After The Division's success, Ubisoft is taking another stab at the open-world tactical shooter in the form of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands. Except, this time, you'll be riding across the desert instead of trudging through the plague-ridden snow. Acting as the tenth installment in the Ghost Recon franchise and the very first with a fully-featured open world, Wildlands takes us to the open plains of Bolivia.
Watch the latest trailer:
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 from E3 2016
Available on PS4, Xbox One and PC
Release date: March 7, 2017
The first instalment of Ubisoft’s tactical squad-based shooter since 2012’s Future Soldier sees something of a reboot, and if early indications prove accurate, Wildlands could propel Ghost Recon into stellar realms. The first Ghost Recon game with a fully open world, ditching the franchise’s gimmicky reliance on technology in favour of high-octane missions that can be approached however you wish. The result is a deeply enjoyable sandbox-style romp.
Wildlands has an interesting premise, albeit a scary one if you happen to come from Bolivia. Set in the present day but positing an alternate reality in which a corrupt government has allowed Santa Blanca, a Colombian drug cartel, to move into Bolivia, effectively taking over the country. As an elite Ghost, you’re fighting on two fronts: your primary objective is to destabilise the drug cartel and ultimately take out El Sueno, its leader, but you also have to contend with a corrupt military backing El Sueno. The more disruption you cause, the more resistance the locals will be able to organise.
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It’s an intriguing setup, played out against a stunning backdrop. Ubisoft says that the area in which Wildlands takes place is the biggest it has ever put into a game, with no fewer than 11 different ecosystems (including island archipelagos, mountainous areas, rainforests and deserts) – we were able to have a look around the map and it is giant.
The Wildlands hands-on at E3 consisted of one mission, but it was long and involved, and I played it a number of times, confirming that it is possible to take wildly differing approaches. The co-operative aspect of Wildlands is properly drop-in, drop-out: you can play on your own with AI-controlled squad-mates or bring in friends whenever you want.
At E3, I formed part of a four-human team, with a team-leader directing, often splitting into two-man sub-teams. After a period getting used to the (thoroughly intuitive) controls, my squad regrouped on the hillside above a camp which, we knew, housed one of our target’s associates – we would have to arrest and interrogate him, so an indiscriminate guns-blazing approach was ruled out.
After launching a couple of drones, tagging enemies and our target, we swapped from silenced assault rifles to sniper-rifles (the loadout also included a silenced automatic handgun) and each reserved a target, taking out most of the foot-soldiers out on a count of three, before rushing down to finish off the rest of the enemies and grab our main target for interrogation.
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On the first play-through, he managed to jump into a vehicle, so the Ghost squad did likewise and pursued him to a petrol station, discovering it is possible to lean out of the window of any vehicle and shoot. Reinforcements arrived, so half the squad fought them off, while the other half finally cornered our prey and interrogated him. On a later play-through, I managed to arrest him at the first opportunity, showing that Wildlands is dynamic, rather than scripted.
Calling in a chopper to take us to our next destination, we could then parachute down to terra firma, and regrouped above a major camp equipped with alarms, snipers, machine-gun nests and a mortar (all of which we again tagged with drones). Having decided on priorities – taking out the mortar, machine-gun nests and alarms first, we again split into two groups, sustaining a stealth approach for as long as possible.
Working through the camp, taking out enemies at close range, one group went for the intel, while the other freed some locals from cages, who picked up weapons and joined in to help us. Reinforcements then arrived, and I found it impossible to resist the temptation to lob a grenade at a huge gas-tank, which took a lot of them out. Again, that emphasised Wildlands’ play-how-you-want nature. A vehicular getaway left an almost GTA-like after-taste.
I found Ghost Recon Widlands intensely enjoyable to play. I played the demo mission three times, each play-through was different. It’s much more immediate than previous Ghost Recon games, plunging you straight into the action after a reconnaissance period, and the control system has bags of feel.
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Question-marks remain, most notably surrounding the mechanism with which you will control your AI squad-mates if you play solo – which was a tiny bit fiddly in previous Ghost Recon games. However, I can’t imagine that will be the case for Wildlands, since in human co-op mode, it’s strikingly pick-up-and-play.
In general, Ghost Recon previously felt like a slightly niche title, aimed at those with something of an obsession with modern soldiering. But Wildlands feels very mainstream. And with an epic storyline, a huge game-world (which, in itself, should generate some wildly differing missions) and the chance to play through it with your friends, it has the potential to be a smash-hit.