After Rabidgames was still a bit sceptical about Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the invitation to the Closed Beta was very welcome indeed. And after just a few minutes in, it’s already clear that Wildlands might not be the deepest tactical Ghost Recon game, but that it is still a decent open world game, and a big one at that.
If asked how to describe Wildlands, the easiest way would be to say we have a massive world with different climates (e.g. desert, farmlands and snow, the latter sadly not in the beta) just like in the Just Cause series, the recon and stealth approach closer to Phantom Pain than to Ghost Recon games of old, gathering resources and the structure of the cartel both remind one of Mercenaries and especially the pack of cards of the first Mercenaries, and finally, the story seems quite heavily “inspired” by the TV show Narcos. Oh, and you should totally watch Narcos!
Well, change Colombia to Bolivia, or a rather fictional version of Bolivia, as the town names and province names cannot really be found on a map of real world Bolivia, which feels kind of odd. Anyway, the world of Wildlands is nicely diverse and pretty massive – next to the 11 different climate zones, there are animals roaming the countryside (no non-human predators so far though), and the world looks pretty and graphically very impressive when it rains. At night, flying high over Bolivia summons thoughts of Just Cause once more when marvelling at the lights in the distance. While some buildings are a bit copy/pastey, it’s not as bad as Mass Effect 1 felt thankfully with the same Ikea base across the entire galaxy. Exploring the map is always worth it because you can find weapons or weapon parts, resources to upgrade your skills, skill points themselves, information about the region and the cartel bosses there, or if you’re lazy, you quickly go find intel which reveals all of the above.
Anyway, what should you expect gameplay-wise? If you expect a Ghost Recon experience with detailed planning, extensive scouting and perfect stealth, well, it is still there, but this time, if things go wrong, you can now perfectly shoot your way out of the situation. Don’t be disappointed by the low difficulty though – we’ve only seen the “tutorial province” of Wildlands so far, and it is safe to assume things will get harder soon. Then again, you can die quickly in fire fights (dying after two shots happens on Normal), and while you can get revived once per battle, you still need to be careful.
So, while Wildlands does not seem to be tactically as deep as expected, it still offers the pretty cool sync shot feature where your A.I. or human squad takes aim at up to 3 targets and they either fire if you tell them to or if you shoot another enemy. Just don’t shoot at an already tagged enemy. You can also give a few basic controls to your squad – which is important though. If you’re discovered by the sicarios and you hesitate, they won’t be of much help, but send them in and they do a decent job of cleaning up the mess you created. … There are also a few options to call for rebel support – from providing a car or fighters to mortar fire to liven up the experience!
So, who exactly is Ghost Recon: Wildlands for now? Sure, certainly not for those who think open worlds are too much for them, and also not for those who think Ubisoft makes the same game over and over again (how Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Watch Dogs 2 can be the same game is beyond Rabidgames though). Wildlands might not even be a game for Ghost Recon fans, as there is less focus on the tactical approach, and some have already called it dumbed down (then again, everything is called dumbed down these days). If you can’t see past Skyrim-like bad, stiff character movement or past bad and partially unresponsive vehicle controls, Wildland might also not be your game.
No, Wildlands is for fans of Just Cause or Metal Gear Solid who like a bit more tactical approach. It also follows the Ubisoft formula in the way that you have many options to choose from. You can tackle most situations in Wildlands with different means, and the open world helps here with the chance to scout around the perimeter or perhaps to go find all the weapons and skills points before starting the next mission. Plus, you get quickly drawn in if you’ve just watched Narcos!
Rabdigames is counting the cash: While Wildlands might not be a perfect game, it still could well be a hidden gem of a game with dozens of hours of fun to be had in its playground. After the beta, it is now a guaranteed day 1 purchase! Mind you, not every game must be perfect, sometimes the sum of all parts just comes together to create a great experience. No one would say Just Cause 2 was perfect in the way it handled shooting or driving, but many still get lost in Panau to this day. Also, it’s a shame Bolo Santosi and the Reapers won’t make it to Bolivia …