Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is one of those rare games that really scratches a gameplay itch for me. You know, the gameplay elements that you really love? It could be stealth, role play or amazing story lines. For me it’s the tactical co-op gameplay you see in games like The Division or Arma 3.
I’m one of those sad people who will see an E3 demo for a four player co-op feast, and thinks, “Hey! That could be me and my friends!” Dreaming of performing the same tactical manoeuvres that Chuck, Zach, Sue and fourth generic American sounding name carry out with such ease.
Alas I’m often disappointed when the game is then released and devolves in to either an experience none of my friends are invested in or one so broken that no one has any real fun.
I found this happening to me again with Wildlands. From the first E3 demo, where the developers took part in a four man infiltration and attack on a cartel hideout, I was enthralled. It was beautiful, set in this massive open world and above all tactical. It was also, however, a demo presentation, fully choreographed and not a fair representation of the final experience.
After months of waiting, this past weekend was the closed beta and I could finally get my hands on the game, pull together my team (the guys from The Fox & Penguin Show) and see what this tactical experience had to offer. I was not disappointed.
In Wildlands you play as, unless you’re playing this at Langley, a CIA asset, a member of the Ghosts. You are shipped out to Bolivia to… well avenge the killing of a deep cover agent and generally cause a nuisance. The beta appears to have you systematically killing off members of the cartel to eventually bring it down.
Customisation seems to be a major part of Wildlands, from the outset you are offered a huge number of character customisation options. This makes sense and is in a similar vein to Ubisoft’s other third person shooter, The Division. As a covert CIA operative your gear ranges from polo shirts to ghillie suits. Weapons can also be broken down and customise with a huge number of different parts.
After suitably dressing my avatar in all black (he’s upset at all the CIA wet work he’s been doing… also stealth or something) and watching a fairly quick introduction to the world and situation. As part of a group of 4 you’re first job is to start searching for leads on the murderer and start to establish a working relationship with the local rebels.
Gameplay wise this works much in the same way as The Division, third person shooter. You’ll lock to cover less and find the overall experience, for better or worse, a little more fluid. Targets are soft, meaning a few bullets will kill and shots land with a… weirdly satisfying sound. Armoured enemies take a little bit more accuracy or ammo. Aim for the face plate.
In solo play the fairly competent and super accurate AI control your squad mates, but the game seemed to really come in to its own when you teamed with players online. There’s something about turning up to a base, planning an approach of attack and executing it that is so unbelievably satisfying.
Don’t get me wrong, it happens very rarely as suppressors are forgotten or someone runs off and accidentally bumps in to an enemy, but when pulled off it’s a great feeling. Wildlands seems to be a game that excels at both the slow methodical pace needed for stealth and also the insanity of chasing an armed convoy with helicopter.
The game world is huge, the section available during the beta was “only” a small maybe 6km x 6km part of the map. Bolivia is broken into sectors filled with enemies, collectables and a boss mission you have to work towards, taking out the next link in the cartel.
I enjoyed the closed beta a lot. Wildlands seems to take the great co-op elements of The Division and mix them with the realism and methodical gameplay of the Ghost Recon games. There are some sticking points, vehicle mechanics that seemed a little bouncy to name just one, but there’s still some time before the launch at the end of March. Plenty of time for Ubisoft to polish this already impressive title.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands comes to PS4, Xbox One and PC on the 7th of March
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