Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Preview

I'd rather spend the night in a haunted house than go up against these Ghosts!

The Ghost Recon series sure has come a long way since the original game. What once was a tactical turn-based FPS is now a team-based action game set in a huge open world environment. I'll admit that I wasn't too thrilled with some of the previous installments, but I'm itching to transform into a US Special Forces Ghost once again after seeing Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands.

Set entirely in Bolivia a few years from now, the story centers on a four-man squad of Ghosts who are sent to dismantle the nefarious Santa Blanca drug cartel. Their operations have turned the area into a lawless, fear-inducing Narco-state, and the cartel could become a global threat if they're not stopped soon. It doesn't make sense to start a war in which thousands of soldiers are killed, so the Ghosts are sent in to wreak havoc and break the cartel's alliance with the corrupt government.

Gamers have the opportunity to play the entire campaign in both single-player or four-player co-op mode, and both are sure to provide very different experiences. Single players will have to rely on the game's AI to control their squadmates, but the real fun will be undertaking missions with three real-life players at my side. There appears to be no restrictions on where each player can go, so there's no invisible tether that keeps players near each other. This gives squad members an immense amount of freedom to tackle objectives any way they choose, which not only promotes and rewards ingenuity, but also looks like a hell of a lot of fun.

I watched one mission in which one Ghost snuck into a small enemy camp  to find a low-level cartel member and extract information on where a certain snitch was being held (extracting the snitch was the mission). Then he joined the other three Ghosts, and they broke off into twos and entered a town from different directions. One Ghost let loose an aerial drone to scout the area, and the high level of detail in the bustling town was a beautiful sight. The Ghosts found two factions in a standoff, and all it took was one sniper shot to set them against each other. During the chaos, the Ghosts swept into the area, dispatched all cartel members, and stole the helicopter.

Then they flew over the area where the snitch was being held. One Ghost jumped out of the helicopter and parachuted to a ledge above the cartel encampment. He pulled out his sniper rifle and proceeded to mark every cartel member he saw so all Ghosts could see where they were located. Another Ghost parachuted down and snuck into the encampment, stealth killed a guard, and then let the snitch out of a cage. All of the sudden the sniper opened fire, and gunfire from both sides started spraying everywhere!

Then a really cool thing happened—the helicopter passenger started spraying enemies with gunfire from the mounted mini-gun high in the air. Since the targets were already marked, there was little chance that he would kill another Ghost by accident. When all enemies were downed, the two Ghosts on the ground put the snitch in the trunk of an old car and drove out of the area so all three could be picked up by the helicopter.

I knew right then and there that I would play this game for a long, long time. The sheer number of possibilities are practically endless, and the open world is so huge that I can use every single tactic I can think of in one playthrough. Adding to the feeling of a living world is the fact that every person in the game, be it cartel member or civilian, goes about their duties as if they were following a real-life schedule. They even react to the weather and change behavior depending on the time of day. In addition, every vehicle in the world can be used by the Ghosts, including motorbikes, cars, boats, planes, and helicopters. Since there are no classes, players are free to use whatever weapons, gadgets, and vehicles they want.

While that may not exactly sound tactical, the freedom involved in this open-world third-person action game more than makes up for it. It's been a long road, but Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands looks to be the best in the series. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon WIldlands releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One for 2016.