Ghost Recon Phantoms Review
Gameplay - 8
Presentation - 6.5
Lifespan - 8
Freeness - 8
Phantoms isn't particularly revolutionary. It is however an exciting experience worth what will probably be several dozen death induced temper tantrums.
I won’t lie to you. I’m a long time Ghost Recon fan boy. When I saw Phantoms release on Steam it hit me like a ton of bricks. Immediately after I caught my breath I installed the game, struggled to remember my Uplay account, and promptly joined my first match.
Ubisoft has an extensive list of titles that absolutely devour my time. Phantoms has been no exception. True to the Ghost Recon tradition, their newest third person shooter probes the boundaries of modern tactical gameplay.
Phantoms offers a level of depth to the realm of online shooters that is hard to find. Contrary to the traditional run and gun style prominent in the popular multiplayer shooters, Phantoms incentivizes caution over foolhardy bullet catching. From the first round to the last, cover is my best friend. Being in cover adds to the control and accuracy of your firearm. For the first time in a multiplayer game, hiding like a frightened pup actually makes you more dangerous.
In the final moments of a conquest match, I had hidden my less than invincible form behind a large stone pillar. Being in the center of the control point, my team sits behind me while I take a barrage of fire from both ends of my staunch protector. The intuitive and easy to use cover controls allow me to pop out of cover momentarily to burst a few rounds at the opposition. As the last seconds drain away from the timer, a wave of simultaneous relief and disbelief wash over me, and those moments play over in my head starring myself as the hero in my very own action movie.
Phantoms produces these moments almost as often as shooters produce fits of rage. Every environment is designed with an obvious amount of tactical depth. There are few areas of scarce cover. Each map is balanced to provide an array of scenarios to tackle with the right amount of co-operation from your team. At one point the enemy had locked down the control point and gleefully mowed down player after player as they tried to push through the bottleneck. I had taken advantage of the balance in the environment to maneuver around the enemy, push through their flank, and put down those bloodthirsty soldiers.
This game also offers a gun customization system. A full range of weapons is available without paying, and each weapon – apart from those apparently defiant sidearms – can be customized and optimized for any combat situation. Fitting your rifle with a long barrel will increase its damage output and accuracy, but it will also make you ready your weapon slower, so a shorter barrel is optimal for close quarters. This system adds a layer of complexity to the load-out by balancing the weapons and the environments.
I can only speak of my own experience with this game. Even with a PC that can play more visually impressive games, I have to play Phantoms on the lowest settings. The gap between high and low graphics is in no way detrimental to the gameplay. However, in order to spare my increasingly strained patience, I had to mute the announcer that plays throughout the match. Even on the low settings, the audio is laggy and frankly terrible. Whether this is an issue of PC performance or an overly demanding YETI engine is up for debate. But to put it in no uncertain terms: don’t expect immaculate performance without an adequate PC.
Before the regrettable decision to do away with my poor audio quality, I had noticed a somewhat familiar soundtrack. The music harkens back to the style of Future Soldier. It certainly adds to the atmosphere bred by intense and sometimes frightening firefights.
I’ve yet to get bored with this game. There is plenty of room to progress and plenty of maps to play. In the beginning there are only three maps to choose from, but once you level your class above level 8 the rest of the world becomes available to you.
Each match has the potential to be different. Depending on the competence and coherence of your team, there exists a potential for dynamic, tactical gameplay each and every time you load a map. Progress is balanced to take longer as you make it, so the farther you get, the harder you’re going to have to work to earn that gun you’ve been drooling over.
Phantoms uses the F2P standard of premium to free currency. Athena credits are earned through finishing matches and completing challenge. Ghost Coins can be bought in order to purchase cosmetic upgrades or to facilitate progress with your class, but you can buy all the weapons and mods for your class with the credits.
An interesting feature to be included is the ability to earn GC. There are monthly challenges that upon completion award you with GC. I earned 100 coins through the Easter event, and as soon as I finish beating 70 more guys to death I will earn 150 more.
The events are an important addition to the F2P model because they incentivize continued play over the almost universally hated pay to win system. If you want to get a new helmet – the default assault helmet is a bit bulky – just do what I do: swing your fists at every player that walks by until those sweet, shiny coins fall from the sky.
All Together Now
Ghost Recon Phantoms is – in my honest opinion – an example of what tactical shooters should be. Don’t let my status as a fan overstimulate your skepticism. It is balanced in a way that offers a wide range of gameplay scenarios, and large enough to keep me coming back. Few multiplayer shooters earn my earnest recommendation. Phantoms isn’t particularly revolutionary. It is however an exciting experience worth what will probably be several dozen death induced temper tantrums.