A little under two months ago Ubisoft released Arctic Strike, the first DLC pack for Future Soldier. I had my issues with the DLC mainly because it was completely oriented towards the multiplayer portion of the game and didn’t offer anything to extend the exceptional campaign/single player experience (except a few throwaway new weapons). Raven Strike, which was released September 11th, is Ubisoft’s first attempt at releasing new mission content for the hit franchise’s campaign mode.
Raven Strike comes with three new missions (Secure Dawn, Cold Walker, and Argent Thunder) and one new Guerilla mode map (Sawmill). Raven Strike is a pretty appropriate name this time around for the DLC because the missions focus on terrorist group Raven Rock causing international incidents in Russia and central Asia. Just like the main story in Future Soldier, the plot here is very sparse and merely serves as a reason to go into foreign countries and kill people. Will you get caught up in what is going on outside the mission briefings? Doubtful. But the story does its job and only Tom Clancy purists will wish for more intrigue in their espionage.
Ubisoft has referred to this new content as a “throwback” to traditional Ghost Recon gameplay. In doing so, they have given us three missions that have several varying gameplay elements that would have only made the original campaign that much better if they had been included in the first place. This throwback gameplay is immediately apparent in the first mission “Secure Dawn” which takes place at night in the marshes of Kazakhstan. You are tasked with rescuing a VIP but are stripped of all your high-tech equipment like the optical camouflage, sensor grenades, and UAV drones (thermal goggles are the one tool that you get). To complete this mission you must rely not only on stealth but teamwork. Analyzing the paths of guards is crucial because one dead body being found will result in attacks from armed vehicles and guards. A final battle against a flood of troops and a helicopter breaks up the sneaking but also brought up one of my old issues with the game’s mechanics: the AI. At the end of this mission my team was supposed to “hold the line” and we were in a perfectly good place to do so…until the other three guys decided to go directly into the line of fire. This happens a lot in Future Soldier; your squad will fall back leaving you to dispatch every enemy in an area or go in the opposite direction (and somehow they never get seen by the enemy). Honestly, I would always suggest playing the game with a friend or three because they are more reliable and timing shots with a buddy makes victory that much sweeter.
“Cold Walker” is the second mission and gives you back your fancy toys. This time around you must infiltrate a train depot by the Russian countryside in the middle of the day. But just because you have your camo back doesn’t mean this will be a walk in the park. In fact, I found this mission to be very tough for a few reasons. The first half of the mission requires you not to trigger any alerts and since dead bodies are easier to find in sunlight… well, you understand. In addition to that, you have helicopters patrolling the area and they will spot you quickly. To make matters worse, there are several times where you have to carefully plan on when and where you take targets out. Even when you are allowed alerts, the fights can be overwhelming. At one point I actually got stuck in an area where enemies just infinitely spawned out of a corner – that sucked. In a game where stealth is key you might get frustrated when some checkpoints require you to secure a territory. That means you are going to have to kill everyone so you better be prepared. Personally, though, I wish to avoid confrontation.
Finally, we have “Argent Thunder” set in urban Moscow. This one is an assassination mission where you must take out four members of Bodark, the Russian version of the Ghosts. Even though this mission is linear in the order you dispatch each member, its execution makes it so great. This is another night mission but it is filled with activity. Each assassination requires a different approach and you will find yourself having to use every single piece of your equipment to succeed. You must always be on the lookout because there are snipers, turrets, and even some APCs. Like in any mission in Future Soldier, you always feel like a badass when you are doing things right… and maybe a bit overpowered.
The Guerrilla mode map is decent. “Sawmill” provides the same experience for those players who are still engaged by the wave-based mode and are looking for a new location to master. You have a central location to defend with smaller cover points nearby and at times a dense cloud of fog might roll in to obstruct your view and make things tougher. In the end, this is just another map for Guerrilla mode and you will know whether or not this will be worth your time.
The package is rounded out rather nicely by containing tactical challenges for each mission that give a small reward when completed. There’s even some achievements to be had; which is nice for those who felt duped by Arctic Strike’s meager ones. I can’t lie and say that I don’t find it odd for Ubisoft to split up their DLC packages between multiplayer and campaign based add-ons. Regardless, Raven Strike does offer at least 3-5 new hours of play if you want to complete all the side challenges.
Now for the big question: are you getting your money’s worth out of Raven Strike? This one is tough. The DLC costs $15 for three new missions, one non-multiplayer map, and a handful of achievements. When Arctic Strike came out in July it was only $10. At the time I thought that was a bit expensive if only because I never pay for multiplayer add-ons. Basically you are being charged five bucks a mission for Raven Strike and I’m not so sure that is a great deal. What doesn’t sit well with me is the cost difference between the two packs. These days companies usually invest the most in multiplayer and tap it for every dollar they can while the story mode is left in the dust. Even though it’s best to play these three new missions with friends it is still a single player experience and unless you are really in love with it then you won’t replay it too often. I’m really glad Ubisoft added new missions because they were fun and cater to me as a person who doesn’t enjoy too many multiplayer experiences. I can’t believe I’m saying it but I really do think there should have been some sort of multiplayer content or something to justify the price of Raven Strike. The Xbox Marketplace and Playstation Store are full of fantastic downloadable games that only cost ten bucks so why is this add-on that much more? Keep in mind that if you purchased Future Soldier for full price and got both DLC packs you would be out $85. If a person is interested in buying DLC for Future Soldier sees the two packs side by side which do you think they would choose?
If price is not a factor and you can’t get enough of the Ghost Recon experience then I would certainly suggest you get Raven Strike. The three missions you get here are not only fun, but they show how experimentation is a good thing for the formula. Any mission in Future Soldier could benefit from a challenge mode where you were stripped away from some of your futuristic gear and had to really force yourself never to raise an alarm. The stealth and shooter genre can marry quite well with each other. Future Soldier is proof of that despite its technical issues. Maybe by the time a new DLC package is released, the issues with diversity of content and pricing will be ironed out. If you got the game at launch you should be happy with the experience with or without paying more. For a price, the two DLCs build more fun into an already entertaining game.