The gaming community, and Tom Clancy franchise fans in particular, have much to celebrate in the upcoming release of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, if the final game expands on the experience that the beta has shown us. After twelve hours of raiding cartel compounds, hijacking helicopters, airplanes, trucks, and farming tractors, taking control of military bases while being rocketed by enemy gunships, parachuting from helicopters, and upgrading my avatar’s skills and abilities, I have exhausted the beta, but I am very excited for the future.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands (GRW) is a game that I and many others have been waiting for with anxious anticipation. This anticipation, and hope, were stressed by what many consider to be disappointments in recent Tom Clancy games: The Division as a whole and Rainbow 6 Siege’s lack of a campaign. The Division showed much promise, but its bullet-sponge bosses and its prolonged unrealistic combat with meaningless tactics was abstract to the Tom Clancy formula many of us grew up with. Prior Ghost Recons, Splinter Cells, and Rainbow 6s attempted to remain faithful to the promise of delivering a tactically-rich and strategically-rewarding experience where gamers could taste a virtual version of real military combat. The Division wasn’t that. Additionally, even though I love Rainbow 6 Siege (I play it multiple times each week with friends), it didn’t deliver the campaign that we have come to cherish in past renditions. It was a studio choice that, even though justified, we much lamented.
However, in the Wildlands of Bolivia, the setting to GRW, we may just find redemption. Twelve hours later and having completed 99% of the beta content, I have put down my controller and taken off my headset feeling extremely satisfied. If the full GRW expands on its beta, then the gaming community can look forward to a rich and engaging open-world tactical shooter that will deliver exponential amounts of high-quality entertainment—playing with friends is recommended.
From its opening cut scenes and character (avatar) building system, the GRW beta gives the player a strong sense of empowerment. The Wildlands are your battlefield, and here is a great character customization system to build your Ghost. Is it the best system ever? Definitely not, but satisfying nevertheless. Moving on, the game launches you into your first mission without much in tutorials, as those pop up non-invasively as you progress through the early story. Classic fans of Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell will feel right at home—I promise.
The natural intuition is to tackle the objective in a linear manner, but please don’t! There is little to no linearity in this game! You want to attack the objective from the hill nearby? Sure. You want to sneak in and melee everyone? Go for it. Snipe? Knock yourself out. Wanna try to “Master Chief” your way through the mission? You can do it, but good luck! “Empowered” is a word I strongly associate with my time in the beta, and I hope the final GRW continues to deliver that sensation.
There weren’t a lot of negative points in the notes that I took while playing the beta. One of the first things I noticed is that developers need to recalibrate the vehicle cameras and Right Joystick sensitivity. The vehicles operate well, but at times the bad calibration delivers an awkward experience.
The campaign story is there, for sure, but it could end up diluted by the many side missions and the sheer size of the world you are playing in. Early on, my friends and I knocked out two story missions, but then decided to focus on side missions and playing with the “sandbox” experience available to all. Not until later did we go back and finish the story missions available. For narrative-loving gamers, of which I am one, this may be a disappointing experience. Have you played Dragon Age Inquisition? Remember those big region maps in which you spent hours and hours knocking out quests apart from the main story? Well, it isn’t quite like that, because all the side missions are pretty self-contained, but it can feel like a distraction for those who want an epic narrative.
Friends are not included. Sure, you have your three AI teammates, but the level of fun grew exponentially the more human players that I added to my squad. GRW is a game that I will enjoy regardless of whether I play by myself or with friends, but cooperative gameplay is recommended. Taking on an enemy fortress with AIs is fun, but nothing beats the tactical planning of four human beings adding their own personality and take to the mixture. A final version of GRW may draw some similar criticism to Destiny’s and The Division’s heavy emphasis on coop play, but I believe that the sense of “player empowerment” I found in the beta will compensate for it all.
Parachute from an aircraft into a cartel fortress on top of a mountain, land on top of a building, take out all the snipers, watch you buddy crash into the side of the mountain and die, watch your other buddy parachute into the middle of a dozen enemy AIs and get obliterated. Just another day in the Wildlands. The “great” about the GRW beta is that the open-world is yours. Hijack and drive any vehicle you lay your eyes on, customize your weapons in the Gunsmith System any way you want, level up your skills and abilities through in-game experience and achievements, ignore the rules and become a twisted sadistic murderer, or be the spear that strikes at the heart of the Santa Clara cartel.
I only played a beta, but Ghost Recon Wildlands could be remembered as one of the biggest, most polished, and most entertaining open-world shooter developed. It borrows from previous Tom Clancy successes and brings over positive elements that you will recognize from Borderlands and Grand Theft Auto. For some, GRW may not seem like a truly original product, but its potential greatness may lie in the ability of developers to include much of what has made other games great. On March 7th, the Wildlands may lead you to an open-world in which you, the player, have the power to beat the bad guys in almost any way you want. Heads up Ghost!