Recently fortunate players from around the world were invited to take part in a closed beta of Ghost Recon Wildlands. Due to be released next month, the games casts you as a member of an elite forces unit sent in to Bolivia to help the rebels overthrow a ruling drug cartel. So how does Ubisoft’s newest open-world third-person shooter play? We were lucky enough to take part and here are some of our thoughts and hopes of what lies ahead.
First and foremost Ghost Recon Wildlands is an absolute hoot when played with friends. If we were to describe the basic concept here, imagine the Ghost Recon franchise and Far Cry had a rather amorous encounter and what you’d end up with is Wildlands. It allows you, if you wish, to approach its missions with as much stealth as you’d like using drones to scout ahead. With day/night cycles you can leave incursions to night time where cutting off generator power allows you to use the cover of night to make your move. Or you could parachute in from a chopper and run in all guns blazing whilst your friends rock up in a jeep with attached mini-gun. Both are equally valid tactics and both are a heck of a lot of fun with friends.
There is offline play where your team is made up of AI squad mates, but we found controlling them via the command wheel a little cumbersome and for the most part they were, frankly, a little useless. Aside from their ability to heal us when we got a little ahead of ourselves, rarely were we able to control them as we’d like. That said, this could be covered in the final version via tutorials so for now we’re giving the benefit of the doubt. One thing the beta really rammed home was just how big the map will be. The beta only allowed us to play in one “small” zone but even that felt huge. Helicopter rides from side to side were somewhat lengthy so extrapolating that out suggests the amount of playable area we’ll have will be massive. What makes that even more impressive is the fact that Ghost Recon Wildlands is shaping up to be a rather pretty game. Textures and lighting all seemed rather good and we didn’t notice any appreciable dropoffs in quality during both online and offline play.
Speaking of online play, the matchmaking process is pretty straightforward and we were able to hop into other games pretty easily; and even with limited numbers there always seemed to be a game to play. Hopefully once the game goes live the servers will be in good shape and the seamless way in which other plays can join a public session will continue. We only had a couple of random people join our game but when they did there was no reloading of the map or lag involved as our sessions synchronised. This was pretty impressive and bodes well for the future. However, as The Division proved players will troll and with friendly fire a possibility here we can foresee a fair bit of griefing in its future. We’re hoping that there may be the option to turn friendly fire off but if not be prepared from some disgruntled players once the game launches.
Vehicles are present and some fare better than others when it comes to the ability to control them. Ground vehicles are a handful in particular, and given that most of the roads we travelled were mountainous we had a fair few large falls. They’re not undrivable but do require a certain finesse if you wanted to drive and get somewhere fast. By far the most convenient mode of travel was by helicopter. Some even come armed turning them into rather useful support vehicles. There were also motorbikes available and while a step up from the cars and jeeps we drove were still a bit tricky to control.
There were a vast range of missions available to us even in this limited beta which isn’t unsurprising for a Ubisoft title. With many collectibles and items to chase down along with a skill tree unlocked by gaining experience there was plenty for us to get stuck into. It suggests that the final version will have a map awash with missions and this is no bad thing at all. One thing The Division lacked was end-game content, hopefully Ubisoft have learned from this making sure Ghost Recon Wildlands will continue to offer those who have finished the main storyline something to do that isn’t a repetitive grind. If we were to make a wish in this regard it would be to have something similar to Hitman’s elusive targets. For the uninitiated, every so often, an enemy NPC would have a mission attached to them which could only be completed within a certain timeframe. It was brilliant and kept us coming back to a game we’d long since completed.
We came away from our time with Ghost Recon Wildlands with smiles on our faces and friends who joined us are chomping at the bit to play it again. Due to be released March 7th, the wait isn’t too long and, hopefully, the positive vibe we got will continue. Many of those who played with us shared our view that this was, perhaps, what we all wanted from The Division and while the two games are wholly different, The Division being an MMO, we couldn’t help but feel that Ghost Recon Wildlands could show The Division how things could have been. When we didn’t want to advance the story in Ghost Recon Wildlands we could go off into the wilderness and just have silly fun. Want to base jump off a giant cliff? Go for it! Fancy seeing how far you can jump in a SUV? Sure thing! In The Division the only diversion was to either do missions or wander round and aimlessly kill NPCs; hardly thrilling.
It’s always hard to tell how the final version of a game will turn out even if you’ve played a beta. It can, however, give you a sense of whether or not you’ll have fun often despite any quirks a game can have. With Ghost Recon Wildlands we got the feeling that here was a game that was just at home being all stealthy and tactical as it is crazy and bullish, and because of this we can’t wait to play it.