The Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta is now over. This makes me quite sad. I truly enjoyed the beta. It’s actually the first beta I have enjoyed in a long time. Lets get one thing straight here right out of the bat: This is a beta. Betas are supposed to have bugs and issues. So everyone that has been out there in the web or even in some chat rooms that are going off about the game just need to take a chill pill. When the game goes gold and the final product arrives then you guys can rip it to shreds if there are still major issues. In this impression I will touch on some of the issues so that we have an idea of what we want and what Ubisoft needs to tweak on. I’ll try to be a thorough as possible.
The Santa Blanca Cartel has taken over the country of Bolivia, bombed a US embassy in LaPaz, and kidnapped a DEA Agent named Ricky Sandoval. In Wildlands, you are part of a Ghost team that has been dispatched to destroy the Cartel and expose the relationship between the Cartel and the Local Government (the UNIDAD). This is the short version of what’s going on. The tone set here at the start of the game gets you pumped for what is to come. So far, the story has been quite entertaining.The massive story intel on enemy targets and objectives is quite deep. So you will have plenty of story and background to dive into if you are a story driven gamer.
At the start of the game you begin working on your character customization. There is a large depth of customization here. I wouldn’t say it’s as deep as Skyrim, but I would say it’s more like The Division (except with more options). You can also choose weapon loadouts, back packs, gadgets, and a large variety of camo colors to choose from. Once you are in-game, you can find weapons caches which have more guns or attachments. You have a huge depth of customization options with your weapons as well.
From changing stocks, grips for better control, larger magazines, scopes, barrels, grenade launchers, red dotes, etc. You can also pick from various gadgets and upgrade those as well. For example, you can hook up your drone with a EMP, thermal, or even night vision. It looks like Ubisoft has learned from past Ghost games along with their own mistakes from The Division. Everything about this portion of the game is a step forward in my opinion.
The area we had to play in the beta was MASSIVE. Some objectives are clear on the other side of the map. If you are traveling by car, it could take up to 10 or 15 minutes to travel that distance. That is, if you are staying on the labyrinth of dirt roads. You can go off-road at any time, but your travel may be faster on the roads depending on the location. When I was rolling with my squad, we found a helicopter that made the trip go by much quicker.There are plenty of areas to search for loot and supplies to tag for the rebels. There are also tons of unexplored areas not marked on the map to explore. So if you are an exploration person like myself, you will have plenty of exploration options. I recommend that you check them out.
The world is as large as it is beautiful. The landscape is just breathtaking. I literally sat on top of a mountain and just looked at the sprawling greenery and mountain sides below me. The sunrises and sunsets are just as breathtaking as the landscape. Granted, there are some rough spots here and there that need to be polished, but so far it looks and feels amazing.
While on your missions you can approach the objective in various ways. You can take a stealth approach and just use drones to mark enemies and sneak in. Or you can just go straight up Rambo. The Rambo approach may get you killed more times than not. The AI while not as beefy as their Division brothers they aren’t dumb. They will try to flank you,surround you, and kill you. Sometimes they will keep you pinned in a building and just wait it out for back up to arrive.
At times, you will have to fight off the Cartel as well as the Local UNIDAD soldiers. This is when your fights start to get interesting. When the UNIDAD gets involved you have a wanted meter. The higher it goes up the more in the shit you are. They will start their raid slow and as time goes on they will roll up with fully armored Hummers, cars, and trucks filled with UNIDAD soldiers.
If that wasn’t enough, once you hit the full wanted level Helicopters show up. The Helicopters are no joke since they are equipped with rockets and or heavy machine guns to rip you to shreds. The wanted level eventually goes away, but it can only be done two ways. You either manage to get away and your wanted level cools off or you stand and fight. During my play though, my squad and I had a mission to retrieve intel inside a of UNIDAD base. Needless to say the shit hit the fan and we got trapped inside fighting off UNIDAD soldiers. We did manage to stay alive during the 1 hour 15 min onslaught of the UNIDAD. After that time the wanted level disappeared and we managed to finally finish the mission. To say this was an exhilarating experience is an understatement.
The fire fights can be intense. Trying to stay alive is quite hard if you are being surrounded . A few hits from an enemy and you go down very quickly. You aren’t a bullet sponge like you are in earlier Ghost installments. The weapons handle so good. They feel amazing. When shooting you can actually keep control with the stick unlike in other games where the gun seems to have a mind of its own. You can actually guide the recoil in a way where it just feels so smooth and accurate. Some weapons handle rough at first but once you get the attachment you need it makes a huge difference. The ability to switch from first person ADS to third person ADS is so smooth and flawless.
My biggest gripe of the firefights would be the cover mechanics. I absolutely hate with a passion a cover system that is on the rails. I hate it. You may have heard some of my other reviews or impressions of games that have this smart cover mechanic that I absolutely despise. You will get yourself killed more times when trying to go into cover because of the way smart cover works, than you would just standing straight up in the middle of a fire fight.
While The smart cover in Wildlands isn’t as bad as, say, Quantam Break, it’s still fairly bad in general. What I would love to see is for Ubisoft to pop in the cover system from Ghost Recon Future Soldier. I mean seriously how hard is it to just make the A button a cover button. The cover system in Ghosts Future soldier is the best in the series in my opinion.
Getting around the map can be the most hilarious thing in the world or just a pain. The driving mechanics are janky and horrible and I love it. It’s so much fun, almost GTA-ish. I had just as much fun driving as I did fighting. Some folks would want to have the driving controls tweaked up a bit but I say just leave it alone. It’s a damn good time trying to drive like a pro on those dirt roads, especially when the rain comes. The flying mechanics, on the other hand, are horrible. This needs to be fixed ASAP. Flying a chopper should use both sticks not just one.
The one stick flying gives the chopper zero control when you make a turn or even when you are just trying to fly in a straight line. Every time I was a passenger or flying a chopper, I felt like I was rocking back and forth the whole time. The only reason it felt like this was because the camera was never fixed on the chopper. It was always free moving. So it made it harder to fly than it should have. If you are going to have one stick flying controls, the camera should be fixed on the rear of the chopper or plane so you can fly correctly. If Ubisoft wants to do flying the correct way, then they should implement both sticks; one for pitch and the other to yaw.
While flying around you will notice people shooting flares in the air, especially at night. I’m not sure if this is going to be a side mission in the future or not. When a flare goes up you will see a plane fly in from the distance on the mini-map. The plane seems to fly to the flare and I guess it’s dropping off drugs or supplies. Since my squad didn’t know what it was, we all loaded up with heavy machine guns and went after the plane thinking it would be on the rails. To our surprise, it was not on the rails. The plane actually took off and made defensive maneuvers trying to get away from us. We eventually shot it down, but it took a while due to the poor chopper controls.
Wildlands did have some framerate issues. I experienced some frame drops in the mid to low 40s. This occurred often while riding dirt bikes and when large explosions took place. This is an easy thing to fix. I hope they are able to launch it with a steady 60 fps. The open world had zero loading times. I want to say the only loading I experienced when I was trying to group up with my squad or when the game actually loads you into the world. Fast traveling on teammates was a piece of cake and very smooth. Grouping up with randoms was also quick and smooth as well. We will just have to see if it’s just as smooth once Wildlands hits open beta and on launch day.
Overall the game is quite good. Wildlands has a Mercenaries 2 type of feel. I really enjoyed losing hours in the slums of Bolivia. The variety in side missions, intel pickups, and main missions will keep you on your toes. However, I think that there needs to be more missions per map section. Although we didn’t have access to the entire map, more missions per section will better flesh things out. My squad and I cleared all missions in the beta section in about 4 to 5 hours. Overall, there is plenty to do, but variety will always be key.
By adding a few more missions per area, it should improve the game’s replayability, as well as keep those picky folks quiet that say there isn’t much to do. In my opinion, there is quite a bit to do here. If the beta’s any proper representation of the final version, completionists will drop over 20 hours easy.