Ubisoft have recently been criticised over letting their various franchises bleed into each other and there is no denying that what we played of Ghost Recon: Wildlands had an air of Far Cry about it. It should be said, though, that rather than being all out Far Cry, Wildlands spans the entire spectrum of Ubisoft's action portfolio, including carefully planned tactical co-op gameplay, using drones to scout and tag enemies and objectives, and communicating to tackle the challenge ahead with your squadmates.
Bolivia is the country that plays host to Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and it was mentioned on a couple of occasions that this is the largest open world action game from Ubisoft ever. That certainly gives an idea of scale, because the platform holder certainly doesn't shy away from building expansive sandboxes for players to explore. The world itself looks gorgeous and appears to offer great variation in terms of terrain, forcing players to use different tactics to approach missions.
If you watched the Ubisoft press conference on Monday then you saw the end of a series of quests leading up to the capture of "El Pozolero" - the stewmaker - a man responsible for literally making the bodies of Santa Muerte's enemies disappear. We got the chance to play two missions leading up to that finale. The structure in Ghost Recon: Wildlands is such that you need to damage the Santa Blanca cartel and the corrupt government by hitting various parts of its organisation: the production, security, trafficking, and influence. There will be various targets to take down and each will take you closer to a showdown with the leader of the cartel - El Sueño. Perhaps it can be compared to the mission structure in Pandemic's old game Mercenaries, in which you're free to attack any branch of the organisation and focus on what you want.
The first we played of the questline involved grabbing an informer who had intel on El Pozolero and we had to take out the surrounding guards before trying and grab him. What was interesting was that we played it twice and the guard position changed, making for different scenarios (one time all guards were bunched together closely, while the other time they were more spread out). Depending on what time of day it is will naturally also make for very different scenarios. As we continued playing, the person we were looking for escaped in a car and we needed to chase him down, another fire fight breaking out after stopping at a nearby gas station.
Clearly parts of this were scripted, but much like in something like Just Cause, there's a good mix of scripted events and chases, as well as emergent gameplay. After getting the intel we hopped on a helicopter and flew to a camp some distance from the gas station where more information on El Pozolero was kept. This camp was way bigger, and presented many tactical and strategic options. Caged rebels could be freed in order to have them help in the attack, for instance. Also, there was a mortar, an important target to take out early on, along with lamps and spotlights along with alarms that you needed to consider. Of course we attacked the camp during the day, but at night taking out the lights can be key.
At the end of this segment of the mission we were attacked by a helicopter and we actually managed to take it out in both play-throughs. The first time we were in the passenger seat of a jeep driving away from the camp while shooting the helicopter with an assault rifle. The second time we managed to take out the pilot with a well-placed shot, so while the helicopter didn't explode spectacularly it did gently tumble down onto a rooftop.
While creating chaos is fun, it should be noted that killing civilians comes at a cost in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The objective is to liberate the people from the terror of living in a narco state after all. That is something you'll need to keep in mind then, and clearly the game favours surgical precision even if you always have the option of shooting at the red barrels rather than executing simultaneous sniper shots with your co-op buddies.
The demo we played at E3 2016 was a slice of the full game, not a polished demo, and it showed in places (you can catch our gameplay footage yourself). We do appreciate an honest look at the game, however, nine months from release, and it should be said that sitting down with three other players next you and playing four player co-op Ghost Recon in an open world is brilliant fun.
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