E3 2016 – Ghost Recon: Wildlands Hands-On Preview – Team-based Pew Pew (PS4)

My husband was a die-hard Ghost Recon player back in the PlayStation 2 era. I couldn’t watch him play because he consistently sent out his B-team to die each and every mission. It was like they were his guinea pigs; he wasn’t sure where the enemy was planning the ambush, so he just sent them in guns blazing, watched the slaughter from high above, and then planned his assault. He really is a horrible human being.

Since this golden age of Ghost Recon, the series has kind of fallen by the wayside with ho-hum iterations, but Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands aims to change that with new combat features, vast options for how to approach each mission, and plenty of llamas to kill. Did you know that Bolivian llamas are sympathizers to the Santa Blanca cartel? I didn’t know that before this hands-on preview, but that’s what the PR rep told us, and we took care of the dirty drug lord llamas with extreme prejudice. I know I felt like we made the world a safer place after doing so.

Just Cause Meets Ghost Recon

As a member of the elite Ghosts Special Ops team, your job is to infiltrate Bolivia and take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel that has taken over the country. Before the Ghosts can reach the king of the cartel, El Sueño, they will have to disrupt his operations and chisel away at his influence across the country, province by province and town by town within each province. This is Ubisoft’s version of an open world at its finest, and if you aren’t a fan of their formula, which includes clearing out areas piece by piece, then chances are you’ll hate this just as much. 

Aside from the fact it’s clearly an Ubisoft open world, I also couldn’t help but draw parallels to Just Cause, as Rico’s mission in each Just Cause game is to dethrone a dictator by slowly disrupting his influence across the provinces. Only difference is that these Ghosts are a bit more refined than Rico. He’s all about creating as much destruction as possible, no matter what, and the Ghosts actually don’t want to call attention to themselves or harm civilians. The Cartel mobsters are also far better shots than any of the dictators’ mercenaries that Rico had to deal with, so being discreet is an absolute must.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Team Tactics

For each mission, the player—either alone with a four-man team or with three friends—will have to analyze the situation and approach it how they feel is best. In our mission at E3, we received intel (after forcibly removing it from a Cartel member at a gas station; we may or may not have blown up said gas station as we left) that rebel prisoners were being held at a particular base. We also needed to remove a commander at this base. The four of us took a helicopter to a mountain nearby the base, parachuted to the top, and then sent spy drones to overlook the base and mark the enemy, sniper stations, turret guns, where the prisoners were being held, and most importantly, any innocent civilians in the area. Our dev leader informed us to keep the drones high and as out of sight as possible, as the hostiles will see them if they’re too low and sound the alarm.

After we scoped out the lay of the land, two of us went over to a clifftop closer to the base and set up our sniper rifles to take out the sniper nests and help out our comrades who planned to sneak in below and free the prisoners. Unfortunately, I missed one of my sniper shots, which triggered an alarm. As the enemies ran toward our ground team, we sniped at red barrels scattered throughout the camp, which do exactly what you would expect them to do: go boom. The ground duo freed the prisoners, who then promptly picked up weapons and went on a massive shooting spree. We didn’t have to take down the leader at that point, as the freed rebels took care of our final objectives just fine. As the chaos continued to ensue, we hopped into a pickup truck and hightailed it out of there.

Our dev captain explained to us that with every demo session, none of them had gone the same. Some teams went 100% stealth, and he said one team stole a truck, hung out the windows with their assault rifles, and drove in with guns blazing. I wish I could have seen that, because that sounds amazing. 

Most importantly, the four of us had to communicate with one another what we were doing, where we were (if we couldn’t see one another), and if we needed help. The only one who did need help was unfortunately me, as we were dashing to our getaway vehicle, I stepped right in front of enemy turret fire. I thought we took care of all the turrets, but I was evidently mistaken. Luckily a teammate was nearby to heal me and help toss me into the truck. While he was doing that, another teammate took care of the gunman. We all high-fived at the end, and it was glorious.

Make Bolivia Free Again

Bolivia is a beautiful country, and Ubisoft did the landscape justice. The game designers and artists traveled to Bolivia and worked with the local governments to fully capture the varied terrain and atmosphere of the nation. They also worked alongside military tactical experts to realistically craft how special agents would wage warfare against a hostile force in this land. At least, that’s what the developer told us; I was too busy closing my mouth each time my jaw dropped when I surveyed my surroundings. I swear I could almost feel the wind blowing through my hair, although that could have been the air conditioning in the room, as they kept it like a meat locker in there.

I do admit I am worried about how the final product will look and run, because as detailed as these environments were, we only had a small snippet of the full world. We had about five kilometers to explore in one province, and when we looked at the overall map, this is bigger than anything Ubisoft has done before. I’d say it looks bigger than the map in Just Cause 3, which was nearly as scary big as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I want to have faith in Ubisoft, but at the same time, I know of the problems they’ve had in the past the bigger they go with their open world games. At least with Ghost Recon: Wildlands, they have been working on this project for some time versus some of their other properties that failed in this area.

And we’ll have more time to wait for the release, as it won’t be in our hands until March 7, 2017.