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Wild four-play - Hands-on with Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Post by Joaby @ 08:48am 26/01/17 | Comments
There's all the hallmarks of a open-world game in Wildlands for you to enjoy, if that's what you're about. It has a frankly astonishing amount of customisation options for players who want to hunt down new guns, or gun attachments, or whatever.

Ghost Recon was always the open-air Rainbow Six to me. Rainbow Six was all careful planning through tight corridors and instant death. Ghost Recon took me outdoors and had me navigating wider corridors by the seat of my pants — although instant death still lurked around every corner.

Ghost Recon 2, in my mind, cemented what Ghost Recon was about. A console only title for whatever reason, it was generally only worth playing co-operatively. Stealth games in co-op are invariably broken, because most AI can't handle multiple alert instances. It's why I complain about it in, say, Sniper Elite, but it wasn't a dealbreaker for me. But there's still something spectacular about that moment when you and a buddy both go loud from opposite ends of a base at the same time. The spin of AI as it attempts to aggro a target is probably the closest thing we'll ever see to fear from AI — well, the Black Mirror watcher in me hopes so, anyway.

From there, through Future and Advanced Armymen, Ghost Recon cemented itself as a co-op focused game. For a time, even Rainbow Six succumbed, with the Vegas games submitting to the dominant strain of the Tom Clancy games — before the patient zero of the series found its form once more in tight corridors and immediate death via Rainbow Six Siege.

With this in mind, Wildlands is the sort of game I'll only play in co-op — but I can't wait to play the crap out of it in co-op. I played it for about an hour in singleplayer and I wasn't bored, but I felt like I was just going through the motions. Wildlands gives you a massive — overwhelming, even — playground to cavort about, and in singleplayer it teams you with vaguely competent AI to accomplish it. They seem to do that thing AI in games often does — they'll kill the enemies that pose a threat to you, but they won't kill everyone in sight, allowing the player to do the bulk of the heavy lifting to feel like the hero.

They chatter, they make jokes, they teleport to you when you leave them behind. They're solid AI companions, only present to make your life easier, not harder. And that's the funny thing about co-op, because the beauty of co-operative gaming is that the sort of shit I'd rail against from AI is exactly what I want from human players. Because through the 90 minutes of co-op I played in Ghost Recon Wildlands, and a lifetime of experience trying to work with other people in other circumstances has shown me that generally humans exist to make your life harder, not easier.

So when you take off in a chopper without waiting for your teammates, they don't just teleport to your side in Co-op. They're stuck, still knee deep in shit, trying to shoot their way out. They're not carefully keeping you alive while allowing you to get heroic kills. They're desperately trying to shoot their way out of situations they regret getting into, and you're somewhere else, cackling as you get away unharmed.

It's this mayhem, this cat-herding lunacy that makes Ghost Recon Wildlands feel that much cooler when everything works properly. The ability to Sync Shots in Ghost Recon Wildlands is an extremely useful way to begin an engagement — you line up four enemies, select them one at a time and when you're ready to take one down you give the command and your AI teammates will eliminate the other three. Four baddies die and you deal with the aftermath. It feels badass, and you feel like the leader of a group of baller, shotcaller killers. In co-op it's different. You pick four high priority targets and then the negotiations begin. Can the entire group see the targets? Can they instead select some targets they can see. Could they move into a position to take down these targets? It's mildly frustrating, and you make a mental note that you will punish them later by blowing up a car they're driving, but it resolves itself eventually and you take your shots. Four people die simultaneously and that wonderful moment of AI-borne fear occurs as it attempts to work out where the shots came from.

As the AI begins to shoot back the few quiet moments are overwhelmed as your group returns to stupidity-driven mayhem. And it feels so damn good to be a part of it, whooping your way through the firefight like a fourth stooge as Larry, Curly and Moe do their best to fail objectives for you and leave you to die.

There's all the hallmarks of a open-world game in Wildlands for you to enjoy, if that's what you're about. It has a frankly astonishing amount of customisation options for players who want to hunt down new guns, or gun attachments, or whatever. Missions to keep you on the move, Elite Cartel operatives who act like the Wildlands' police force that you can aggravate and then outrun for ages. Cars to steal, civilians to not kill (even when they leap in front of your car), choppers to fly and water you can't swim under. It's got a story that I didn't pay attention to, characters I don't care for and music I won't notice. When really all it needs to guarantee I'll play it is the knowledge that I have three mates willing to go full-tilt moron alongside me while we Mr Magoo our way into wiping out all the sicarios in South America.

Ghost Recon Wildlands is out March 7 this year on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

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