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To say that I am just a fan of the work of Tom Clancy would be an understatement, because ever since my first experience delving into the worlds that his books have inspired I've been hooked. Now that's not to say that I've loved every game with the Tom Clancy seal, because despite all the praise, I never really got into the Rainbow Six franchise. Yet, Splinter Cell was a staple game during my teen years and the same could be said for the Ghost Recon franchise.
So as you can imagine I was a fairly excited when I heard that the Ghosts were finally returning after a 5 year hiatus following Ghost Recon Future Soldier in 2012. Now I'll admit, Future Soldier almost lost me to the franchise because I couldn't quite get behind the control scheme, but I was also transitioning from Sony to Microsoft as I finally grabbed an Xbox 360.
Yet I stuck through the transition and that brought me to this point of getting the chance to play a review copy of Ghost Recon Wildlands, and here's what I found.
It's an open world, and an open adventure.
Now that's not really a shocking discovery, as I'm pretty sure if you're reading this you were already aware of that concept. With this game being the first in the Ghost Recon series to invest in an open world environment I was skeptical at first, but since I've always had faith in Ubisoft I can safely say that I was entirely pleased with what I found in Ghost Recon Wildlands.
The fact is that Wildlands truly is an open world unlike anything on the market. Even Ubisoft's 2016 open-world game The Division can't really be compared adequately. From the moment you set foot into the wilds of Bolivia you're free to roam as you wish and the missions are determined and accepted by you as you traverse the landscape.
There are a plethora of side-quests and main mission content that can be completed in any order, and that is a major achievement for any tactical shooter.
The world map is absolutely massive. With 21 different provinces and 26 unique targets, the game never feels repetitive and there are any number of ways to work through the various targets. The map, although large, never feels overwhelming because even with the countless missions and objectives there is always something close enough to interact with.
Whether it's a supply raid, a rebel target, a cartel stash, an informant or just a simple unknown region.
It's something completely new.
I'm probably in the minority of classic Ghost Recon fans that will find this game a refreshing change to the standard linear plot of the Ghost Recon franchise. But if I'm being honest, that was something that always bothered me. Heck, that gets me in just about every game because, I'm not really a straight line campaigner - I'd rather just explore and fill missions as I feel the need.
A game where there is one major over-arching plot focus, but there are an infinite number of ways of getting to that point is a game that likely has my money from day one.
Ghost Recon Wildlands fills that void of being a tactical shooter but also allowing me to lead my team of Ghosts into the various objectives however I see fit. These objectives can shift and change as you progress through the game based on the weather, the time of day, and even how much of a pain in the ass you are to the cartel.
Through the time I spent in game, I enjoyed messing with the passing cartel convoys and because of that the surrounding forces kept hunting my team and I. It seemed to change the entire aspect of how aggressive the enemy forces were, and it made the game so much better in my mind.
It feels as though Ubisoft took the praise and criticism from The Division to heart and really worked on changing the dynamics of how the Ghosts interact with the world as well as each other. Wildlands is playable completely solo or via co-op. Playing solo and commanding my team around the map was fulfilling enough, but there was something about playing with the development team and having their insight as well. The co-op play is drop in/out at will and is one of the easy comparisons to The Division, but it is done much better in Wildlands and has a greater purpose.
Upgrades are based on your effort.
One of the aspects of Ghost Recon Wildlands that I'm so stoked on is the level of customization available, and all the ways to go about upgrading and customizing. In terms of your character and his/her abilities, there are 6 main upgradable areas:
- Weapon: Upgrades to aim stability and speed, ammo levels, grenades and suppressor strength .
- Drone: Upgrades to increase range, battery life, stealth, speed and visual modes (thermal/night).
- Item: Upgrades to include various items such as C4, flare guns, grenades, lures and a parachute.
- Physical: Upgrades to physical speed, stealth, stamina and awareness to the surrounding area.
- Squad: Upgrades basic skills for your AI squad in general such as recover time, leadership and resilience.
- Rebel Support: Upgrades to your available options on the in-game support wheel like mortars, diversions and vehicle drop offs.
These upgrades are just your in-game skills and have nothing to do with how deeply you can customize your character's appearance and the weapon loadout you choose through the gunsmith.
Ubisoft has never shied away from allowing over the top customization, and although it's not really necessary in a Ghost Recon game, it's still fun to switch things up a bit and really create your Ghost as you see fit.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is releases on March 10, 2017.