games were nominated for the The Game Awards 2018? Find out here

The Game Awards returns to Los Angeles for its fifth show this December. Here is everything we know about the event, including its location, where you can watch it, and games that were nominated.
Product Review

'Hitman 2' goes in for the kill with more of everything you love

IO Interactive and Warner Bros introduce us to ‘Hitman 2’, a sequel that embraces what made the series so unique and exceeds at delivering a more polished and complex experience.
Gaming

How to Install an SSD in a PlayStation 4 or PS4 Pro

SSDs are much faster than mechanical hard drives, which is what the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro come with. Here, we show you how to replace it with an SSD, which will allow you to boot to the OS faster and load games quicker.
Gaming

Faction-based PvP, new Vault openings coming to ‘Fallout 76’ after launch

Bethesda is already hard at work on post-launch content for Fallout 76, which launches November 14 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Faction-based PvP is in the works, and new vaults will open over time.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Gaming

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Gaming

‘Tetris Effect’ makes the undying classic feel new again

Tetris is a game that everyone knows. The classic puzzler has appeared on just about every device since 1984. With music and visual flourishes, Tetris Effect remarkably manages to elevate the iconic game to new heights.
Gaming

Hacker finds Steam bug that unlocks free games, collects $20K for reporting it

Security researcher Artem Moskowsky discovered a Steam bug that allowed him to generate infinite free keys for any game. Instead of abusing the exploit, Moskowsky reported it to Valve, which gave him a $20,000 reward.
Gaming

‘Overwatch’ gunslinger Ashe is now available on all platforms

Blizzard announced Ashe as the latest Overwatch hero at BlizzCon 2018. The gunslinger has a history with McCree and makes use of a lever-action repeating rifle and a robotic sidekick.