Posted on 05 Mar 2017 by MrJenssen

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

The Defence

Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Publisher: Ubisoft
Genre: Action, Adventure
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 07 Mar 2017

The Prosecution

Minimum
Recommended
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.5 GHz
AMD FX 4.0 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 660
AMD Radeon R9 270X
RAM: 6 GB
HDD: 50 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Partial
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3.5 GHz
AMD FX 4.0 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 1060
AMD Radeon RX 480
RAM: 8 GB
HDD: 50 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Partial
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: Yes
FPS Lock: 120+

If you’ve ever played one or more of the Arma games for any extended periods of time, you’ve likely developed a love-hate relationship with the series. On one hand, the attention to detail and authenticity is unmatched by any other military videogame out there. One the other hand, it’s an at times incredibly hostile game to try and play.  The biggest issue, for me anyway, is the control scheme. Until you come to grips with it – likely only after dozens of hours of playing – the controls are a mess, requiring at least three hands on the keyboard at any and all times. And should you dare to take a week off from the game, then you’ll just have to re-learn it all over again.

Often have I pondered the question; if Arma is so successful despite its clunky design and high demand of the player, how come no big publisher have tried to get at a piece of the pie by offering a similar but more streamlined alternative? In a way, that’s exactly what Ubisoft are attempting to do with their reboot of the now long dormant Ghost Recon series – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. So with only a few days left to go until release, how is Ubisoft’s next open world shooter looking? Let’s have a look.

This is the quick and somewhat unfair way to sum up Wildlands; it’s a more streamlined but more limited, open world, 4-player cooperative third person shooter version of Arma. Like Arma, the core gameplay loop of Wildlands isn’t especially varied. It all comes down to taking down bad guys through whichever means the player chooses. You’ll sometimes be asked to do additional things like extracting a VIP, steal a helicopter or defend a site for X seconds, but these things really come secondary to the main objective of killing every orange or purple blip you see on the minimap. The goal is usually the same, so what’s supposed to keep you hooked is the amount of versatility in completing each objective. There’s always the option of going full stealth, full assault, or something in-between. Then there’s the progression system, in the form of multiple skill-trees and a ton of customizable loot like weapons and cosmetic outfits.

Decisions, decisions...

After more than 10 hours of playing both the closed and open betas for Wildlands – both of which ran only weeks away from the release of the actual game, indicating that larger issues beyond bugs and glitches present in the beta, will likely also still be present come game launch – I can say with a pretty good degree of certainty, that I know what the actual game is going to play like. And it’s not all good.

The amount of things to do in the game world is commendable. The list of vehicle is long and varied; from dirt bikes and sedans to APCs and attack helicopters. These offer, at least on paper, different ways to tackle each objective. The amount of fully customizable weapons too, is remarkable. You’ll find a large arsenal of just about every type of modern firearm you could possibly want. If you’re not able to diversify your playstyle on your own and find yourself opting to blow up everything in sight, you could always crank up the difficulty level so that you’re forced to try and take out as many enemies silently, or else you’ll quickly find yourself with a single lethal bullet in your head.

The game can be difficult, that’s for sure, but sadly not in a positive way. It’s not really challenging so much as it is cheap and unfair. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of ballistics system in place for the NPCs. They fire their weapons, and you get hit, but there’s no bullet travelling between his muzzle and your forehead. You just get hit, and how much you get hit depends on the difficulty setting you’ve chosen. Fortunately, at least enemies don’t become bullet sponges when you crank the difficulty up (The Division rears its ugly head). The NPCs don’t become tanks, just aim bots. It’s more often frustrating than rewarding, and it doesn’t feel natural at all. Especially considering how much of a half-measure the stealth system is. There is, for instance, a system in place that lets NPCs get alerted by spotting the bodies of their dead comrades – but there’s no way for players to move said bodies out of sight. Your AI teammates have pin-point accuracy too. They’re not really smart, they’re more robots expertly designed to kill everything they come across (so long as you give them the order). They do a very good job when you aren’t playing with real people. Arguably, the friendly NPCs often do a much better job than your friends, but it’s obviously not as fun, and the commands available to you are limited to say the least.

Helicopters are necessary for traversing the huge map, but the controls are exceedingly tedious.

Another big disappointment is one of my most anticipated features; the vehicles. Ground vehicles handle sloppily, to say the least. It’s very easy to oversteer, oftentimes sending you off from the narrow dirt road, down a steep cliff. But smashing your car repeatedly against the mountain side is apparently not a problem, as most vehicles shrug this kind of damage off with ease. You can literally take any old sedan and drive up the mountains off-road if you so desire.

What’s even worse is the aircrafts. The helicopters specifically, handle abysmally. It’s kind of hard to explain just how bad the controls are, but it feels like the helicopter fights you at everything you try to do. I don’t require absolute realism. Hell, I honestly prefer Battlefield’s more casual helicopter flying more than Arma’s more simulator-style handling. Wildlands exists in this bizarre world between the former examples. It doesn’t have any kind of proper yaw or pitch and because you can’t tilt your helicopter forward more than a second at a time before diving towards the ground, hitting ground targets with the mounted miniguns is nigh impossible. The result is that the helicopters can never be used for any sort of tactical flying, but rather are a means to transport you from A to B.

These might seem like little niggles – and for sure, Ubisoft can choose to do something about these issues – but it’s usually not the kind of thing you see fixed and improved in a game post-launch. It’s more the kind of thing you hope they take to heart by the time they push out the sequel. Worse yet is the fact that issues like these call into question the motivation of the developer. What’s the purpose here? It’s clearly not to compete with the likes of Arma; it’s too simple for that. But it’s a little too lacking in variation to be a looter shooter. What we’ve seen from the story so far doesn’t bode too well either; it’s basically Team America but without the irony.

The game looks great and runs well for the most part.

I’m a little bit confused as to what direction the developers seem to want to take with the game. The world is huge, and from what we’ve seen in trailers and in the playable betas, the landscapes do look authentic and each region has a distinct vibe going on. From lush jungles to arid deserts and snowy mountains; it certainly looks good, especially from a distance. But the complete lack of realism and authenticity in everything the player does completely breaks immersion. And I frankly have some major doubts that any of these immersion breaking issues will ever be looked at.

At least the game doesn’t seem to be too buggy, and the PC port looks to be solid. Players should expect a pretty smooth experience once the game ships on Tuesday, if that’s any consolation. Ghost Recon Wildlands’ world is huge and you will no doubt spend many hours before you complete it. There looks to be a lot of bang for your buck on offer here. But I’m afraid the repetition of the gameplay will make you bored long before you ever get to the finish line.

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