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Ghost Recon Wildlands: Closed Beta Impressions

Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest offering in the longstanding Ghost Recon “tactical shooter” franchise by Ubisoft. In a major change from the previous games that saw a more linear structure the new game takes place in a large open-world in which the player is charged with tracking down and killing the members of a major drugs cartel that has taken over Bolivia. Here are my impressions based this weekends closed beta.

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Scouting out locations is a key part of the game

Gunplay:

While many games fall down on the implementation of the weapons Wildlands thankfully has some of the best gun mechanics I’ve seen in a longtime. Unlike the more bullet-spongy playstyles of many games of late all of the weapons feel powerful and play well in-game even on regular, delivering a satisfying sound and effect on impact with guns nearly always killing in one hit for unaware enemies.

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Stealth:

Like with many of the Tom Clancy brand games stealth plays a major role in the game and the mechanics are well made, correctly and believably varying the detection range depending on the player’s actions. This sees slow crawls hard for the enemy to detect while charging in guns blazing nearly always sees you spotted immediately. The idea of sound detection is very well-done in this regard, with suppressors still alerting enemies close by or the drone being audible if you fly it too close.

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Missions:

The game’s missions are very similar to those of Metal Gear Solid V in that they are very open to how they are dealt with, allowing the player to approach then from a large variety of angles. These can be stealth approaches from the mountains, aerial insertions via parachute, or even just charging in via vehicle. As long as the core objective is completed the game doesn’t hold your hand and tell you how to accomplish it step by step which is the very freedom such a game should give you.

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While largely Third-Person the game allows you to go First-Person for finer shooting
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Squad AI:

The game is one that is clearly designed to be played in cooperation with other people and while the game does provide you with other AI squadmates if played solo they’re severely lacking in ability or skill. While they can easily help you in a stationary firefight in stealth they’ll deliberately hang back, making support hard to come by when needed most.

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Factions:

Within the world there are three other major factions being the Bolivian armed police, anti-Cartel rebels, and the Cartel themselves. Outside of missions they’ll largely just drive around and not be a hindrance and while the game presents a number of random encounters to fill the space many are hardly that interesting. Where some of this system starts to break down however is that while some missions provide you with the opportunity to cause faction fighting the game’s AI will sometimes randomly send factions into each other’s territory. In my game this saw a Rebel convoy just randomly appear inside a Cartel stronghold while attempting to nick a car.

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Time and Weather Effects:

The game day and weather cycle has clearly had major work put into it and is on the surface very good. Not only does it have a day night cycle but also accurately depicts various weather conditions, with cars becoming harder to handle during the rain. Some problems however is that at recommended brightness it’s very hard to see at all during the night hours and in the rain the fact cars are barely controllable already means in the rain you are relegated to foot travel.

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Vehicles handle like they’re on ice and that ice is also on ice
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General Game Chatter:

You know that terrible videogame squaddie talk? You know, the “oorah, let’s go get them” sort of stuff? Yeah…

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Vehicles:

If the gunplay is some of the best I’ve seen in a longtime the vehicles have to be some of the worst. Camera controls for cars have for some reason decoupled the camera from the car, meaning that it won’t automatically follow you when you turn making it hard to steer. Air vehicles on the other hand are even worse, actively fighting you for control of it. Outside of the missions where it required you to nick an air vehicle I actively avoided them despite being littered around generously.

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World Placement:

The game world in Wildlands is very big, sadly too big. In between the little built up areas there is nothing to do outside of the occasional random encounter. Sadly these do nothing to fill up the vast empty spaces, with the game sometimes feeling more like a car journey sim than a game about destroying criminal activities.

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Overall Wildlands is shaping up to be quite a good open-world action game that is satisfying and fun to play with well-made gunplay and user control over their actions. However it still has a number of major flaws that stop it being a must buy game and could put people off buying the final release such as broken functionality and yet another giant but empty gameworld.

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