Ghost Recon: Wildlands arrives in a couple of weeks, to get you prepped TrustedReviews has rounded-up everything you need to know including release date, trailers and season pass information as well as our latest preview.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest open-world action title from Ubisoft. A brand-new IP, the title looks to deliver a hard-hitting tale of drug-smuggling and crime in Bolivia, with players able to team up in four-player co-op.
Here's the latest trailer which gives players a look at the single player element of the game:
Bolivia is the cocaine capital of the world, fueled by the Santa Blanca Drug Cartel with operations spread across the entire country. Society has been twisted into a narcotics fueled wasteland, despite the lovely weather.
This is bad news for the United States Government, who respond by dispatching an Elite Operations Unit (that's you) to deal with the growing drug epidemic.
Set in the modern day, Wildlands does away with the futuristic setting of previous games in favour of a gritty, more realistic landscape. With a variety of weapons, vehicles and abilities alongside nine unique types of terrain to traverse; you and your friends will have plenty of challenging missions to keep you entertained. Bolivia is fully explorable with outposts, NPCs and missions to interact with. This can all be done solo or with a group of savvy operators working by your side. Wildlands is set to continue Ubisoft's impressive streak of immersive open-world experiences.
Read on for our hands-on preview
Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from March 7
Say what you want about Ubisoft, but it’s a company that truly believes in creating open-world games. Where many publishers choose to hedge their bets when investing in new games, Ubisoft has spent the last four years loudly proclaiming that open-world experiences are gaming’s future. Largely washing its hands of linear narrative-driven titles, the French behemoth has bet big on emergent gameplay, doubling down on shiny new open-world adventures – for better and for worse.
After several different Ubisoft titles started to exhibit very similar mechanics, gamers accused the company of churning out formulaic titles with a conveyor-belt level of regularity. Thankfully, it seems like these complaints were heard loud and clear, with last year’s Watch Dogs 2 reassuring players that Ubisoft can still craft varied and detailed worlds to explore.
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It is with some surprise, then, that upon sitting down with Ghost Recon Wildlands a few months later, it immediately feels like Ubisoft‘s latest open-world effort is something of a step backward.
Where December’s criminally underrated Steep revelled in letting you explore every inch of its pixel-perfect pistes, during my three hours with Wildlands, Ubisoft seemed more intent on ensuring that I destroy Bolivia rather than actually enjoy spending any time in it. While there’s nothing wrong with a game where you merely wreak havoc across a beautifully realised world, the problem is that Wildlands’ gunplay and mission design doesn’t seem to do anything to capitalise on the potential of its unique setting.
Introducing you as the leader of an elite team of covert-ops soldiers called The Ghosts, a promising opening cinematic shows a culturally rich country crumbling under the weight of relentless cartel warfare. With various merciless drug lords using cocaine and violence to take over the country, Bolivia’s government quickly fell under gang control. After a recent American death sparks outrage, the US sends in The Ghosts to avoid all-out war. Your mission? To explore Bolivia’s exotic locales and bring stability to the region by carefully dishing out diplomacy in classic video game style: one bullet at a time.
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Initially, at least, Wildlands looks set to make good on the potential of its setup. Climbing into a nearby 4x4 with my AI-controlled teammates, I find myself driving down a steep cliff via a long and winding dirt road. As upbeat Bolivian music blares out of the car stereo, a quick flick of the right analogue stick reveals a picturesque view of lush Bolivian countryside below as the glare of the sun hits my windscreen. Tasked with infiltrating an outpost and interrogating a cartel commander, my lengthy journey involves swerving around locals whom decide to wander across the road and carefully attempting to avoid enemy patrols as well as oncoming traffic. A peaceful countryside drive this most certainly is not.
The surrounding scenery is stunning, with Wildlands’ crisp environments looking sharp and lush on PS4 (the game will also support PS4 Pro). While the by-the-numbers soldier chat over the comms en route to the objective does little, the beautifully rendered world does a brilliant job of making me feel like I’m exploring a stunning but troubled country. Unfortunately, once the first mission actually starts, that illusion quickly begins to shatter.
Hopping out of the 4x4, I carefully sneak over to a large rock sitting conveniently outside the cartel outpost. Wildlands uses the same drone system as in Watch Dogs 2, so pressing up on the D-pad launches my very own aerial ally to scout the surrounding area. Satisfied that the entire base has been completely searched, I carefully select which targets to shoot first from the now marked gang and proceed to line up the perfect shot.
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Watching the mark fall, the squad is giving the call to join in on the action.
Expecting to rain down well-calculated death on this outpost, to my surprise the whole idea of approaching combat tactically becomes instantly redundant. After taking out a soldier from a distance I rush in to clear the rest of my base, only to see my fellow Ghosts running around haphazardly and completely ignoring orders. Luckily for us, the enemy AI is equally clueless, somehow failing to spot me at close range and choosing such terrible sources of cover that I make short work of them.
With stealth becoming almost pointless, I sprint straight towards the objective. Running into my quarry while making my way up a watch tower, I quickly grab him and begin the interrogation. Farcically, midway through, his minions run up the stairs and attempt to intervene while my Ghost squad potter about below, completely oblivious and unhelpful.
After the bullets go flying it soon becomes apparent that neither my teammates' or the enemy's AI are really nuanced enough to make tactical combat worth bothering with, and it basically becomes a shootout of chaotic proportions rather than a Splinter Cell-esque operation.
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Assuming it was the difficulty setting I was playing on, I crank it up to the hardest setting for the following missions. After dishing out orders only to see my supposedly ‘elite’ ops unit repeatedly failing to be of any use, I'm soon advised by one of Ubisoft’s staff that it's best to just stop commanding them and to let them do their own thing.
Disappointed, I move onto multiplayer.
Lacking the charm or attention to detail of Watch Dogs 2, many of the environments where missions take place feel bland and forgettable. Instead of the uniquely Bolivian-feeling cartel I expect to be battling, I find myself driving across beautiful but largely empty countryside only to arrive at dull, vaguely ‘foreign’-looking outposts, shooting generic thugs. While there are a couple of exceptions, the majority of bases I'm tasked with raiding look suspiciously similar to outposts in Far Cry 4 – a game set on the other side of the world.
For a game supposedly based around tactical combat, the incompetent AI on both sides of the fight made what I saw of Wildlands feel entirely unconvincing as a single-player experience. While the game undoubtedly fared better during my multiplayer demo, the frustrating enemy AI still dampened the experience. Then when the quality of teammates improved, it brought to light the monotony of the environments I was exploring.
It’s a shame, because I really wanted to love Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Selling itself as a Narcos-meets-Breaking Bad co-op shooter, the game’s interesting setting could have led to some refreshingly unique tactical multiplayer action. The option to switch between third- and first-person aiming feels refreshing, and the ability to approach missions either on foot or through a variety of different vehicles is a welcome one.
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But where Watch Dogs 2’s world impressed with its variety and depth, coupled with its surprising mission variety, traversing Wildlands' vacant and repetitive sandbox suggests Ghost Recon could well be a disappointing return to the half-baked Ubisoft open worlds of old.
Still, at only three hours in, I’ve admittedly only seen a tiny fragment of what Wildlands has to offer. Ubisoft promises that the full game will contain 11 different ecosystems, over 100 story missions and many different villages and landmarks to discover, so there’s obviously still room for Ghost Recon: Wildlands to shine.
With over 60 different vehicles, there’s certainly some fun to be had tearing up the Bolivian countryside with four mates, but thanks to its archaic AI, it currently fails to offer the kind of satisfying challenge that would keep players coming back.
With less than two months to go before Wildlands hits the shelves, let’s hope that Ubisoft can use that time to help give a beautiful-looking world the depth and variety of gameplay that it deserves.