Ready to take a walk on the wild side? Ghost Recon Wildlands is an upcoming open world third person shooter releasing in March 4th on the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC in which players have the freedom to explore an open world Bolivia to take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel. The premise is that you can approach any mission the way you want. Want to go in stealthily and take down your target without leaving a trace? Want to go in guns-a-blazing, causing as much destruction as possible? Have a desire to methodically pick off every enemy without them knowing what hit them? Be my guest. This game makes all of that possible and allows you to do it with up to 3 friends, with seamless co-op. All of this sounds like a recipe for success, but is it all sunshine and roses from the get-go?
Before I go into detail about my experience with the closed beta, I have to mention this huge inconvenience- To access the beta for Ubisoft games, including For Honor, players are forced to log-in to Ubisoft’s Uplay service, navigate the site, and redeem their code from this website. Then when you do so, you have an option to invite your friends, which in a game like this, is arguably the way the developers intended for it to be played. The other problems with this, aside from having to log into this additional service, is that in order for you to play with your friends, you have to send the invites all at once, through this website. Your friends list is synced with Uplay, and if the friend you want to send the invite to, doesn’t remember their Uplay login information, or didn’t link their account with Uplay, they cannot participate until that’s fixed. It creates a huge unnecessary block to accessing the content and providing feedback on how to improve the product. Solution? Just. Send. Codes.
Moving on from the biggest road block regarding this experience, the game does a great job of setting a foundation for a great atmosphere. The visual direction comes into it’s own especially when you hop in a vehicle and look over the expansive landscape. The draw distances are impressive, and the beautiful lighting effects allow for some simply breathtaking visuals. While the landscape is beautifully done, the model graphics are also great, but not without it’s own set of flaws. Hair textures don’t look the greatest, but for many people, their hair will be covered anyway with headsets, hats, and other gear. Guns however, as you would imagine, look superb, and the return to the gunsmith feature from Ghost Recon Future Soldier has me so excited!
When it comes to customization, players have a variety of options at their disposal, but it lacks other options that are likely missing due to this being a beta. You can change your character’s gender and facial appearance, but you can’t necessarily change the features on their face. Noses, eyes, mouths, ears, etc, are all preset to a named avatar that you can choose as your character, similar to the low options in The Division. My biggest complaint regarding the character customization is how limited the hair and effects are for black characters. It would be nice to see a few more cuts like a short Caesar cut, dreadlocks, afro, short curly, etc. I’ll reserve full judgement for now since this may indeed change. and it isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of actually playing the game.
The beta gave access to both single player and multiplayer options. The single player serves the purpose of easing you into the experience by issuing commands and setting up sync shots. The way this game introduces you to its mechanics makes plenty of sense, although there’s room to improve here. The current tutorials break up your actions with still screenshots, but the proposed improvement will allow players an uninterrupted option to perform an action, with the game instructing you how to proceed as you go without stopping. I feel this approach is much more dynamic, and will allow players to grasp these concepts in a more cohesive and applied practice way.
Multiplayer is a different beast all together, in that players have the ability to join with friends or strangers in a seamless drop-in, drop-out co op session. The way this works is great, though I do have some proposed additions to his in the form of Competitive multiplayer. I’d love to see a bomb planting objective, single life elimination, and an interesting twist on open landscape battles where 3 teams of four, (ratio can be fluid here) compete across sections of the map to take out objectives, gaining points for each objective that’s taken, and bonus points awarded for taking out other players. I can see how this mode can have a great mix of stealth, and full frontal assaulting and chaos. I’d love to see something like this implemented in addition to the excellent co op, and theoretical run-of-the-mill competitive modes. And keep RNG out of it please, let us carry out character over to all modes. Another great addition would be something similar to what we got in The Division, that allowed you to explore the world with more than 4 people, as a sort of shared world experience. I know that’s asking a lot, so that’s more so a “Would be nice” request.
The main course of Ghost Recon of course, (heh) is how it all plays. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how well it all comes together, but I must also mention where it can definitely improve. The good lies in the fact that Ghost Recon: Wildlands gives players a ton of flexibility in how they can control their character and approach situations. The cover system is dynamic; players can go close to an object to take cover instead of pressing an additional button. I think it’s an approach that makes a lot of sense for keeping players aware of when to stay and go, but one thing I’d like to see is a return to what we had in Ghost Recon Future Soldier where while you’re in cover, you can look at your next point and hold a button to rush over to it, showing your movement path in an augmented reality marker. Additionally, I’d love to see AR return in the form of of your navigation, similar to what we have in Watchdogs 2.
Switching in and out of first person view while aiming is an excellent addition to the game, and the ability to customize your gear wherever you are allows for some excellent experimentation. This is an aspect that shows us that Ubisoft is consciously streamlining the experience, though to further streamline the experience (I’ve mentioned this many times with other games) fast travel flexibility is a must. Games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Dragon Age Inquisition, do an excellent job with fast traveling, essentially allowing you to go to any location you’ve unlocked. They all give the ability to visit a location you’ve previously visited and in the case of Ghost Recon Wildlands, spawning close where you’re trying to go would be a huge step in helping players quickly get back into the action. Ghost Recon does have fast travel, but it’s much more limited. Some gamers just don’t have the desire or time to traverse the environment as much as the game asks you to do, especially considering how janky the driving is in this game!
Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Metal Gear Solid V sett the gold standard for all third person shooters in my eyes, and I’d like to see them tighten their controls a bit more. There seems to be more latency with both the left and right sticks on PS4 Pro, which makes controlling your character feel a little less fluid and responsive than the aforementioned titles.
In closing, I’m pleasantly surprised with how Ghost Recon Wildlands is shaping up. From the earlier footage I saw, it looked like the AI looked sloppy, just running out in front of bullets as if the ghosts were serving the most delicious candy money could buy. Now, the AI reacts realistically to situations; they take cover, employ tactics like flanking, and they constantly go out of their way to take you out of your comfort zone. Quite frankly, the muddled taste of The Division was still fresh on my palette when I looked into Ghost Recon Wildlands. Not that The Division was necessarily bad, but I think my mindset was more so focused on what Ghost Recon actually is- 3rd person co op shooter with RPG elements, rather than an RPG with shooting mechanics. It’s amazing what a little bit more polish time and feedback can get you. I’m hoping Ubisoft continues down this path, and delivers on many of these proposed improvements.
So, what are your thoughts? Are you interested in playing Ghost Recon Wildlands? You can purchase it on amazon here.