Ghost Recon Wildlands Closed Beta Gameplay Impressions

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a franchise revival that might just have what it takes to make the dormant series relevant again.

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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.

Character Creation

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.

Looking Forward

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

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    February 6, 2017 7:00 AM

    Jason Faulkner posted a new article, Ghost Recon Wildlands Closed Beta Gameplay Impressions

    • reply
      February 6, 2017 7:58 AM

      It's super janky, and it's missing a ton of polish. The vehicles drive like garbage, the bullet physics are atrocious, and the AI is super bad.

      It's a definite wait and see game.

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      February 6, 2017 8:32 AM

      It's shite. Here's how to fix it. Replace everything with the Terminator IP. Set the game in the grim post nuke holocaust future. Make the game about survival for the first 4-5hrs / then building up survivor camps/bases for the 10hrs / then attacking the machine strong holds for the next 10hrs / then END GAME CONTENT YOU GO BACK IN TIME TO SAVE SARAH/JOHN over and over in different timelines with 30min-2hr set piece/open world missions. Make a mission editor so users can make "Save Sarah/John" missions and share them A LA Mario maker. FUCKING PROFIT!

      Besides all the jank, hours and hours of synced head shots gets fucking BORING. This type of games needs some Sci-Fi elements so that you can open up more game play elements! Shit if not Terminator, how about a Aliens game or a Star Wars game in the same open world style!

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      February 6, 2017 9:06 AM

      I can see potential with the game. It badly needs optimization - my 1080 was choking on medium settings (1440p res). Not sure what was going on there, but constant drops to 30-40 FPS. I only played with AI operators and wished there were more options for controlling them (it was just "move there", "open fire", "group up") and the sync shots are cool but i kind of wish it started you out with all 3 unlocked instead of having to work for that.

      The open world aspect seems cool. I came across a few random encounters but I am guessing those are more scripted since my character had voice lines every time. The vehicles are very janky. I basically crash landed my heli and plane every time and it didn't seem to matter. Also one mission told me to hijack a helicopter - I didn't even realize it was a mission, I was just flying over it and the mission started. I opened fire on everyone down below, and then the heli that I was supposed to capture took off. We took out the pilot and the chopper just stayed stationary in mid-air, and there was no way I could hijack it. We ended up ramming it which killed my chopper... but none of us died after crashing into the jungle 100+ meters below.

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        February 6, 2017 9:33 AM

        I didn't enjoy the (admittedly brief) time I put into it. Performance was low-30s on my 980ti with all the things set to ultra but AA and AO turned completely off @1440p.

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          February 6, 2017 9:35 AM

          yeah I was in the 30s to 40s with everything at ultra.

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        February 6, 2017 9:58 AM

        It's strange you had issues with performance. I was playing on a 1080 in 4K with everything turned up to ultra besides HBAO+ and hit 30-40 fps while recording.

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          February 6, 2017 10:07 AM

          all of these things tell me the game is just poorly optimized. I had very similar performance to you and Wadmaasi it sounds like, with different hardware and settings. Yes, it's a beta and we don't have updated NVidia drivers but I will definitely wait for performance reviews before I jump in (if at all).

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      February 6, 2017 9:15 AM

      if they had made it on snowdrop (division engine) it would've been worth playing. everything about their engine is worse: the game feels muddy and sluggish, the animation is bad, the ballistics and physics are janky, the overall fidelity is worse and it manages to run like shit. maybe they'll get a revival 6 months post release like division - if so i'll do what i did with that and pick it up 75% off or whatever.

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      February 6, 2017 9:36 AM

      I wish they would make a ghost recon game.

      Not this far cry, zero challenge shit

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        February 6, 2017 10:29 AM

        Ubisoft is making all their games open world, and it's annoying.

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        February 6, 2017 11:48 AM

        Turn up the difficulty and/or turn off the mini-map and threat indicators if you think it's zero challenge.

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      February 6, 2017 10:00 AM

      It was fun. Played about five hours with a party of three and then pre-ordered the gold edition.

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        February 6, 2017 10:03 AM

        Definitely the best way to experience the game is playing great it cooperatively.

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          February 6, 2017 11:08 AM

          It's the only way it's playable. However, that doesnt' fix the crap missions, horrid vehicle controls, and awful AI.

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        February 6, 2017 11:01 AM

        This game works really well with coop. I only played for about 9 hours, but during 5 of those hours all 4 of us had mics.

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        February 6, 2017 11:21 AM

        I played almost all of it 2 player coop, and had a good time.

        The ground vehicles control like shit, but that was part of the fun for us because it usually led to something stupid happening. Bullet physics seemed to be nonexistent. Point, click, dead. I realize that's not the classic R6/GR thing, but it doesn't bother me personally.

        The game looks great, except for the characters who are pretty much universally ugly as fuck. I put a bandana over my guy's face because I couldn't stand to look at him anymore.

        The writing and voice acting are AWFUL. Hilariously so. Every once in a while, for no consistent reason, either you or one of your squaddies (they all have the same voice?) says "Cockholster." like he's ordering mashed potatoes. It's awful, and hilarious and I love it. Cockholster.

        At one point we stole somebody's car and our characters all dialogue to each other in their identical voices, "There's a bloody condom in the glovebox." "There's a second bloody condom in the glovebox." WHY??!? I hope there's a preorder bonus that gives you a third for no apparent reason.

        The game is dumb as shit, but we laughed a lot and had fun playing it.

        Since there's nothing coming out in February or March that I give a shit about, there's a pretty good chance I'll buy it. Just think how many people would be playing Titanfall 2 if EA had released it in February/March instead of October/November.

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          February 6, 2017 11:24 AM

          Bullet physics are in the game, if you use a sniper rifle there was bullet travel and drop on them that you have to account for.

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            February 6, 2017 11:26 AM

            It's so bad too. The bullet velocity is like 1/3 of what it should be.

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              February 6, 2017 11:30 AM

              It felt a bit slow but I was thinking it's because you just have a starter sniper w/ no upgrades or anything like that. Even if all rifles felt that way it wasn't a deal breaker for me because it was fun for me to learn the drop and how to control it to get the hit, I can see it's not for everyone though.

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                February 6, 2017 11:34 AM

                Someone on Reddit did a calculation of the muzzle velocities, and they're all way off. Pistols have a faster bullet speed than the sniper rifles, which is entirely wrong.

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          February 6, 2017 12:02 PM

          I was laughing so hard when La Yuri is like "that's a big boner" when I first heard that audio log back in the Alpha. I was so not expecting to hear something like that in a game ever.

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      February 6, 2017 10:10 AM

      It felt like the division and far cry had a baby. I didn't really like it.

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      February 6, 2017 10:12 AM

      I enjoyed it, but the vehicle handling was so poor that it spoiled a lot of the experience.

      Also Jason, you can switch back and forth between kb/m and a controller you know...

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        February 6, 2017 11:05 AM

        Yeah I know you can, but it's super irritating. I play my PC on my TV and it's extremely uncomfortable sitting on the couch to constantly pick up a controller for vehicles, then switch to kb/m for on-foot sections.

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      February 6, 2017 11:23 AM

      Overall I enjoyed the game. Felt like a mix of Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell and Far Cry series. If you put the game on Elite or higher it was hard, the ai was decent and you died really fast so it forced you to play the game cautiously.

      I also liked how you can customize the hell out of the HUD, if you played the game w/o a hud it was hard as hell as you didn't have the ability to reply on the minimap / doritos to know if you had any other enemies around.

      Yes the driving needs work and it's needed work since the last alpha, I think it would be fine if they just made the vehicles slower by like 10-20% but other than that it's improved a lot since the last time I played it.

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      February 6, 2017 11:41 AM

      Some great LOL moments in co-op.. And I like the drone abilities. The campaign seems kinda stupid though and the performance was horrible even on a 1080

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      February 6, 2017 1:11 PM

      Cool, thanks for the write-up. A few site have said now that co-op is pretty fun, and that they are looking forward to the full game. All I want is a cool open-world game to play with a bud, doesn't have to be perfect. We both enjoyed playing Far Cry co-op missions and the Division together, so it sounds like we'll enjoy this too.

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        February 6, 2017 3:45 PM

        Imperfect it may be, but it never got in the way of the fun.

        This is the first game that really impressed me with regard to being HUGE and different with coop.

        Even playing with ransoms it worked well. I would say it's akin to Left4Dead in that Mic usage is encouraged.

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          February 6, 2017 4:04 PM

          It's kinda like GTA in a sense that you and some friends can just drive around and find activities

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            February 6, 2017 4:18 PM

            I still haven't played GTA V. :(

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      February 6, 2017 4:22 PM

      does it have bullet sponge enemies like the division?

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        February 6, 2017 4:31 PM

        Nope, dudes go down in like 1-2 shots. Maybe the bosses are more difficult, I didn't get far enough to see.

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        February 6, 2017 9:27 PM

        Headshot kill most baddies and some of the armored and helmet ed guys take 2-3x more rounds but no where near as much as The Division.

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        February 7, 2017 12:28 AM

        The two "bosses" of the area included in the beta both go down with a head shot from the AR or a chest shot with a sniper rifle.

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      February 6, 2017 9:06 PM

      tl;dr:

      Buy For Honor instead!