Ghost Recon: Wildlands had its open beta over the weekend, so before the tidal wave made up of March releases comes crashing down on us, we decided to sink a fair few hours into it. This isn't the finished game of course, but Ubisoft's open world shooter definitely shows promise - particularly when enjoyed with friends.
Wildlands plays like a mix of Metal Gear Solid V and The Division, although it's not as detailed as the former, and it's not as much of a role-playing game as the latter. On the surface, it's another rather generic title that's been squeezed out by the Ubisoft open world-making machine, but once you get stuck in, you start to realise that it's actually got a decent amount of depth. And yes, this is coming from an author who's been wholly uninterested from the moment that the project was revealed.
Playing as a special forces Ghost agent, your mission is to hunt cartel leaders across Bolivia and put them down. The country's in chaos as various factions struggle for control, and while the nation serves as a solid setting, the core themes of rebels, revolutions, and dictators are things that we've seen way too many times before for the story to have any kind of impact. Perhaps the full release will fare better, but if we're being totally honest, we're not expecting it to.
Fortunately, you won't be paying much attention to the plot anyway - it's the gameplay that really holds Wildlands together. Again, it's certainly not the most original template, but it presents a satisfying mix of shooting, open world traversal, and stealth. Missions can be tackled any way that you like, and it always feels as though the game's throwing interesting opportunities at you. You could storm an enemy outpost with an armoured vehicle, parachute in from a helicopter, or completely map out the base with your scouting drone before sneaking in unseen.
As with past Ghost Recon titles, the military gadgets at your disposal open up a wealth of gameplay possibilities. As you complete missions and generally just play through the game, you level up and gain access to a wide array of useful equipment, and everything from explosives to your aforementioned drone can be upgraded to better suit your needs. By the end of the beta, we had unlocked quite a few perks, many of them giving us an amplified appreciation of the game's open-ended mission design.
Unsurprisingly, though, Wildlands truly shines when you play with friends. You and up to three buddies - or three strangers, if you like - can tackle the entire title cooperatively, and with a bit of communication, you can pull off some fist-pumping moments. For example, we stumbled across a dynamic cartel smuggling deal taking place in the middle of the Bolivian countryside. It was dark out so we switched to night vision view and quietly crawled through the surrounding woodland. Once we had the targets circled, we took aim and counted to three, and on three, we popped their heads before moving in and securing the goods. It was precision at its finest.
Obviously that was just a small encounter, but it was incredibly satisfying all the same. If you can imagine that on a larger scale - taking out an entire base full of enemies without making a sound - then you can glimpse the game's potential.
All in all, we had a surprising amount of fun with the Wildlands open beta. We went in expecting a standard Ubisoft open-worlder with an uninspired narrative - and to some extent that's what we got - but ultimately, the gameplay was easily engaging enough to keep us glued for hours at a time. The finished product launches on the 7th March in both North America and Europe, and despite our criticisms, we're genuinely looking forward to playing more.
Did you try the Ghost Recon: Wildlands open beta over the weekend? What did you think of it? Go ahead and spot some tangos in the comments section below.