“You should move to a small town, somewhere the rule of law still exists. You will not survive here. You are not a wolf, and this is a land of wolves now,” (Sicario 2015).

This Friday, Ubisoft launched the closed beta for the newest installment in the Ghost Recon series, Ghost Recon: Wildlands. In this squad-based shooter, players are inserted into Bolivia as a member of a United States Special Operations team with the goal of disrupting the relationship between the cartel and the government (Ubisoft). This is a simple enough concept that has been attempted by games like Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel and Call of Juarez: The Cartel, but none seem to really match the open world, strategic possibilities, and co-op play that Wildlands brings to the table in this Sicario-style tactical shooter.

One of the first things you will notice when you enter into the beta is how absolutely colossal the area is to explore. And currently this is only a single segment of the entire map that is reported to feature twenty-one unique areas with landscapes ranging from mountains and deserts to dense jungles and swamps. As a result, travel is an essential part of the game and players are given a variety of options to make their way between objectives. For instance, you can follow the road in a station wagon that will allow you to blend in with the civilian population or ride through the jungles of Bolivia on dirt bikes if being stealthy really is not your thing. At the same time, it does not take long to realize that the helicopters are the most efficient ways to get from point A to point B and there are a generous amount of them scattered around the map. This causes a lot of the other modes of transportation to quickly fade to the background, which is not really such a bad thing when some of the vehicles handle like the Flinstone family car.

One of the many landscapes of the massive map that Wildlands offers players to explore. (Image courtesy of Ubisoft Paris)

The combat is also something worth mentioning because its diverse skills and weapons create room for a wide range of possible tactics to complete objectives. As far as tactics go, your limits are only within the boundaries of your own creativity as there are multiple ways to approach taking out bases and targets. For example, when my friends and I were clearing a small town of cartel presence we decided to set an operator on a nearby hill to snipe down at the settlement. Then we flew to a field on the other side of the base where two of us made a more aggressive on-foot assault on the town. At the same time, the pilot made strafing runs with the mounted weapons on the side of our helicopter and caused distractions. Generating and messing around with these combinations keeps the game fresh and kept the limited types of missions interesting.

Stealth assault on a cartel base. (Image courtesy of Playstation Blog Europe)

Wildlands also features some unique details that keep you grounded in the game’s supposed “tactical-realism”. For instance, the movement system makes the tense engagements feel fluid whether you dive around corners and take enemies out with drop-shots or you use stealth to get the drop on enemies and deliver some brutal hand-to-hand combat. The third to first-person transition when aiming weapons also was fairly unique and felt seamless, but don’t worry if that’s not your thing because you can adjust the aim to stay in third-person with the push of a button. Another small touch that I really enjoyed was when your operators communicate with one another in combat their mouths move as they speak, which is often something games choose not to include. These subtle details create an experience that keeps you hooked without entirely breaking a sense of genuine immersion.

The beta for Ghost Recon: Wildlands proves that Ubisoft is on the right track with their latest game and if they are able to fix some issues related to textures and the overall intelligence of some of the AI, this game could be something even greater. I recommend keeping a look out for the open beta that will most likely follow in the next couple of weeks so you can strap on some boots and hit the jungles of Bolivia.

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