Before I got to give Ghost Recon Wildlands a spin this past weekend as part of the closed beta, I had it pegged as The Division in the jungle. That – for me – was not a bad thing. I liked The Division. However, Ghost Recon has always been a little more like Rainbow Six than Call of Duty so the thought that Ghost Recon Wildlands was The Division in the jungle worried me just a little. That worry is now gone because Ghost Recon Wildlands is shaping up to be great game. And that’s all that matters really.
Dressing for the part
Ghost recon Wildlands is an open-world title, so of course it has to offer player customisation. You can choose your look, your scars, your tattoos and dress your ‘Ghost’ as you see fit. The variety of options is pretty extensive, but the real cream of customisation is with the weapons.
Once the option opens and you have collected some weapon parts, the returning Gunsmith for weapons is a bit of a treat. Strip the weapon down to its basics and switch out the trigger, barrel and a multitude of other elements to best suit the situation or your personal preference.
A big bad world
The beta offered a small province to try out, but using some basic extrapolation, this represented only around 5% of the world that will be available on release. Bolivia is a big place and one that is likely to offer a vast amount of variety. Ghost Recon Wildlands will not just be The Division in the jungle. It will also be in the snow, desert and more.
You can choose to explore the country and cause chaos with real-life co-op partners or do it all with the game’s AI squad mates. However, it should be pointed out that the AI squad mates seem a little oblivious to what’s happening around them most of the time making it feel like a bit of a lone wolf operation if played solo. However, when you do instruct them to sync shots with you, you get a glimmer of hope and feel like the Tier 1 operators you are meant to be.
Taking out an entire village of enemies without alerting any is pretty rewarding, and stealth is a very real option. But if you want to go all Rambo, you can do so too. The game allows you to choose your approach, although any error while following the chosen approach is likely to result in everything going pretty chaotic, pretty quickly and having one of your AI partners suggesting that ‘things hadn’t gone very well’.
Obviously, having real-life squad mates with headsets makes things a little more synchronised. The game doesn’t force you to play with others and still feels like a completely playable single-player game similar to Grand Theft Auto. And just like GTA, given the scale of the world, you have access to a variety of vehicles which can be found waiting for special forces operatives to steal or take by force. Available for use are a variety of cars, helicopters, planes and boats. The handling generally felt a little arcade-y but then this is not a driving simulator.
The province in the beta offered a fair amount of activities from a variety of side-quests to the main mission – hunting down a Santa Blanca drug cartel couple (as in a sick and twisted Bonny and Clyde couple). To achieve your objective of destabilising and completely dismantling the drug cartel, you need to gather intel, disrupt supply convoys, and just generally shoot, kill and interrogate (almost in order you want) the foot soldiers and captains of Santa Blanca. All this intel takes you closer to the head of the snake.
The majority of the game plays out in third person but when looking down the iron sights, the view switches to first-person. This can be switched back to third-person if you prefer, but personally, I found the switch to be pretty natural and the gunplay felt a lot better in first-person than many first-person shooters manage these days.
During movement, the player appears to automatically stick to cover. Thankfully this isn’t a magnetic attachment and moving away from the cover is a simple as moving the analog stick. There were a few oddities when reaching a corner or a doorway, but being in beta, I’m sure that will get looked at for release. Blind firing from cover is an option but it came across a little panicked doing so – these are meant to be well-trained special forces soldiers after all.
Alongside the weapons and vehicles at your disposal are a variety of items like the drone which makes recon before an assault just a little easier. These items, as well as your own abilities, can be upgraded using the skill points and resources earned as your operative levels up. This extends to improving your AI squad mates, essentially making them better bullet sponges rather than smarter.
But that’s just it. The game shines in co-op so forget you have an AI squad and you’ll probably be a happier player – except when you line up four enemies in sync. Then they’re the best team mates. Ever.
The game already looks great. I was pleasantly surprised as some of the early footage had me worried that it was going to be a big wide world that looked like it had been forgotten in the previous generation of consoles. There is day and night cycles with weather changes, so you may find attack strategies changing to the environmental circumstances.
My main concern with the game will be what happens once you have completed the takedown of the cartel. It’s unclear what the endgame will be. Maybe it will just end and rely on expansions. Maybe it doesn’t need an ongoing world, but it sure would be pretty awesome if it does. As it stands now though, Ghost Recon Wildlands is a wild one indeed and looks like it should be on your ‘must buy’ list when it releases on 7 March 2017.
You can pre-order Ghost Recon Wildlands from our affiliate here.