Straight shooters aren’t really known for being open world. Sure you have titles like Fallout 4 and Watch Dogs 2 that feature shooting but it’s not at the forefront. I’ve been waiting for something like MAG to happen but in a big sandbox instead of a big map. That’s why I’m happy to say that Ghost Recon Wildlands scratches the itch that has plagued me for years. If I had to describe the latest Tom Clancy entry in one sentence, it would be Socom gameplay set in Just Cause 3’s open world but without the major destruction. Even on the huge map, every instance had that tactical shooter feeling.
The beta started out with a character creation screen and it was nice enough for me to care. After all this action hero would vanish in a few days time. There are some nice choices between accessories more than the body customization. Like all creator mechanics there was a select amount of presets to choose from for hair, eye color, face, etc. The apparel on the other hand was satisfying but mostly for two reasons: ghillie suits and official Oakley merchandise. Let’s just say I really like wearable camouflage and Oakley products. Before you know it I was running around with leaves on my upper body, ballistic grade M2 Frames on my face, and Oakley Factory Pilot gloves on my hands. (The gloves have carbon fiber knuckles).
My attention span to the plot quickly faded after the intro cutscene, which had a ton of audio skips by the way. All I know is that the Santa Blanca Cartel is basically making the country of Bolivia a world power through illegal and horrible means. On top of that they tortured and murdered a CIA agent. So the powers that be send in the Ghosts to meticulously bring down the organization. Everything else after that was over my head but in a good way. The gameplay easily drew me in with open world, RPG, shooting goodness. You’re restricted to about a tenth of the game’s total map size and within your mini haven is ample opportunities to take advantage of. As usual you’ll have main missions, side missions, weapons, upgrades, and other icons on the map to travel to. In the beta you could do this by car, running, or flying a helicopter unless you fast traveled straight to a teammate’s location.
I found that no matter what I did with people, the co-op was amazing. One of my friends literally called Wildlands, “Bros the Video Game.” You could all hop in a car, drive to a location, tuck and roll out the still moving vehicle, get to a knee and shoot bad guys in the dome. Or do what I did and continually changed seats so our forth members couldn’t get into a jeep. You need to be on the side of the vehicle you want to enter. Except for the tractors. Those could only carry two players. When you’re done doing completely random things for fun with buddies, you take to action. The depth of the combat is pretty enjoyable. You could easily access everything from grouping up to the same mission by pressing left on the D-pad, accessing weapons, issuing in-game commands, and spending skill points. Both the weapon and upgrading menus were incredibly handy in their user interface and made a lot of sense. Which flows into the role playing-ness.
Ubisoft has a history of just cramming collectibles into their games that offer nothing noteworthy to the overall experience. Granted this was only a beta but that problem may be solved. Yes, there are still things like documents and weapon pickups but your leveling up ability is directly linked to exploring. Some outposts, houses, or just general hotspots have items to be tagged. Once you do so, you increase your upgrading capacity in one of a handful of categories. This allows you to spend the skill points you earned or collected. (If you have three upgrade points but your selected ability’s category isn’t increased, no upgrading for you.)
Once you acquire the proper amount of credentials, the unlockable opportunities consist of weapon stabilizing, increase revive speed, machinery improvements for the drone, equipment for parachuting and increased firepower, stamina, etc. Even if you don’t access to these possibilities the shooting feels great. Just the thud of the bullets making contact feel gratifying whether by assault rifles, shotguns, light machine guns, or sub-machine guns. The amount of design to each combat situation is appreciated as well. Going in with stealthy suppressors and melees strikes or suns out guns out offered plenty of different experiences. Again I liken this aspect to the old Socom games.
Wildlands’ Bolivia is just beautiful. The sweeping vistas and and sprawling valleys offer many moments where you’ll just stop and take in the view. The raining, when it happened, added a nice serene touch to the picturesque moments. It also didn’t hurt that the soundtrack while exploring was awfully appealing. From a graphical standpoint, the game won’t disappoint. From a technical one might be a different story.
Per Ubisoft outings there will be bugs but it’s still in beta phase so I’m sure they’ll be worked on. Too many times vehicle parts broke off from their better half and floated in midair. Another few times a mission marker said we were leaving a mission zone when we weren’t. Needless to say we died and spawned back at a previous location. There were a few other minor glitches like these but overall they didn’t hamper the pre-release journey.
Before I played Ghost Recon Wildlands I wasn’t sure if I would be buying it. After playing the beta, with or without friends thanks to the easy online matchmaking, I can say I for sure will now. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t fall victim to needless repetition like The Division did.
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