Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Preview: The final recon before launch
ByDate: Feb 22 2017 Views:
The romance of Ubisoft and the Tom Clancy's license has been going for nearly twenty years now, and there are no signs of it dying out any time soon. And it's not just one franchises, or two, but several. There is stealthy Splinter Cell, SWAT simulator Rainbow Six, covert ops Ghost Recon...
There are plenty of genres on the license to keep anyone entertained. After appropriately divisive The Division the time comes for a new Ghost Recon game. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest game in a series dating back to 2001, and, at the same time, the biggest open-world game in Ubisoft's history.
Let's find out what it's worth before the launch day comes.
The setupThe Ghost Squad's area of operation in Wildlands is Bolivia, in "near future". The reason for deployment is simple: drug cartels, led by extremely dangerous man known as El Sueño, have taken nearly complete control over the country and are running their operations out in the open. The Ghost are there to systematically eliminate drug lords on their way to El Sueño, and to support the local resistance in their own efforts.
High-risk environmentThe setting is a risky choice, and it contributes to a probably rather grim tone dominant in the campaign. Taking on a real problem Bolivians face in their day to day lives is something that should be done with appropriate seriousness. It remains to be seen what exact effect it'll have on the game, and how will Ubisoft manage to handle the mood without having it drag the enjoyment of the game down.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is reported to have anything between 11 different biomes, from lush areas full of life with roaming flamingoes, to barren mountain pass wastelands, and even the infamous Death Road you can drive along yourself. It is safe to assume that each biome will introduce its own set of challenges and opportunities. It's one thing to sneak up on an enemy through the bushes, another to try and hide on a barren plain with a rock here and there.
Highly customizable operatives
What good would an open-world game be, if you were locked into a single appearance or a single battlefield role? Wildlands doesn't even try to answer these questions, giving the players a large number of customization options instead, if all the "early looks" and "hand-ons" are to be believed.
First of all, you will be able to fully customize how your Ghost looks, with a smattering of hat, glasses, hairstyles, and probably enough face-sculpting to allow most people to create their look-alike, or the next best thing, anyway.
Similarly, there is no single class to pick, instead an open-ended progression is provided, allowing you pick and choose any skill you have the experience and resources for. You can forge your own unique operative before venturing into the realm of maxing every skill available, probably. It's probably for the best, though. Having rigid classes in a game so intent on flexibility and freedom would probably run counter to the underlying idea.
Three is company, four is Ghost squad
At any given time your character is going to be accompanied by other three Ghosts, controlled by either AI or other players joining you in coop. And make no mistake: playing alone is likely to get you killed. Outmanned and outgunned, the chances of survival for a lone wolf are approaching zero.
Then again, it's been mentioned by several previews, that the AI still needs some work, both for allies and enemies. The main point of playing a tactical shooter is having to, and getting to, use tactics, poor AI makes it both unnecessary and occasionally impossible.
Hopefully Ubisoft manages to do some last-minute magic to improve the AI, or at least patches it enough for it to work just fine on higher difficulties.
Online funOf course half of the problems with AI disappear when you play with friends who know what they are doing. It's much easier to enjoy being an experienced special operative when you don't have to fight against slow allied AI. Actual voice communication instead of clunky command wheel is reportedly improving a lot, so there's some hope to be found on that front.
The glory of exploration
The beautiful (for the most part) Bolivia is going to be fully explorable right from the beginning, without arbitrary walls cutting off regions until you meet some condition A. As a result instead of going about doing your job you will be able to scout for resources, help unlucky Bolivians in their fights against the cartel, gather intel... It's unlikely for anyone to be bored, especially since we probably won't get any generic flag- or feather-hunting to pad the playtime.
One of the most interesting side activities will probably be infiltratingliberatingtaking over cartel outposts. Getting to interrogate their leaders will provide intel on other branches of their operations, nicely filling out the empty spaces on your map. We can only hope the system will turn out to be as engaging and interesting as dominating orc warlords in Shadow of Mordor.
Tom Clancy Ghost Recon Wildlands is in a risky position, from which it may ascend to glory or fall into realms designated for perfectly playable disappointments.
For what it's worth, there are enough elements to would ensure the ascension despite some shortcomings like the unreliable AI. The massive area of operations, open-ended character progression, plenty of entertaining tools to use (like target-marking drone)... Wildlands strikes many extremely appealing notes. The only thing left to do is wait until the launch day, March 7th, and see for oneself, how well they blend together, no matter whether you decided to buy a pre-order or not.
Will we see you in the digitally recreated Bolivia, taking the fight to violent drug cartels?