By: Gentleman Jeb
I was one of a few hundred lucky gamers to experience the Ghost Recon Wildlands closed beta last month, and I had a blast playing it by myself and in four-player coop. Only one area was playable, and not only was it gigantic, but it also featured a plethora of varied terrain and fun activities. Well, they’re fun as long as you’re not a South American narco. Ghost Recon Wildlands will be released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in early March, but an open beta will run from February 23-27. Everyone who plays either the closed or open beta will gain access to the “Unidad Conspiracy” that lets them play three exclusive missions in the full game.
It’s no secret that the Ghost Recon series has undergone a plethora of changes over the years, and Ghost Recon Wildlands is no exception. This version takes the four-man Ghost team out of the urban jungle and places them smack dab in the actual jungles of Bolivia. Even though GRW may resemble Just Cause, it still retains a realistic feel while providing players with numerous options as their Ghost team roams the South American countryside laying waste to narcos.
Players are tasked with the secret job of dismantling the Santa Blanca cartel and disrupting their ties with the corrupt government. This is accomplished by methodically taking out numerous cartel leaders and liberating towns without any help from the U.S. government. That’s right, the four-man Ghost team is dropped into Bolivia without any backup. While this definitely doesn’t speed up the process, there are plenty of other things to do while…ahem…on furlough in South America.
It’s always a good idea to make friends with the locals when visiting a foreign country, especially if you plan on overthrowing their oppressive leaders. Freeing local rebels held in captivity and performing certain rebel side missions not only makes them allies, but also opens up helpful features. For instance, players can have certain vehicles delivered, call in a mortar strike, or have rebels create a diversion. In addition, a useful tactic for taking over a narco territory is to sneak in and free captive rebels and let them join the battle as you all band together to fight the enemy.
Bolivia is a huge country with plenty to see, and players can hop in any vehicle to explore the countryside. This includes cars, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, boats, helicopters, and even small airplanes. One cool feature is the ability to order my team to open fire on enemies while we’re all piled in a vehicle. It’s exciting to see them poke their heads out of the windows and shoot at enemies. I also love positioning an airplane or helicopter over a town and then bailing out with my team as we all silently parachute into position before overtaking the town.
When in Bolivia, do as the Bolivians do, and shoot as the Bolivians shoot. Players begin with decent equipment, but who wants to use the same weapons for the entire game? Finding hidden intel and interrogating lieutenants opens up the locations for skill points as well as a wide variety of weaponry and attachments like machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, sights, and grips. In addition, players can tag various items, like medical supplies, for extraction, which then adds the supplies to their inventory. Supplies are combined with skill points to acquire certain upgrades.
New experience are better when shared with friends, and every player begins the game with their own flying drone. At first it’s only used for tagging enemies, which puts a dot over their heads that my entire team can see, but it’s also very handy for issuing orders while staying hidden. Fortunately, there are plenty of upgrades that include night vision, thermal vision, and even emitting EMP and explosive blasts. I ended up using my drone so much that I named it “8-bit” and shed a tear whenever narcos shot it down.
Everyone knows that it can be dangerous to travel alone, and the military has determined that the best way to go “on vacation” is in a heavily-armed four-man squad. Players have the option of playing the entire game in single-player (with three A.I. Teammates) mode or in two to four-player coop. I was surprised to find that my A.I. teammates can handle themselves pretty well, but having four real-life players is much more effective – most of the time. Fortunately, players can switch between single-player and coop at any time, which is a great option because some online gamers simply don’t work well with others.
Players anxious to get started can preload the game now so they can begin playing at noon on Feb 23, which is when the open beta begins. In the interim, why not play a Ghost Recon browser-based mini-game called A World With No Heroes? This mini-game lets players explore Bolivia through the eyes of 50 cameras so they can track and identify targets. It’s fun, and it even offers rewards for the full game that include XP boosts and unique emblems.