What a weird game. Ghost Recon used to mean something back when it first launched. It was a game that required precision and thoughtful engagement. Even when things started to get crazy along the lines of Advanced Warfighter and Future Soldier the games were still good. Wildlands? Wildlands is just…I don’t understand what they’re thinking. Deep down it seems like there is a fun, tactical game, but it is buried beneath a pile of wonkiness and awful writing.
In Wildlands, you’re some new squad member on a mission of vengeance, because who needs a real plot, with a group of unappealing, overly generic soldiers. At least, that’s the general idea I got, I couldn’t stand to watch the cutscenes introducing the squad while they had a pissing contest about who was more ‘Murica. I was supposed to care about a nameless helicopter occupant who lost someone to the cartel because of course they did. This was clearly supposed to motivate me and make me care, but it didn’t. With how good stories and writing are getting in games nowadays, Wildlands stands out as a total reverse step. It’s as if they made everything else in the game first and then said, “Oh, we forgot the story!”
The gameplay is okay. It has a bit of a Far Cry feel, especially in the driving in physics. I laughed as I bumped other vehicles and sent them flying back for yards. A collision into my truck sent me cascading down a hill into multiple trees. It was hilarious, but that’s not what they’re going for. This is supposed to be a super serious elite team on a secret off the books mission where nothing is off limits. I spent more time laughing that I did having fun playing. The shooting is just okay, the A.I. is just okay, and the missions are generic as can be. Go here, kill five dudes, interrogate guy, idle threat as he gives you the info, go to the next objective, kill seven dudes and rescue hostage.
Being a beta, it’s hard to say exactly how much the game has already changed for launch, but this is The Division except immensely boring. Yeah, The Division has spongy enemies, but the rest of the game is fun and getting loot keeps things exciting. The most fun I had was running into enemy camps yelling “CAN’T FIGHT THE FRICTION” (that’s the song from the trailer). If the final release turns out to be close in quality to the beta, this is 2017’s first totally skippable AAA release.
To be fair, I wasn’t expecting much from the game to begin with. I was hoping that at worst that the gameplay would be enough to overcome Ubisoft’s shortcomings in storytelling. Unfortunately, it couldn’t even manage that. I wasn’t planning on spending time with Wildlands, and this beta made that decision far easier. Wait on this one and see what happens in six months. Maybe they’ll be able to make something of this. Or, you know, maybe not.