Think of the sound of somebody biting into a Monster Munch sandwich. This is the noise that defines Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. It's the noise of your four-man team using silenced weapons to smoke four enemies at once, waiting, watching, and then creeping deeper into enemy territory.
This return to Tom Clancy's testoster-tacular Ghost Recon series sees Ubisoft succeeding heroically in combining speed with stealth. Part of that's down to your hi-tech camo suit. Ubiquitous in the campaign and available to the Scout class in multiplayer, it renders you almost invisible so long as you shuttle yourself about in a militant crouch. Combine this with a silenced weapon and you've got something that lives up to the ghost namesake. Except instead of banging pots together, you're saving America from a torrent of foreigners.
Ubisoft has done some okay storytelling with the Splinter Cell series, but the plot on offer here is Tom Clancy guff of the lowest grade. What starts as a Bolivian drug cartel informant wanting to talk to the USA, skids uncontrollably into terrorists conquering Russia and firing a nuke at London. The most interesting thing about the whole story is how uniquely unlikable your squad of Ghosts appear between missions. "I can't feel my ass," says one, which another deems a "smart-alec comment".
But never mind that, because the actual game on offer is as polished a shooter as you'll find on the Xbox 360. Gears of War's road-tested third-person controls are in use, together with a series of tweaks to suit Future Soldier's dramatic pace. By aiming at some distant cover and pressing A, your character will vault out from whatever wall or bin they're huddled behind and dive into place in a kind of badass autopilot. Better still, all movement and aiming in the game has that vital, happy heft to it. Dropping a bad guy into their lengthy death animation with a light peppering of bullets feels lovely. You could do it all day. Which is good, because that's exactly what you'll be doing.
That's not the achievement here, though. What Future Soldier represents, with its deadly gunfights, cold-blooded sneaking and demanding campaign, is a targeted experience for anyone with the slightest Modern Warfare fatigue. It's no soldier sim, since you can still run and shoot with relative accuracy and get team-mates back on their feet with a few seconds of fevered rubbing, but it's still a distinctly taxing, thoughtful experience.
True, in some single-player missions your illegal infiltration of Kashmir or an Arctic base descends into a grubby, 15-minute manshoot - bit the missions where you actually have to slice your way through enemy patrols without raising an alarm feel wonderfully fresh. It's got all the tension that stealth so often conjures up in games, with none of the pad-throwing frustration.