by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
Officially, they don't exist. Whispers on the battlefield, praise from those who have claimed to fought alongside them while few who have faced them have lived to tell the tale. Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group... or, as their reputation preceding them implies, Ghost Recon (or The Ghosts). Ghost Recon, along with Rainbow Six, have been two fictional units that have been the bread and butter for Tom Clancy games for a long time. While the former specializes in counter-terrorism operations, Ghost Recon specializes in warfare with plausible deniability. They were never there, they were never seen, and whatever you thought you saw was your eyes playing tricks on you.
Ghost Recon, for me, holds a place very fond in my heart. It was one of the first tactical FPS games I played, and I stuck with the series even as it turned to a third-person experience and became more linear and cinematic. I had often hoped, however, that it'd return to the more open maps of the original. When it was announced that Ghost Recon: Wildlands was going completely open world, I was excited and concerned. We all know that open world games can either be amazing, completely awful or as mediocre as they come. Luckily, fellow writer Matt Porter and myself were able to sit down during the closed beta and check out the upcoming title for ourselves. I can't speak for him, but I know that I was pleasantly surprised.
Bienvenido a Bolivia
Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes a step back a few years from Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, taking place in 2019 and under much different circumstances than what the Ghosts commonly find themselves in. It's a throwback to more modern weaponry rather than near-future outfitting, though there are still a few gadgets and gizmos that help the Ghosts stand out including advanced reconnaissance drones.
During my time in the closed beta, I tested it out as both a co-op and a single player experience as I was given access to one of twenty-one provinces in Bolivia, 6 campaign missions, several side objectives and a taste of weapons and vehicles to play with.
The game actually plays surprisingly well, and on max settings I'm not noticing the infamous downgrades that some recent Ubisoft titles (excluding Watchdogs 2) have gotten flak for. We're talking fluid, cross country gameplay and looking good while doing it. There are two scenarios that really stood out in terms of displaying the freedom of choice, and the quality of the game that really impressed me, and unsurprisingly they both took place while playing co-op.
On approach to a small, but heavily occupied village halfway up a hill surrounded by dense jungle flora, I looked to a cliffside and told Matt the gaming equivalent of "Hold my beer" as I saw something, and on an impulse I went for it. After about a few minute hike and climb around, going the extra mile to get in position stealthily I was in a perfect viewpoint to give overwatch to Matt as he infiltrated the camp. Marking targets, taking them down quietly, it felt familiar. In all honesty, it reminded me much of the gameplay of Metal Gear Solid V, only with a slight bit less finesse - but the co-op made up for that.
Of course, we hadn't had enough time with the game to become the Ghosts we were meant to be, as I missed a shot on a target and it was enough to send the remainder of the camp into a frenzy. Matt began pushing his way through an active firefight down below, while I tried to maintain cover from above; only for the village to be reinforced by a helicopter. We were each on our own, fighting for survival; and somehow against the odds we both came out the other side, with a chopper down and a village full of bodies. It could've gone a lot cleaner, but wow if we didn't get to experience both the stealthy side and action side of the game in a span of a few moments gone wrong.
Later on during our time playing together, we had a mission to infiltrate one of the compounds of the local police force, Unidad, to discover more information that'd lead us to our overall target for the region. It was a hardened target, more of a fortress than a typical police compound. So, of course, we tried the stealth approach again; this time I was the boots on the ground, while Matt maintained recon with his drone. We took down the obvious threats, and then Matt swooped in to interrogate the local captain for the information he had. On our way out, we discovered we'd made an error in our plan; we didn't secure an exit. Our way over the wall to get in went off without a hitch, getting back over the wall was a different story.
New plan! We were going to make a break for the main gate. Time was short, the sun was starting to rise and the barracks were starting to show signs of enemies waking up. My first thoughts was to secure the enemy chopper for our escape; Matt had other plans, and we didn't exactly convey that well to each other. I was in the chopper long enough to spin it around and get off some shots with the miniguns before the mortar strike he called in decimated it, and nearly killed me. After a bit of laughter followed by more gunfire, I jumped in the nearest vehicle, and sped towards the gate -praying- that the environment had basic destructibility. As I came crashing through, Matt and I in separate vehicles racing towards freedom it was another thrilling moment... one that ended in a car chase and me dying, but still a fun one.
March 7th Can't Come Quickly Enough
Dabbling in the single-player with AI, I can tell you it still maintains a good level of fun but not nearly the excitement of playing with even just one friend (a full group must be insane). Combine that with the large map size, the extensive weapon catalogue, and a surprisingly in-depth customization system (for an Ubisoft game) and I think I can easily say that this is one to be considered for your library when it launches next month.