Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is a bit of a gamble. The first fully open-world Ghost Recon in the history of this series, set in (more or less) modern Bolivia, with open-ended progression… It risks a lot, but open-world games are all the rage these days, so it would be a missed opportunity not to bring some of it into the Tom Clancy license.
With just a few days left until the launch gathering all essential info in once place seems worth the effort, and may well help someone make up their mind while pre-orders are still flying around.
Wildlands takes the action to Bolivia in a future not distant enough to make any worthwhile difference (year 2019). The main antagonists of the game are going to be drug cartels, led by a man known as El Sueño who through an uncompromising attitude and a measure of violence managed to not only subjugate all other cartels and drug dealers in the area, but also to control the government.
As a result of a joint operation of CIA, DEA, and JSOC, the US government sends a four-man Ghost squad as a countermeasure and aid to the local resistance.
Bolivia as presented in the game is said to have 11 different biomes and each of them will be fully explorable right from the start. No arbitrary boundaries are to be expected, although you shouldn’t try to reach mountaintops or occasional plateaus on foot only, especially since there will be enough vehicles to carry you around. Why go on foot when you could use a helicopter or a plane?
Salt flats, barren wastelands, forests and more await you in Wildlands, and watching the pretty sights isn’t going to be the only thing to do there, either.
You will get direct control over the Ghost squad leader, whom you will be able to customize to a satisfactory degree. Between decent face-morphing and a large number of accessories, you will likely be able to make a decent enough lookalike of yourself, your friends, or a character from more than one action movie you love and want to play as.
The exact scope of the visual customization remains to be seen, but we will probably get a decent gallery of lookalikes right after the launch, if the past examples of Mass Effect and Fallout 4 face-morphing tools are any indication.
Just like your appearance, your combat role is not locked to anything predetermined. Open-ended progression feels right at home with the generally player freedom-based game, and it’s nice to know you won’t be locked into using sniper rifles all the time just because you wanted to be THAT class, instead of THIS one. With classes abandoned, you can be anything you want.
Adapt your approach and switch things around between missions, nobody is going to stop you.
The core gameplay
Not unlike other Ghost Recons before, and not unlike other open-world Ubisoft games before, the game will promote a more stealthy approach to the missions, before potentially devolving into a study of containing chaos.
As you become a veteran covert operative, you will get to scout your area of operation, mark intended targets, coordinate shots, and engage in broadly defined diversion. Laying down mines, setting remotely triggered explosives, sabotaging communication towers etc.
…and everything on the side
As expected of a modern Ubisoft open-world game, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is going to have a ton of content outside of the reported 100 main story missions. Exploring the map will yield rewards in the form of weapon caches hiding upgrades for you gear, extra resources you can use to augment your progression and more. On the “activity side” you will find people in need of assistance, cartel outposts to wreck and leaders to interrogate for intel, and, probably, the general goofing off in numerous vehicles.
Some general considerations
Numerous reports mention that AI still needs some work, and both your allies and enemies can perform outstanding feats of ineptitude at the worst possible times. We shall see if the final product, as opposed to preview builds, is going to correct this. A stealth/tactic shooter where you don’t exactly need all that much of neither stealth or tactics seems like a misfire.
Of course, playing with friends changes this dramatically. Even though it does reportedly little to improve enemy AI, communicating with friends allows you to perform amazing coordinated actions. Or end up becoming a chaotic scramble for extraction, when some Leeroy Jenkins decides that stealth is boring and starts to blow everything up. You know, the usual risk.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is definitely an interesting proposition. It ultimately remains to be seen how the topic of drug cartels (an actual problem of the region) is treated by the plot, and how distracting all the side activities are. On the other hand, having a country to play around in as overqualified, but underequipped operatives sounds like a ton of fun, with friends or otherwise. There is certainly some hope that the interrogations will lead to a Shadow of Mordor-esque mechanic where you bully outpost leaders into submission and use them to overthrow El Sueño.
One way or another, for better or worse, Ghost Recon Wildlands launches on March 7. There is still a good amount of time watch the gameplays, read other previews, and decide for yourself whether it is the kind of game you want to pre-order or not.
Will you help the beleaguered Bolivian resistance in their fight for freedom?