E3 2016: Cartels Are Outmatched in Ghost Recon Wildlands – Hands-On Preview

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series has really undergone some dramatic changes over the years. What once started out as a tactical squad game where players controlled each character’s movements has evolved into a huge open-world action-strategy game. In addition, the game has transformed from a first-person view into a third-person view that changes to first-person when using scopes. I wasn’t sure if the series had lost its identity until I had the opportunity to play Ghost Recon Wildlands.

This military shooter takes place in Bolivia and focuses on the Ghosts, who are a legendary Spec-Ops Elite unit. They have been sent in to take out the Santa Blanca cartel and eliminate El Sueño, who is the biggest and baddest cartel boss in the country. El Sueño has managed to turn Bolivia into a narco-state, and its massive production of cocaine threatens to destabilize the rest of the world. Only the Ghosts have the proper trainer and military backing to bring peace to Bolivia.

With 11 huge environments and over 60 bases, Ghost Recon Wildlands sports the biggest open world environment that Ubisoft has ever created. This area is well known for its lush jungles, but it also has deserts and salt flats to add diversity. By visiting hundreds of villages as well as numerous landmarks, legends, and colorful inhabitants, players have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Bolivian culture. Everyone in Bolivia has their own agenda, which may or may not work in the player’s favor.

I love how this is a massive world with a huge single-player campaign that can also be experienced with up to three other players. Not only can players drop in and drop out at any time, but every human player also acquires experience and advancement with every mission. Speaking of which, players should expect to participate in everything from destroying production facilities to eliminating certain targets to cutting off traffic routes. The life of a Ghost isn’t all wine and roses as players will be forced to make serious decisions like interrogating enemies, performing sabotage, and even kidnapping and assassination.

During a recent play session, I was able to experience the game for myself. I joined a squad with two other journalists and a developer, who took on the role of squad leader. It was great playing the game as a semi-effective squad (three of us had never played this game before) as we strategized via headsets and attempted to work together as a team. Some of us would use aerial drones to scout out villages and mark targets while others would move into position. Then we would all scope out a different target and begin the firefight. The cartel members didn’t have a chance.

We had a lot of fun attacking villages, interrogating enemies, and utilizing different vehicles like motorcycles, jeeps, and trucks. At one point we even loaded up into a helicopter, flew over our target, and bailed out to parachute to the ground. Working as a team was incredibly satisfying and imparted a sense of camaraderie that gave me a small taste of what it must be like to be in an actual military squad.

I can’t wait to play Ghost Recon Wildlands when it is released on PS4 and Xbox One on March 7, 2017.