It’s Monday morning and I am still struggling from whatever the hell I picked up at Pax South. For a period of time last week I thought I had started to kick it… so I backed off the over the counter meds and apparently that was a massive fail. For most of last week I was working on pure adrenaline as we careened headlong towards a super important demo that we had at work for Thursday afternoon. After that happened… I largely started falling back apart and now even though I tried my best over the weekend to get back on the meds I am still struggling. I am hoping that today at some point things start to chill out because we have an even more important demo this afternoon. We are in crazy crunch mode with a big release looming on the all too near horizon, so I know that once I get back in the swing of things I won’t have time to fall apart any further. So hopefully I can survive once again on adrenaline and caffeine to get me over that finish line when I can well and truly have time to fall apart and be sick.
Ghost Recon Wildlands was one of those games that I had only been tangentially following. I remember watching the video when it was announced and thinking that it looked pretty cool. However I generally don’t really go in for “military fantasy” style games like Call of Duty, where I am an operator in a tangential reality to our own. Ultimately this is the big reason why Destiny has continued to click for me… but Division fizzled out is because killing monsters will always feel better than killing people. I knew there was a beta going on this weekend because another friend had been offering invites, which I largely turned down because I thought to myself “I have too many games to play”. However next thing I know my friend Dallian emails me an invite to the beta on the PC so since I already had the key I figured that I might as well check it out. I am largely over my frustrations with UPlay because I guess while playing The Division I learned to accept it. I mean it is still a better interface than Origin… so that is at least something. Over the weekend I tried playing the game on both my i7 x99 980 gtx based gaming desktop and my i7 960m based gaming laptop. In both cases the game performed fairly well… with the laptop getting 30 fps on medium settings and the desktop getting a predictable 60 fps on high settings. I will be trying to remember to caption the source of each screenshot, since I took some from both.
As far as the game itself… well to be truthful it plays a lot like most of these games do. Once you take the setting into account and the fact that you are playing a third person game instead of a first person game… I found it largely indistinguishable from Farcry. You roam the world, taking on baddies while collecting resources for your faction of choice… so that you can then unlock upgrades. The primary difference being that there seemed to be far less story… and way more open world sandbox than a Farcry game. You are encouraged to go interrogate people.. but largely that just makes new blips show up on your map of where to find resources. What I went into the game hoping I would find… is The Division but in a single player fighting the drug cartels skin. There are moments where it absolutely feels that way, especially considering that an awful lot of the sound effects when you secure something come straight from the sound effects we are used to hearing in Division. Where the game excels however is in the use of the drone mechanic, that which it largely feels like a flying camera… gives you a nice tactical advantage going into fights. If you are fast and good at spotting targets you can mark all of the hostiles in an area ahead of a fight and take them one one by one in a semi-stealth manner. I spent a lot of time sniping with my suppressed SMG, because ironically that allowed me to kill things without anyone noticing… whereas my sniper rifle drew instant attention.
The other odd thing about the game is the fact that for me personally… my squad existed for one purpose… to rez me when I got a little over zealous. There was never a fight that I went into where I felt like they were an actual benefit and made the encounter easier. They largely served as decoys to draw fire away from my position. What I did find myself missing however is the cover mechanic from The Division. There were so many places where I really needed to hug a wall and duck around a corner to get the shot… and I found that completely lacking. Maybe I simply did not find the correct keybinds to hold to cover… but whatever the case it was something I was expecting to wound up missing. The other complaint I had about the game is that it definitely feels like a console first/pc afterthought experience. Now moment to moment gameplay and firefights are awesome on the PC, and I found it nice and easy to whittle my way through incoming hostiles. Where it falls down however is that none of the vehicles felt like you could reasonably control them with a mouse and keyboard. While driving something as simple as a jeep I found myself wildly veering from ditch to ditch as I tried desperately to wild around mountainside roads. It is in fact another game about driving crappy vehicles on even crappier roads… and the shockingly even crappier keyboard and mouse controls make this an extremely frustrating experience.
I am largely placing this game in the “it might be fun” bucket, but it is definitely not a preorder sort of situation for me. The demo however really wants you to preorder, in fact it is constantly prompting you to do so. The truth is like most open world games… you spend an awful lot of time wandering through fields full of absolutely nothing. There are vast open spaces of nothing of any consequence that lay between the small bins of things that might be useful. When you start running missions, rather than roaming aimlessly like I do… you spend an awful lot of time retracing areas that you have already been to as you operate out of specific hub locations. Where the game excels however is in town-centric firefights, with the ability to duck inside of buildings and avoid guards… then pick them off at the most opportune time. There is a larger village that you encounter pretty early that is really fun, especially if you allow the Blancos to call in reinforcements. All of that said though, the game still doesn’t really feel like it gives me something unique that makes me extremely interested in its own brand of special ops fairy tale. Especially when Horizon Zero Dawn is right around the corner… and will be a much more interesting world to explore. Video games are largely about escapism for me… and the Call of Duty style game just doesn’t feel escapist enough for me to ever really get hooked.