Ghost Recon: Wildlands, by Ubisoft, is the latest in the Ghost Recon series, and the strangest driving-simulator I’ve played in a long while.
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Of course, the Closed Beta access was provided by Ubisoft, and was played on the PS4.
The game, Wildlands, is set in the South American nation of Bolivia, where the players are to take down a cocaine-network across the nation’s varied landscapes and settings. Of course, the first thing that springs to mind is, “Did anyone ask Bolivia if they were OK with this?” From the beta, the portrayal of this country of 10 million is one of violence, fighting both “Narcos” and what I gather is an imaginary military force.
The Beta starts out easy enough, dropping the players at a safe base with the rebels, and a near-by’ish mission to rescue someone. This is where the driving sim starts, as you get into a car (or on a bike) and drive a couple of kilometers in first gear! Odd facts: You can run faster than some vehicles can drive, and reverse seems to go a lot faster generally.
Getting to the first location, it’s then a few minutes of shooting, as the enemies drop easily enough from just 1 shot when playing on Normal difficulty, with no bullet-sponge effect like a certain other game. Clear the camp, find the hostage, get some intel, and it’s back to slowly driving a few clicks to the next step in the story.
Attacking a base can be done in any way you want, though stealth works quite well; Bodies despawn fast, so the enemies don’t discover the corpses your sniping has produced, but especially in Single Player, full-frontal assaults are almost trivial. Get a car, optionally with a turret, and enough seats for the NPC teammates, and do a couple of drive-bys to clear the area. Later, when assaulting an enclosed enemy base, just replace the car with a helicopter.
Side-missions are more fun, such as stopping a rolling convoy or stealing a helo. Convoy missions generally require getting a fast car, or some other way to get in front of the convoy, blocking it and taking out drivers and/or wheels.
Smash-and-grab side-missions sort-of boils down to bum-rushing the target vehicle, getting in, and leave; on more difficult settings, have a sniper assigned to cover the driver/pilot-side door, while the rest of the team work their way to it.
The story is functional, but seems to suffer from the same repetitiveness seen in most other, similar games: Go there, shoot, now go there, push a button and wait, and then reload and shoot some more. Referring to Wildlands as The Division In The Mountains, or South American Destiny is not that wrong in this regard. The leg-up for Wildlands is that you can change the environment by helping the rebels, however mono-dimensional this is, so at least some progress can be experienced.
Also included, as in all recent Ubisoft games even remotely like this one, is resource-gathering, collecting and modifying weapons and improving your skills. The latter helps you define your character better, whether you invest in health-related stats, or perhaps in improving your spy-drone or even in a very Steep-like parachute. Skills can unlock gear, which seems out-of-touch with all other gear being collected during regular missions or via intel-missions and exploration.
Graphically, on the PS4, the game is very pretty, but also VERY glitchy and inconsistent. Things, incl player characters will pop in or out, vehicle-damage will occur on the wrong side of the vehicle, and there are floating weapons when a character is using a turret. They generally aren’t game-breaking, but are annoying enough to break immersion. Overall, the glitches seem like something Ubisoft should be able to fix before the 07/03-’17 release date but do expect a day-1 patch if buying a physical copy.
Sounds are generally quite good, though I got the impression they could have been separated better. One area that was annoying was when the game would mix music, helicopter sounds and speech, which just resulted in a garbled mess; better mixing, perhaps some ducking when there’s an NPC speaking, and subtitles, would frankly have gone a long way.
Controls are … something. When driving or piloting vehicles, they are slow and clunky, and very binary – either you’re accelerating, or you’re not. Helicopter piloting also seems somewhat un-helicopter’ish, and pitch-control in the 1 airplane was non-functioning.
For the shooting-part, the game uses input-acceleration, which did nothing but frustrate, and couldn’t be turned off. There’s zero precision control, despite that being the purpose of input-acceleration, and overall it ends up getting in the way. It may have become the norm in 1st Person shooters, but give us the option to disable it, please!
The game is absolutely a multi-player, co-op game; If planning on playing it alone, I wouldn’t bother. For this reason, it also seems odd that the game is apparently not cross-platform in any way. Even on the so-called Ghost Recon Network website, when it works, you have separate profiles per platform.
Co-Op is the one place where developers shouldn’t have to worry too much about input-device-balance, especially in a more tactical game, but Ubisoft, best I can tell, said No.
This is also why I might end up skipping the game: During the Closed Beta I could barely give away the extra free keys and currently the only person whom I know is looking to play the game, will do so on the Windows PC platform.
Conclusion: It’s a pretty decent game, with an interesting but questionable setting and story, poor controls, glitchy graphics, and I think I’d play the heckington out of it if only I had anyone to play it with.
Responsible for many of the day-to-day operations, for messing up website code, and generally for whipping the rest of the team into an odd shape, G took on the Evil Overlord title because the rest ran around like headless chicken. He doubles as the other main host on Rated-R, when actually around and awake.