The Ghost Recon series has always stood out for its commitment to providing gamers with an authentic alternative to the over-the-top stylized action found in most modern military shooters. This makes Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which employs many of the tropes and gritty aesthetic touchstones of its more cartoonish peers, a bit of an oddity. I was very curious to try out a playable demo of the game at this year’s E3. What I played was definitely passable, though the demo was rough around the edges – which, given the game’s March 7, 2017 release date, is absolutely forgivable.
The game takes place in a near-future Bolivia. You play as a black-ops soldier trying to put an end to the country’s corrupt and oppressive regime by taking out key members of the country’s pervasive drug cartel. In the demo I played, I had to find and interrogate a Bolivian citizen who might know a few things about some important missing persons.
Players are allowed to carry up to three weapons. In the demo, I had an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a pistol. Most interesting is the inclusion of a drone that allows you to perform imperative reconnaissance prior to engaging enemies head-on. Like with previous games in the series, figuring out your adversaries’ exact locations plays a pivotal role in successfully carrying out mission objectives – made much easier by having an eye in the sky.
The open-world nature of the game is interesting and I’m excited to see how that pans out in the final release. During the demo, I was offered a relatively guided tour of the environment, though a map of the entire region revealed its impressive size. I was able to pilot a helicopter for a small stretch, which also offered a substantial and impressive perspective on Bolivia's sprawling environment.
The game obviously rewards stealth, though if you prefer a guns-blazing approach it will accommodate that as well. In this way, the game felt a bit like a straight-faced Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Actually, in a lot of respects, the game feels like a mash-up of a number of disparate mechanics we’ve seen with several triple-A shooters over the course of the last 10 years. There are certainly a lot of interesting ideas, and we are anxious to see if they can all come together by the game's launch next year. Currently, combat feels disjointed and clunky, in large part due to the lack of an intuitive cover system.
While Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ scale is certainly notable, the game’s success will hinge on the developer’s ability to thread an engaging progression throughout the sandbox. As it exists in its current iteration, the game lacks a unifying cohesion. Here’s hoping the developers at Ubisoft Paris used their E3 2016 demo as a chance to gather necessary feedback to make some much-needed tweaks prior to the game’s March 2017 release.