It’s amazing how time flies. In all honesty, it almost feels like it was yesterday that Ubisoft’s highly-anticipated shooter, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, finally made its way to store shelves after previous delays. However, the reality of it all is that the game has been out for several months, and just received its second downloadable add-on this very week. Known as Raven Strike, that expansion pack can now be yours for fifteen dollars (1200 Microsoft Points), but the question that you’re surely asking regards whether its additional content is worth that hefty price. That’s why I’m here.
Unlike its predecessor, which focused on the competitive side of things by providing new multiplayer maps and other related bonuses, Raven Strike is predominantly campaign oriented. Sure, there’s a new Guerilla map, as well as a multiplayer level increase of ten, but the real draw here happens to be its three brand new story missions. Granted, I happen to be someone who prefers playing alone most of the time, and would usually rather play through a campaign than hop online with the general public. Call me old fashioned, but it’s true, though I don’t have anything against a good co-operative session or a hard-fought competitive match.
Unsurprisingly, the new objective-based scenarios have the game’s team of high-tech soldiers doing what it does best: infiltrating heavily guarded areas using stealth, technology and, most-importantly, teamwork. That means you’ll need to remember the best ways to employ overhead reconnaissance drones, EMP grenades and more. Then again, like in the core game, it’s the timed group stealth shots that will be your key to victory during most of the newly-presented encounters. That is, for those who revel in becoming a human ghost. Players who prefer to go in with guns blazing can do so, but I wish them luck on Elite difficulty.
Those who played through Ghost Recon: Future Soldier on Elite will go in thinking that they won’t have much trouble with this new mini-campaign. In all honesty, that was my thought going in, because the main game was quite easy, due to its abundance of gadgets and helpful teammates. However, Raven Strike provided a heightened challenge level which made for an intense and skill-testing ride at times. That’s not to say that it’s brutally difficult or anything, but it is challenging, harkening back to the series’ roots by removing the soldiers’ high-tech gear during its debut stage, and presenting large-scale encounters with substantial groups of murderous baddies. Sprinkled in-between is a sniper challenge wherein enemy awareness spells game over.
Stringing this set of new engagements together is a storyline that centres upon a fictionalized version of Russia, complete with corrupt officials and everything else you’d expect from a military shooter. Our digitized heroes are sent in to both the aforementioned country and Kazakhstan as government pawns, in order to perform certain tasks. At the beginning, they’re tasked with rescuing a high value target, while the other missions have them hacking and assassinating. There’s a good amount of variety to be found within those listed objectives, but the latter mission is rather underwhelming, and the mentioned storyline also happened to be lacklustre.
Despite its rather ho-hum storyline and mediocre final deployment, there’s quite a bit to like about Raven Strike‘s mini-campaign. Most notably, it offers more of the high-quality Ghost Recon: Future Soldier experience that many of us praised back in May. For that reason alone, it’s a worthwhile purchase for anyone who loved the core game. Of course, there are other selling points like added variety, interesting locations and the aforementioned increase in difficulty, which will certainly appeal to the more seasoned crowd. However, those pros are marred by a rather frustrating technical con.
As a result of a technical problem, I had one heck of a time with this review process. Raven Strike downloaded without issue, and I was using both a fully-functional Xbox 360 console and a pristine condition game disc. Despite those facts, its campaign wouldn’t work while I was connected to the Internet. I tried multiple times, and even went to drastic measures like deleting my cache, as well as my save file and even the add-on itself. Even after doing that, the campaign’s briefings would go black and would not load. Granted, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was once able to play through the first mission without issue, but the second stage’s briefing glitched on me after that, forcing me to quit out and return to the final checkpoint of mission number one.
Needless to say, the aforementioned glitch became more than frustrating, and it wasn’t until another technical issue disconnected me from the ‘net that everything started to work. I was then able to complete the three scenarios while playing offline, and things even worked when I reconnected mid-way through a mission. Granted, even though it became a working add-on after all of that trouble, I still have no idea of what the problem’s cause was. All I know is that it was the result of some sort of a glitch, and some light research has proven that I wasn’t the only one who experienced it. Hopefully those of us who who’ve encountered it are within the minority, and the pack will work for almost all of the users who download it. If that’s not the case, hopefully Ubisoft can address the problem quickly, because it mars a rather solid campaign, which up to four friends can enjoy together.
On the Guerilla front, avid players can look forward to a well-made sawmill map, which presents an interesting assortment of buildings and cover objects. Like the campaign environments detailed above, the wood-filled location looks very good, and offers quite a bit of detail. You’ll find a quaint ravine, piles of assorted lumber and wooden structures that look like they were built quite a few decades ago. It’s all rather peaceful – at least from an aesthetic standpoint, since everything is set out in a quiet woodland region – but the game’s terrorism-loving baddies disrupt all of that with their bullets and grenades.
To conclude, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier‘s Raven Strike add-on presents a quality assortment of content that happens to be visceral, entertaining and realistic. When it worked, I was impressed with the included quality, from its aesthetics to its sound design. However, the unfortunate fact remains that, while trying to play (and review) this downloadable package, it became incredibly frustrating on my end, and that’s why I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it at this point in time. Hopefully a patch will be released in the very near future though, because fans of the game should definitely spend time with this pack’s included campaign missions and its above-average sawmill map.
This review is based on a copy of the add-on that was provided to us.