This past weekend was the open beta test for Ubisoft’s open world Ghost Recon: Wildlands and like a lot of open-world games, it’s filled with ragdoll physics and terrible driving. The physics thing has always been a problem with games this large, there’s always going to be places where things go a bit… wrong.
Wildlands is no exception to that rule, and I wouldn’t really expect it to be. You can casually glide your way down drops that should kill you if you manage to move in just the right way, you can call your car and have it drop down on top of your head, and you can crash your drone into things without making a single impact. All the usual open-world problems right?
And then there’s the driving. Maybe I’ve been spoiled a bit too much by playing a game that doesn’t trust you to drive your own car, but I was endlessly disappointed that I couldn’t have my AI squadmates drive for me. Because the one thing I cannot do in games is drive, particularly if it’s not a racer. Racers are built for driving, open world games? Not so much.
Your car handles like a drunk school-bus and that’s to be expected, really. What did surprise me though, were my AI teammates. Normally in a game that has you use a squad of NPCs as backup, they’re usually less than helpful. But on the lower levels of difficulty – and even to an extent on the harder game modes – you can just sit back, call shots with your drone or binoculars, and let your allies work.
Yeah, the game’s AI can carry you through the whole thing pretty well. At least, as far as we’ve seen. Wildlands is a massive game, so it’s not like we’ve gotten to the end of it in a beta, but it is both interesting and also somewhat game-breaking. What are you even doing in this game if they don’t need you, right?
Your ability to handle tactics on the fly is what will make or break this game for you. If you don’t have things mapped out before the fight, you’ll easily end up over your head. Wildlands definitely appreciates it if you remember the second word in it’s title and do your proper planning, perhaps with the help of your helpful AI team or more human companions. That said, you can absolutely just storm the gates and tank your way through it. I know I did a time or two.
And your squadmates do have fun talking as you run and drive around the map. The short snippets of dialogue give you decent insight into the people you’re working with, and a bit into your own supposed backstory. If you can get past all the pseudo-military lingo and male-posturing, there’s some decent character development work being done in Wildlands. Sure, it isn’t always sophisticated but sometimes it manages to get things right. While off on my first mission, my squadmates and I were discussing the plight of the locals because “things are stacked against them from the start.” Which is the sort of awareness I hadn’t quite expected.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands has an absurd amount of content in it. Two areas of the map were available for this beta, and I have to say, I almost didn’t make it. You can go on endless supply missions for your rebel allies, taking out whatever sicario you find wandering the map. And that’s pretty great. The problem comes with the lack of originality. Each side-quest you go on feels like one you’ve been on before a few hundred times. Outside of crashing a decrepit plane, I don’t think much of the extra content has much interest or even much weight into the end of the game. It can be a huge problem with open-world games – and less open ones. Bioware calls it the “Hinterlands Problem” after Dragon Age: Inquisition, but it’s been there since we fist got open world games. At least in Inquisition the NPC quest-givers come up with slightly different ways to insult you when you go pick up their laundry, right?
So while Wildlands plays pretty well and has a surprisingly useful AI to control your squadmates, it’s not going to be a leader in open-world ingenuity. And it doesn’t have to be.