Please Don't Take Ghost Recon Wildlands Seriously

Image: Ubisoft

Apart from the fact that the preview session was punctuated by my fingers getting jammed in an electric car window, the most startling thing coming out of a preview of Ghost Recon: Wildlands was the official footage released over the weekend. It was so ... serious. Intense. Calculated. Methodical.

In other words, the complete opposite of the Ghost Recon I played.

Given that Ghost Recon: Wildlands won't have a PvP mode until after launch, the game as it stands is as thus. You're a member of a special forces team dropped into Bolivia, which has been tasked with cleaning up the drug cartels and factions that are decimating the country.

It all sounds a little Just Cause 3, and it kind of is. Wildlands doesn't have the focus on structural destruction that Avalanche's explosion simulator does, although there are plenty of other similarities. There's four faction states, and if you're fortunate you can engineer a situation where the AI armies start having a go at each other.

But basically the mission statement is to go around, kill or interrogate the various lieutenants and leaders of the various factions, cleaning up the fine state of Bolivia in the process. It's not a cover shooter the way that The Division was, and you won't find the MMO-like treatment of loot in Wildlands either.

So far, so good then.

But what Wildlands hasn't really communicated, through gameplay videos like the one above or through Ubi's messaging, is the lack of consequences.

Dying for instance, simply takes you back to the most recent checkpoint or a safe spot within a decent proximity to where you died. There was no loss of resources, which means you're not penalised per se for failing. There are instances where you won't want to fail - like side missions where you have to chase a convoy around the map - but for the most part you're encouraged to tackle things as you see fit.

And it's not until you go, "I wonder if this works" that you realise just how malleable the Wildlands world is.

Case in point: not long after completing the first story mission, which is basically scything through an enemy camp with bullets before interrogating some bloke in a shack at gunpoint, a couple of motorbikes were left lying around. The camp was atop a summit, with the next objective a couple of kilometres away via a winding road.

So given that previews are generally an opportunity to mess around anyway, I thought, "Fuck it," and drove the bike off the cliff.

Image: Ubisoft

To my delight, the bike flew a solid 100m downward, hit the rocks, and kept going with my rider intact. Emboldened by the lack of environmental damage, I decided I would treat every hill and cliff like a direct path - and the game was happy to let me do so.

There's other benefits to ignoring the road and flying down a mountain, too. I came across a couple of encampments off the radar holding precious resources, which you tag and then "send back" to prop up the rebels. It's really the core reward mechanic, since the resources you "save" can then be spent on skills ranging from passive abilities for your squad members, boosts to your physicality, drones, weapon attributes, items, and support from the rebels.

Most of the abilities revolve around ways to either kill enemies faster, or spotting enemies so that you can kill them slightly easier. The cost of the skills is fixed, and it's designed to make you upgrade a little bit of everything rather than maxing out one ability or one skill tree at a time.

But you have enough firepower from the outset to wipe the floor with most encounters, provided you actually use your AI teammates. Commands are issued through a radial menu, ranging from simple movement or hold position orders to lining up synchronised shots. They're capable enough that they'll cover your back if you run off and do something stupid (my default behaviour, basically) but they're not particularly proactive.

For instance, I couldn't convince the AI to drive me anywhere. It wasn't too bad with the four-wheel drive the game started me with; I figured it was more of an unspoken Here's How To Drive tutorial. But when I came across a helicopter or two, I was quite looking forward to enjoying the scenery.

But my special forces brethren apparently don't know how to fly. And quite secure in the fact that I couldn't either, I jumped in the driver's seat and started going up.

And kept going up.

Image: Ubisoft

If you're wondering, the highest you can fly in Wildlands is around 3.6 kilometres. That was measured by starting at an objective point and flying upwards for about five minutes, counting the distance displayed on the HUD. I don't know why that would be the limit - technical limitations, perhaps - but it's fun to know that there is one, and that it takes a good amount of patience before the dreaded invisible wall kicks in.

Other fun things I discovered: don't worry about the AI. Really. In the rare occasions I wasn't turning mountains into giant off-road ramps for my dirt bike, I'd jump into a vehicle or helicopter and take off without waiting for my squad to catch up. And you shouldn't wait either: because after a few seconds, the game will teleport Team Bravo into the passenger seats just to make sure you've got some company.

It also takes around 3 civilian kills before Wildlands hits the reset button. I also discovered, after mowing through an enemy village like it was a chapter from the original GTA with a stationwagon, that Civilians will nick your vehicles if you leave them laying around for too long. I can understand the appeal of wanting to grab a car and flee after a bunch of black ops soldiers go all Hotline Miami on your town, and I'm all for it. Just as long as it's not my car.

All of this carries over to the co-operative play as well, which is partly why I've been looking forward to Wildlands so much. The whole purpose of the game is to shoot and blow shit up, and unlike The Division, Wildlands does a reasonable job of getting out of your way. There's 26 boss fights, so you'll still have the odd bullet sponge moment, but for the most part it's up for you to make your own fun.

Image: Ubisoft

None of that will serve as any comfort to people who grew up on the original Rainbow Six games, or people who saw the name Ghost Recon and immediately started thinking of a hyper-militaristic stealth shooter. There's an obvious attempt to draw from games like Metal Gear Solid 5 and Far Cry, and even the official trailers have promoted Wildlands as a calculated, tactical open-world experience.

And don't get me wrong: it can totally be that. But Wildlands is best taken as a laugh, a Just Cause 3 with C4-carrying drones to replace the wingsuit. At its heart, it's not really a serious tactical shooter: it's an opportunity to get three mates together and blow an awful lot of shit up, time and time again.

Please don't take Ghost Recon: Wildlands seriously. That doesn't mean you should ignore the game: only that you should treat the world as a goofy sandbox, rather than the super-serious adventure it's seemingly made out to be.

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Comments

    Sounds all a bit ho-him. Like Just Cause with no structure damage, Metal Gear Solid without the plots, Far Cry without the visuals and Rainbow Six without the tactics.

    The vibe I am getting so far is a drab dull open world that doesn't really know what it wants to be. Just another dead open world game.

      Just another dead open world game.

      Ubisoft's specialty.

    A "Fun to goof around with friends kind of game"

    I'm just gonna be 'that guy' and say Ghost Recon has been shit since just after "Island Thunder". I've hated how it became a linear shooter. The original PC games were an absolute pleasure to play in multiplayer. So much goddamn fun back then. But then they went to consoles and (not trying to start a war, but it's true) the limitations of the hardware forced them to scale it back to a linear, almost corridor shooter. I'll check it out, but I really do long for a proper Ghost Recon game to get made again :(

      The original Ghost Recon was freakin awesome....It was worthy of the Tom Clancy tag...now its just another shooter

        Yep exactly. Ex-bloody-actly. I still remember that open rolling hills map with the farmstead you had to make your way to. It was hard as nails.

          Or the level under the bridge with the tank... god I miss the original Ghost Recon.

            i was honestly hoping this would be closer to the original as well.. ah well heres hoping something will come along one day

      YES!!!

      The first GR and GR: island thunder had a more militaristic feel than any of the following titles.

      Heres your objectives, do them!
      Didn't get bogged down in cheesy overly patriotic narratives and character stories.
      We didn't have to know who every soldier was and any fan of Clancy already knows Dieter Brummer and Astra Galinski.

      The cold feeling the game has was one of its better points.
      Organising a mission was like flicking through military dossiers, enemies were just enemies, not evil half Russian half North Korean super villains.

      Last edited 27/01/17 3:17 pm

      Eh? Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 1 & 2 were fucking fantastic games. On PC anyway, the console versions were completely different games, akin to how the versions of Splinter Cell: Double Agent on the original xbox & on the 360/pc were basically the same story but completely different games (oddly the original xbox one was the better option there)

      Right there with you. I long for a game like the original. It was like the old R6 games, but it played a lot better and you had just enough scifi tech to make you frightening as hell.

      I'll buy this but I'd argue that GR 2 and Summit Strike were just about as solid.

      The original player+AI command mechanic that OG GR had was great and I'm glad its back somewhat, but this a game where a demo will be crucial. Either this game seems fun as hell or dull as dirt.

      Let's not forget that probably everyone involved in the original games has nothing to do with this... I imagine it has no spiritual link to what we remember.

      I was in highschool when Ghost recon first launched..so many hours of ventriloquist memories ..playing on GameSpy for the IGS league ..and the game had little tricks like doing a half moon then tap lean to peak just slightly..oh I knew them all..miss those days

    Please don't take Ghost Recon: Wildlands seriously. That doesn't mean you should ignore the game: only that you should treat the world as a goofy sandbox, rather than the super-serious adventure it's seemingly made out to be.

    But...but the super-serious adventure is what I want!
    Is this advice to console and comfort the people who think super-serious adventure is bad and JC3 is good?
    Because I thought JC3 was bloody awful. I hated it and couldn't spend much more than a couple hours with it before uninstalling out of disgust at how clunky, inconsequential, campy, gimmicky (and frankly, offensive) it was. c.c

    Last edited 27/01/17 12:56 pm

      Offensive? Really...

        Yeah, man. Those accents were pretty cringe-worthy at the very least (made me want to tear my ears off), and the stereotyping was pretty horrific.

      Then get it & play it with other people who want a super serious adventure, games like this are often down to the people you play it with after all. Hell, I'm planning on grabbing it for the PC if you want a coop partner...

        Tempting. I'd normally play on PC, but I've been shifting a lot of my attention to the PS4, lately, to better suit my living situation with the GF.

        Also, my main query regarding the way that it's played was wondering if 'don't take it seriously,' means that it's not actually going to be easy to take it seriously, or if it doesn't take itself seriously.

        Getting it and playing it with other people who want a super serious adventure can't really work with Just Cause 3, after all...

          Well, it sounds like the game is made so you can take it super seriously or play it like just cause depending on the difficulty. Actually super serious is probably overstating its potential but if you play with a group of people who actually like to play carefully & tactically rather than balls out charging everything & punching it in the face, games like this & ghost recon future soldier can be bloody good.

          Its like Arma, if you've ever played that on a public server (or even seen footage of it), you'll see a preposterous difference in approach to that of an organised group. Public servers would see everyone grabbing a tank, helo or jet and going for maximum kills while not communicating with anyone.

          By contrast a private group like the one I'm in will play as a generally cohesive unit at fireteam, squad and platoon level, working together to complete structured objectives and having a fucking great time doing so. A month or so back I was commanding a platoon of 34 people working as a large unified team and that was a competitor for the best gaming experience I've ever had. It was overwhelming as all fuck being in charge of 3 separate teams all working in concert towards an objective and I fucked a few things but it was amazing when I got used to it. Actually, if you've never played Arma3 you really should check it out, have a watch of my 2016 compilation vid (https://youtu.be/eRCrWFm3B0U), it'll give you a good look at how the game can be played when it's not a chaotic clusterfuck populated by glory seeking dickbags.

          Last edited 30/01/17 12:24 pm

      I think he's simply saying that because if you go by the way the game is advertised, you would reasonably assume it's a serious adventure (which I was kinda hoping for too.) I don't think the author is trying to comfort anyone, but set expectations properly for people looking at the game. The review reads perfectly to me; I was kinda let down by the lack of skill needed at times to get through, but it's still a fun and beautiful game as far as visuals go. I like that he didn't say "this is great" or "this is bad," but he was able to accurately describe the jist of the game. So far (and being in beta maybe "so far" is important to specify,) it does play a bit like Just Cause 3 on graphical steroids, which isn't quite was I was expecting, but I guess I'll take it till something else interesting comes out.

    ...it's an opportunity to get three mates together and blow an awful lot of shit up, time and time again.

    Exactly why I'm super keen to pick it up.

    Last edited 27/01/17 1:07 pm

    What difficulty were you playing on ?

    from my understanding this would change the tone of the game a lot, on the higher difficulties it's meant to basically be one hit will kill you so if that was the case i'd imagine you and your team would be far more tactical coming into missions.

      You can turn the difficulty right up if that's what you want.

    Hopefully higher difficulty levels turn it into a more tactical experience.

      Pretty sure this was said in the 20+ minute gameplay demo, that harder difficulties will have your mercs dying from a single round (or so) and tactics will be more heavily emphasised.
      That's what I'll be playing on, I expect, unless the mechanics make it unpleasant.

        Like, those rules only apply to you and not your bullet-sponge enemies? :D

          I think that's the idea - enemies still won't be bullet sponges but neither will your squad (as they seem to be in the gameplay vid, several hits without any real consequence).
          Otherwise that would be just incredibly cheap and unsatisfying gameplay.

    im hoping this gives me a similar feel to co-op heists in GTA5, friends and i had a blast in GTA5 co-op. im all for open world do what you want when you want how you want. i like the idea of the gameplay style varying when you jack up the difficulty. sounds like a helluva fun game with mates.

    I'm afraid this game's existence seems unnecessary.

    Sounds like all the fun parts of Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain

    Why are you just complaining about it, if you don't like the game then quit, stop being a whiny bratty btch about it and play and enjoy to whatever you wish to do and don't post being a little brat or quit because you don't like the game or its not what you thought it was...

    And there are consequences to driving a bike off a cliff, I have flew off of one and died... It is possible but unlikely...

    It's just a game, either you play or you don't... Stop crying ffs

    All you people saying it's not strategy or military bs, try coop with friends (I say coop because ai makes it to easy) on extreme and do a mission without alerting the enemy then tell me how it is. Good luck run an gun noobs

    I played the game Ina advance and it was quite difficult not to be spotted and didn't take many rounds to kill you. The enemies were deadly accurate and on full alert quick. Nine times out of Ten Unidad was on alert within minutes then all hell broke loose.

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