Our hands-on time with the single player campaign of Ubisoft’s forthcoming Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands certainly drilled in the whole “bigger and better” description that has been flying around the title, the first major release for the beloved tactical shooter series since 2014’s lukewarm Phantoms. Leaning on next-gen, at least on first impressions, has worked out very well for the developers, allowing them to create the vast, mountainous sandbox of central South American where you run around Bolivia with as much reckless abandon as you want. And that’s really the big difference here, compared to previous titles, Wildlands doesn’t feel like it’s pushing you in a certain direction, squeezing the boundaries of free will so tightly that your ‘tactical freedom’ feels restricted; no, instead Wildlands seems to Ubisoft’s way of telling us they’ve learned some valuable lessons from the vastly improved Far Cry series (as well as some others like Metal Gear Solid V and Just Cause 3) and are channeling those in some exciting ways.
Narcotics have turned Bolivia into a cartel-inflected wasteland, and you play one elite U.S solider in a four-person squad tasked with taking out boss after boss to work your way up to ruthless kingpin El Sueño. It’s a safe play, and I’m sure Ubisoft have sprinkled plenty of eccentricities along the way, but the beauty of this game doesn’t seem to lie in the missions before you, but the freedom you get to tackle those missions as you see fit.
As I’m sure is standard, our first 30 minutes or so with the single player campaign had us jumping into a four-person jeep (important because it fits your entire squad, who come running as soon as you hop into the drivers seat) and making our way over to a waypoint: a small base of about six enemies and one lieutenant type who needs some swift interrogating. Navigating this one was pretty easy, seeing as how we just scaled down the mountain and back up to bypass a few enemies, interrogated the sucker at gunpoint and then shot our way out. Though, as with all stealthy shooters now, we had to tag our enemies first, which was quite easy with a flying drone which largely goes unnoticed.
This drone would end up being our most valuable tool moving forward, leaping through side and story missions that involved clearing out broken down houses to find intel, rescuing prisoners, stealing helicopters (which sadly don’t have the smoothest of controls), stealing cars, and shooting the absolute hell out of convoys (from aforementioned helicopter).
The map offers plenty of distractions along the way, as well as a load of collectibles and resources which you need to tag in order to help the rebels rise up. Those tags then go on to grant you skills that can be spent upgrading your character and their weapons/tools. Again, it’s straight forward but the upgrades promised (including giving your drone the ability to drop bombs) promise as much carnage as you could ask for, which is another thing that seems to be at the core of Wildlands: fun.
AI for your squad seems to be improved over previous titles as well. No matter what command we gave our squad, they would always remain as stealthy as possible meaning that the only reason the enemy could ever become aware of your presence is if you mess things up (or get too impatient). The squad will capably back you up in any firefights of course, but it’s best to approach things slowly.
Another good use of the four-person dynamic is the return of the Sync Shot, which was most valuable in sci-fi outing Future Soldier. Here is feels much more realistic and rewarding, where you wait until one is available, line up your shot, command your squad members to do the same, and then trigger the glorious multi-kill. Of course, this mechanic seems like it’d be most fun (and at first, tricky to pin down) in co-op mode but unfortunately our hands-on time didn’t spill over onto multiplayer.
We’ll be able to give you a more in-depth look in our official review for the game, but for now things are seeming very promising for Ubisoft as they atone for any past mistakes by handing us a really meaty, fun tactical shooter that should keep plenty of genre fans happy well into 2017.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands will be available in Australia from 7th March 2017 on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
All images supplied by Ubisoft.