Ghost Recon Wildlands is releasing soon, and Ubisoft has given select players a sneak peek at what’s in store with the launch of a closed beta test. The Ghost Recon series is approaching its fifteenth anniversary, but with the last full entry being 2012’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier it seemed as though the franchise might fade away, especially as many of its most defining traits began to infiltrate other, more popular series. However, Wildlands might be just what Ghost Recon needed to become relevant again.
The Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta started with a relatively robust character creation process. The first step was to pick whether I wanted a male or female character, then I was able to choose from a number of pre-built archetypes for facial features and skin tone. Once I had a base build, I was able to choose from a selection of hairstyles, facial hair, facial injuries, and hair and eye color. This selection wasn’t as large as I would have hoped–think The Division more than Saints Row–but the final game may have more cosmetic options from which to pick.
However, there was a larger selection of wardrobe options than I thought there would be, though a lot of them were 5.11Tactical branded. I never hung out with high-speed operators like the Ghosts when I was in the service. However, if these guys were stationed out of anywhere like Ft. Benning (or Ft. Bragg, or Ft. Leonard Wood), Rip It, No Fear, and Fox Racing would have been more appropriate brands to have included. However, the sweet patriotic tattoos make up for this oversight. You can choose from a full American Flag sleeve that is so fresh you would think you’d get stat bonuses for picking it. No matter how much you show those colors don’t run, though, you don’t get anything extra for your tattoo selection.
Some clothing, accessories and certain facial features were locked when starting the Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta. This system seems to indicate that more than likely the full game will have even more visual customizations for your character to unlock.
Gunsmith Firearms Customization
Ghost Recon Wildland's new emphasis on customization extends to the firearms you’ll use during your adventures in Bolivia. You can carry two primary weapons and a secondary. You can also customize each weapon with new barrels, triggers, accessories, stocks, scopes, paint jobs and more. I started the Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta with a P416 assault rifle, an MP5 submachine gun, and a P45T pistol. The starting weapons were somewhat bare bones, equipped with only iron sights, and stock parts, though thankfully they did have suppressors. However, as I played further into the game, I was able to unlock a sniper rifle, a holographic sight for my P416, and a forward grip that allows for better handling for the P416.
As you can see in the video above, there are a ton of weapons available for unlocking, each with a selection of customizations to enhance their abilities. You can also pick up arms in the field from fallen foes, though you cannot customize them. The firearms, explosives, and parts that become part of your Gunsmith loadout system must be found in specific pick-up locations around the game world, and typically you'll find them in well-defended or hidden places.
Ghost Recon Wildlands First Mission
Unlike previous Ghost Recon titles, Ghost Recon Wildlands does away with set-piece missions for an open-world approach. Instead of getting a mission briefing and then entering a pre-defined territory, Ghost Recon Wildlands uses its sprawling map to host both mission hubs along with the locations and installations where you complete those tasks. This new style changes the typical, “find the right path to complete the mission,” gameplay that a lot of tactical shooters fall prey to into a more natural approach of letting you choose how and when to attempt a mission.
You must rescue a rebel leader in the first mission available in the Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta. The rebel, Amaru, is being held hostage by Santa Blanca, the big bad drug cartel that has taken hold over Bolivia, and your main enemy in the game. To accomplish this task, you have to head to a cartel outpost and interrogate a Santa Blanca Lieutenant to learn where they're holding Amaru. The outpost sits on the crest of a hill, and you’re at a disadvantage terrain-wise, as you can either approach from the road, leaving you little cover, or attempt to approach from the cliff face, which gives your enemy the height advantage.
As you can see from the footage, the enemies in this game aren’t slouches. They’re able to detect you quickly, and you’re no bullet sponge. Your best bet is either to take them out one-by-one stealthily or to coordinate with your AI teammates to hit them with overwhelming force. I was able to use my drone effectively to locate the enemy, and eventually made it to the Lieutenant and found where Santa Blanca was holding Amaru.
Santa Blanca detained Amaru in a farmhouse surrounded by cartel soldiers. It took a few attempts, but I was able to break in and rescue Amaru. You can also see in the footage that night-time approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. At night enemies have a lower chance of detecting you, making it much easier to be stealthy. However, this works both ways, and it can be harder for you to see as well.
Extracting Amaru via helicopter took me three tries here. The first time I tried, I accidentally took off too fast and landed on him. It is what it is. The second time, I could have sworn he got in the helicopter, but then the game acted as I left him behind as I flew towards the next waypoint, which may have been a glitch. The third time was the charm, though, and I finally completed the mission. I also bashed the helicopter into the mountains a few times, because of a flaw in the game as it is right now. It’s very controller oriented, and playing with a keyboard made controlling the vehicles somewhat frustrating. The movements of the cars, planes, and helicopters I manned over the course of the Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta felt like they were designed to be controlled by the subtle movements of an analog stick rather than the on-off taps of a keyboard. I eventually ended up switching to an Xbox One controller and found that the game felt much more satisfying in general, although nothing beats the mouse and keyboard for gunplay control in games.
Side Missions in Ghost Recon Wildlands
After I had completed the mission, taking Amaru back home like a real American hero, I ran into a side mission that required me to steal an aircraft and bring it back to a rebel-controlled airfield for a significant resource bonus. Tagging resources for rebels to collect are part of the level-up system in the game. You need a skill point and a prerequisite amount of resources to unlock new abilities and buffs. You can get a skill point by completing a mission, or by finding Santa Blanca commendations on the map, and to get resources you can tag various items throughout the game world, or by completing side missions like stealing a plane full of gasoline.
You’ll find side missions like this as your explore the world. This one just happened to pop up for me out of the blue. There was another side quest I ran into, but wasn’t able to complete, that began when I saw a Santa Blanca convoy on the road carrying medical supplies. These side missions were welcome distractions, and the mission to steal the gasoline plane was just as engaging as the mission to save Amaru.
There is also a drop-in multiplayer component in Ghost Recon Wildlands, similar to what’s available for Watch Dogs 2, that allows you to have friends or strangers jump seamlessly into your campaign mode. Whether other players drop in or drop out your campaign progress remains, which lets you get the same amount of fun out of the game whether you’re a multiplayer maniac or prefer to play games solo.
I enjoyed my time with Ghost Recon Wildland’s closed beta, and I look forward to playing the final game. From what I played it takes the best of what open-world Ubisoft games have to offer and injects Ghost Recon for an interesting new spin on the tactical shooter genre. We’ll bring you more on Ghost Recon Wildlands when the full game comes out on March 7, 2017