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E3 2016: Hands-On with Ghost Recon: Wildlands - A Wild Time
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:56am 15/06/16 | Comments
At E3 2016 AusGamers was given a chance to get hands-on with Ghost Recon: Wild Lands. Here are our initial thoughts...

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is fun. In fact, it’s pure fun. There’s no pretentiousness here, the game is what it is, unapologetically. Sure, the team has gone open-world, you can skydive to destinations now, drive any vehicle you see and even throw grenades at lamas, but behind all of these shifts in design and focus, there’s a genuine sense that it was put together to coalesce in nothing but pure fun.

Does that mean it’s stripped back? Not entirely. I will confess to not being a hardcore Ghost Reconner, but I’m a hardcore gamer and even in a 20-minute hands-on session I required revival a handful of times. Once because I was being too nosey, next time because I was overly confident. The final time was just because, well, the game offers up a serious challenge (at E3 events, developers tend to strip back their challenge level too, so this was telling). It’s honestly not as good looking as, say, Watch Dogs 2, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s more than serviceable for what it’s presenting, which is a lush open-world with myriad things to do, and in talking to my lamas incident earlier -- Ubisoft understands that it can’t be work all the time, and so serious as taking down drug cartels is, you can also put your feet up and just play with the systems here. Like lobbing grenades at second-rate sheep, if that’s what you want to do.

We played the same mission three times in my short hands-on with the game. This isn’t a bad thing, either. It means I saw three different approaches, and on my final two playthroughs we had new teammates, which equally added to the diversity on offer here, because at the end of the day, our objective remained the same.

Initially the process required gaining intel from a goon at stronghold. Initially, we did this the stealth way; taking out the baddies surrounding him and then engaging in a car chase. It was exhilarating. On the third try we were confident and primed enough as a team that we stormed the stronghold and our would-be informant didn’t even have time to get in his vehicle - entirely unscripted. Well, as unscripted as a game can seem, but certainly dynamic.

All of this evidence gathering leads to an even bigger stronghold to tackle (Ubisoft does love their enemy strongholds), which could be approached in numerous ways. Enemies could also react in unique ways, with alarms, gunner positions, snipers and more becoming active against your campaign. Our first time through, two of us took to the towers harbouring both our target and snipers, while our other two counterparts went low and made sure no one sounded alarms or found a seat behind a mounted weapon. It was well-oiled machine-type work. Like, John Deer sponsorship levels.

The second time I just positioned myself up on a ridge, pulled out my sniper rifle and cherry-picked off the most important big bads that would give us a troubling time. By the time the ground team had made it to their destinations, I’d taken out some eight or so of our most worrisome enemies, leaving the rest as scraps for my teammates. The third time, I fucked around and got nowhere because, like I said earlier, the game can be very challenging -- Rainbow 6 challenging if you’re not on your toes.

Ultimately all of these moments lead me to a handful of initial thoughts: this is a game with absolute fun in mind, but it doesn’t dumb itself down to arcade levels to do it. Smarts will get you everywhere. It allows for varying playstyles, even within disparate groups of players -- people who don’t even know each other. This is a design complexity other developers do struggle with, but the systems, AI and open-world approach to every scenario -- so far -- looks to understand and even work with this idea. It also just feels like a game that knows what it wants from its players, it’s not a bells and whistles approach either, it’s just an elevator pitch gone right: “maybe we should go big and open-world with coop in mind for the next Ghost Recon”.

Like so many other E3 products, however, time will tell. And more telling will be the final product, but having gone through the same mission three times, with each and every one being unique and fun, the studio is on the right track. With these games though, there’s always the concern of forced environments for the likes of writers like myself, who get the most out of a vertical slice, and having to play a game like this with friends to ensure you’ll get the best time. But being weary of that very position, I’m still erring on the side of the developer here because the balance feels spot-on.

It’s too early to throw too many negatives, but we’ll have more on the game soon with a developer interview and even more on just how open this open-world really is. But for now, know that the best part of my hands-on experience with Ghost Recon: Wildlands is that it was fun. Three times fun. And in E3 environments like I’m in this week, that’s a rarity.

Read more about Ghost Recon Wildlands on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!