Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Ubisoft’s largest open world
The first impression of Ghost Recon: Wildlands is déjà vu. Do you remember The Division’s demonstration at E3 2013, which at that time left everyone’s mouths open? When The Division finally hit stores almost three years after its first appearance at E3, it was a different game than we had been shown initially. The strategic elements had practically disappeared. In its place was a shooting game to run straight ahead and with a loot system to the mix. Ghost Recon: Wildlands seems to be the game that The Division was in 2013, the biggest difference being in the scenario. In Wildlands we are transported to Bolivia as part of a stealth team to fight the Santa Blanca cartel, which wants to make the country a drug plantation paradise.
Wildlands is a return to the series’ origins, putting the focus on stealth and team tactics. Although it is possible to unlock new weapons, there is no loot system as in The Division, in which the quality and rarity of the weapons are categorized in various colors. What was imported from The Division was a complex weapon customization system. Each weapon can be customized with several different pieces that affect its behavior, from the damage done, range, stability and other parameters. In addition to weapons, we have gadgets like a small reconnaissance drone, binoculars and night vision and thermal filters, elements that really make us feel like a stealthy soldier.
Ubisoft’s motto with Ghost Recon: Wildlands is to give the player total freedom. There is no specific mission structure that you have to complete to reach the end, nor are you told how to complete the missions. The objectives of the missions are not complex, the difficulty is always in the number of enemies in a certain location. In fact, in Wildlands they have complete freedom of choice. They can choose to play alone (accompanied by three AI controlled companions) or in cooperative mode. I had the opportunity to test both sides and, although artificial intelligence responds to our orders, Wildlands makes more sense when played with other people. It is much more dynamic and fun this way.
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It is a truly solo way.
In cooperative mode there are magical moments, which happen when the four players are in tune and everything goes well. It is exciting to make a sneaky approach, mark enemies and decide who is going to shoot whom. Then there is a countdown and several enemies fall simultaneously like dominoes. It is a fantastic feeling when we manage to complete an objective without being detected, but of course, there are also situations of chaos. Just one player being detected by enemies will ruin the plan. In these situations it is necessary to improvise and shoot down opponents as quickly as possible.
There is really no need to remain in stealth mode, that is, they are not harmed if they are detected. However, if you are playing alone it is much more advantageous because the game does not become so difficult. When we are accompanied by other players, it is easy to “run over” opponents. In the version I was able to try there was the opportunity to face two bosses. In the company of other players it was easy to enter the place and defeat them. If in The Division the bosses were bullet sponges, in Wildlands they are the opposite. Wildlands bosses die as fast as a normal enemy. Defeating a boss is so fast that the moment loses its impact. I’m not asking for something similar to The Division, but the clashes with the Wildlands bosses seemed to me too banal and short. However, it should be noted that Ubisoft clarified that the difficulty needs to be adjusted in the final version.
One of the strengths of Ghost Recon: Wildlands is its open world, described by Ubisoft as its biggest game of its kind. The viewing distance on the horizon is impressive, but you can see how Ubisoft managed to create such a vast map . Most of the Wildlands scenery is composed of jungle. At various points on the map there are wild animals, such as flamingos and lamas, but there is not the same level of density as in a city (for example, San Francisco in Watch Dogs 2), so each location on the map requires less hardware resources and therefore way it is possible to increase the size. Still, the Wildlands map is not empty, there are several optional activities and points of interest marked with a question mark, which arouses our curiosity to visit the place.
“Ubisoft claims that this is its biggest game in the open world”
After Watch Dogs 2, which managed to have interesting side missions, I was disappointed with the side activities in Wildlands, which seemed repetitive and not very creative. I didn’t play the final version and only had access to a small portion of the map, but the side activities I tried didn’t convince me. When it comes to the main missions (or history missions), Wildlands presents a different structure. Instead of going directly to a mission, they will first need to collect information elsewhere. Only after collecting the information can they proceed to the main mission.
In gameplay, Wildlands is quite in tune. The weapons feel nice when we fire them and there are differences depending on customization settings. Our character’s response is immediate and there are options to move around in a crouch or crawling, which is useful for maintaining stealth. We can also drive all the vehicles we find, from ordinary cars, to off-road bikes, helicopters and airplanes, to war tanks. There is, however, a detail that intrigued me. While it is possible to tie an enemy and drag it while it is conscious, it is not possible to move the body after it is dead or unconscious. In a stealth game, such as Wildlands, it is crucial to keep the bodies hidden from other enemies so that we cannot be detected. It is something simple, but mandatory in a game like this.
History could be one of the assets of Wildlands. The great villain, who is in charge of the Santa Blanca Cartel, is an individual tattooed from head to toe and without any qualms. She is a strong and immediately striking character. From what I played, it is difficult to form a concrete impression on the story. There is material for a good story, and with the Narcos series it has been proven that a story about a drug lord works well, but in the end, the open structure of the story may impair its impact, since it is difficult to achieve a good narrative when players have as much freedom as in this game. For example, in the last boss I faced, I entered a house with tortured people, but since there is no cinematic or introduction (or any other element of familiarization), the moment does not have the impact that it could have.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands has the right ingredients to work. From what we have seen, there are positive points, while others need to be improved. In an increasingly online world, the possibility of spending the entire game in the company of three friends is an extremely appealing point. The world is huge and left us wanting to explore more, even though secondary activities have not left us completely convinced. Anyway, Ubisoft made it clear that this was not the final version and that there are elements that are still “work in progress”. The final version will hit stores on March 7 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.