Ghost Recon: Wildlands‘ [official site] closed beta went live a couple of days ago, here are my first thoughts.
So far, I’ve spent a while playing Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands on my Xbox One, and I have to say that I am impressed. The closed beta is running from February 3 to February 6, so I still have a little while to play more — I’ll update this article if my thoughts change throughout this test period.
Let’s start with the basics. The game’s concept is good, you play a modern-day ‘Ghost’, the best of the best in United States covert ops teams, trying to take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel, a leading cocaine producer based in Bolivia. You are part of a squad of up to four AI or online players, running around an open world, completing missions, spending skill points and customising your character and weapons — lots of customising.
About to hold up a convoy.
There isn’t much story in the beta, which is to be expected (after all, it is a beta). That didn’t bother me, because my hours of playtime so far have been dominated entirely by running around outposts, killing everyone in sight and grabbing some intel on the next outpost to conquer.
I haven’t got a team of friends, although I did join matchmaking and play with a few different groups of people for a little while, completing side missions with them for resources such as medication, gasoline, skill points and whatnot.
I started the game creating my character, which is rather limited in regards to physical traits. You get to pick your gender, select one from a small variety of faces, then choose one of around ten hairstyles, change your beard to one of five (or six) styles, then pick your eye colour, facial scar and tattoos. You can’t change your character’s face or eye colour after choosing them at the start of the game (but you can change your hair, scar and tattoos). Pretty limited, eh? I was getting ready to write about Ubisoft’s customisation mess-up…
Then I got to the clothes. Brilliant. There is a variety of different pants, hats, tops, vests, bandanas, ghillie wear, etc. with around thirty different design types and colours for each item. This is where I started to get impressed. You unlock more clothing as you play through the game’s missions and can change the clothing as you wish.
After I finished creating my character (the handsome fella in the picture above), I was dragged into a cutscene going on about who I am, why I’m here and what I am expected to do. This guy did this, some guy died, this other guy — who I can’t understand, might I add — is disappointed that only four people have been sent to help him, but apparently I’m one of the best covert ops soldiers, blah blah blah. I was wearing sunglasses at night, too.
Finally, after five minutes, I was playing the game. This is it! Ghost Recon: Wildlands! The first thing I’ll point out is the slight input lag. Not a massive thing, it’s barely noticeable, but it’s there. My minimap urged me to complete a mission which meant going to this outpost, so I did that. I stole a poor man’s car, my other three AI teammates got in, and we drove to this outpost that I was guided to. Or rather, we tumbled down a cliff, performing fifteen flips along the way, then drove the smoking car to the outpost.
Once we arrived, I got out my flying camera-bearing drone and flew it over the outpost, tagging any enemies that may cause a hassle. After determining where everyone was, we went in with our silenced weapons and messed everything up. I have not once successfully taken an outpost without alarming everyone and having reinforcements sent. It’s just not possible. I honestly don’t know how the flaming hell they managed to organise their kills so well in the previews!
Wildlands’ shooting mechanics feel nice, the impact sound when you’ve killed someone with one shot is extremely satisfying and the slight bullet drop and travel time adds a great deal to the immersion. I can’t complain there. The game is third-person, though when you aim you automatically go into first-person view to be more accurate. The bullets lighting up in the dark look awesome, too.
Gun customisation is a great point the game has — almost every part of the gun can be changed to make your weapon more accurate, faster firing, more maneuverable, etc. and it all alters the gun’s appearance. You can get more parts and guns by exploring the map and finding them.
Skills are another key element, ranging from less bullet damage to faster revive times, which can be unlocked by spending skill points and these green thingamajigs. The thingamajigs have their own categories, like gasoline, medication, comms equipment, etc. Skills are not only confined to traits and abilities, as there are grenade launchers, mines, parachutes, C4, lures, and so it goes on.
One skill allows you to upgrade your ‘sync shot’ ability. You use this ability to designate a specific target for an AI squad member to snipe when you give the order. This makes me feel like a complete badass, picking off groups of people in a somewhat organised instant.
The way the game handles vehicles is frustrating, as they tend to drift a lot, but when they drift they start snapping to certain directions. It’s pot luck whether your car will fling itself off a cliff or make the turn that you want it to make and continue driving, and this gets very, very annoying.
The map is fantastic, and we’ve only seen Itacua, one of Bolivia’s 21 regions. The missions, intel and items have been placed around the map in good spots, making it all the more immersive. There is a relatively major issue though — I’ve frequently come across glitches and holes in rocks that I can fall down and not escape from, forcing me to fast travel to the nearest town instead. This gets very frustrating, especially due to the fact that I walk around rocks a lot when finding places to sneak and snipe from. Besides that, the map so far is brilliant.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Farmlands
I’m disappointed in the game’s many framerate drops and crashes, and I’ll highlight that because I was playing on a relatively new Xbox One. Console optimisation is an absolute must if you’re releasing for consoles. I’m not entirely sure how well-optimised the game is for PC, but I’ve heard that it’s not great. That being said, Ubisoft has a full month to fix that before the release. I hope they do.
So far — and if we don’t count crashes — my whole experience with Ghost Recon: Wildlands has been good. Some common mishaps along the way, but hopefully they’ll be ironed out for the game’s official release on March 7. As stated above, I’ll continue to play the game, and I’ll update this article as seen fit.