Ubisoft have been big on open-world games in recent years and 2017 looks to be no different with the arrival of Ghost Recon Wildlands just around the corner. But with Ghost Recon jumping into new territory for the series with an open-world approach this time round, will the same magic that was brought into the series with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier be retained, or is this the start of a completely new direction for the series?
Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes place in the wide-open stretches of Bolivia, with up to four squad mates – you and three A.I bots if you find yourself going solo – as you look to take down the Santa Blanca Drug Cartel who have turned the country into the biggest production and distribution settlement in the world. Heading in on the orders of the Army of the United States of America, you and your squad must utilise all of the links to the Cartel, from bottom to top, using whatever force is required to take them down.
The initial idea of this got me excited, probably due to my love for the Crackdown series, but there’s nothing like starting off with an entire map of progressively harder targets to track down before taking out the big boss and becoming the hero, and that’s essentially the idea in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. However, being a Ubisoft title, this is not going to be a short endeavour and that was the first thing that was made abundantly clear to me. This is due to a message that alerted me that the area I was going to be playing was just one of the twenty-one regions available in the full game – that one area felt as big as an entire game in itself – and it was free to explore as I wished.
Exploring is a big part of Ghost Recon: Wildlands with various missions to find and complete, in both a main mission and side mission layout. How you go about getting to these and completing them is entirely up to you. There is a vast plethora of vehicles available to you in the game and in the closed beta we were able to get hands on with a selection of cars, jeeps, motorbikes and helicopters with the motorbikes being a personal favourite of mine simply due to how realistic the handling felt. It seems Ubisoft have taken note of other successful open-world titles when looking for inspiration with the vehicles handling. The general look of the environments is surprisingly similar to that of Just Cause 3 whilst movement is highly reminiscent of Ubisoft’s own The Division too.
Vehicle selection can be vital to the success of a mission, with those rushing in with helicopters much more obvious to enemies on the ground than those shacking up in a car or motorbike. However, depending on how you want to go about your mission that choice of vehicle may not be an issue… for example, those looking to eliminate their targets through brute force can bust into an enemy hideout or come soaring into battle by parachuting from a helicopter. Or you can take the silent route, by scoping out the environment with military equipment such as drones, high tech weapon scopes and tagging enemies, before attaching silencers and picking off targets one by one.
Of course, after deciding how you want to go about your mission you need to decide a time of day in which to attack. Ghost Recon: Wildlands comes with a fully featured day/night cycle with enemy hideouts – that look highly similar to that of the Far Cry series – either more or less active at specific times of the day and visibility often affected too.
As I previously mentioned this is indeed a game that welcomes co-op with up to four players able to jump in a squad together and take on the Cartel, and whilst the AI are available for anyone lacking on the co-operative front, it goes without saying that the Artificial Intelligence aren’t quite as intelligent as you would hope for a squad of tactical government agents. Several times during the beta I found myself telling my squad to stay in a field some way off from where I was about to take down a sleezy gang hideout, keeping them out of danger simply due to their clumsy and useless feel. This really took a lot away from the experience for me, but of course by the time the full release comes round this could well be sorted. But with the AI currently jumping in the enemies line of sight freely, and shooting people without being asked, it seems the best way to play Wildlands will be with a group of friends by, and that’s pretty much what most of us expected.
The beta has also given us a good look at the customisation options, and my god it’s amazing! Ghost Recon Wildlands customisation is much like those seen in the various MMO’s on the market at present, with a vast selection of military wears available from head to toe, as well as Backpacks and Ghillie Suits for those looking to utilise the stealth option. With so many options available it’s sure to offer a character that is unique when the full game arrives next month.
Whilst many were quick to question the graphical quality in recent gameplay, my initial thoughts were at how impressive the entire place looked. With fantastic forests and dusty mountain roads, the game looks like a mountaineers paradise. Those who appreciate games for its gameplay aspects will certainly find Ghost Recon to be one of the must play titles this year and with some of the best and most enjoyable tactical aspects seen since Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon Wildlands can only get much better once all the options become available on release.