What was it?
A 20-minute hands-off co-op playthrough of one of the game’s missions
What did we learn?
— Set in Bolivia, now the cocaine capital of the world. It’s being controlled by the Santa Blanca, a ruthless cartel manned with the sort of dudes you’d imagine Steven Seagal killing by the dozens.
— Four player co-op, with players free to roam the environment as they please before undertaking missions.
— Play as a team of US special forces dedicated to inventively ruining everyone’s day.
— Wildlands’ Bolivia is one of the most well-realised environments on new-gen.
— But a lot of its mechanics and animations may be over-familiar to Ubisoft fans.
How was it?
Impressive: almost as much so as Ubisoft keeping it under wraps this long. The politics (America has to stop DRUGS because DRUGS are BAD) may be a little trite, but there’s no denying the appeal of the Bolivian landscape and free-form four player co-op. The demo saw the squad approach a small town from different angles, converging on it to find the location of a drug runner-turned-snitch now marked for death by the Bolivian cartel that has turned the country into its own fiefdom.
The Ghosts were shown making their way to the mission area via mountainside motorbiking, cruising over salt flats in 4×4’s, or plain old sneaking their way in. After a bit of recon of the enemy encampment they went it, with one player interrogated a guard as the others silently took out other resistance, before they all came together to steal a helicopter. Well, not before kicking off a little explosive feud between the Santa Blanca and their local rival via silenced weapons and creative shooting. Think Just Cause meets Far Cry: a massive environment, but one with interesting things to do in and around the various towns the cartel has co-opted as strongholds.
In this case, ‘interesting things to do’ meant two players jumping out of the chopper and parachuting in, while the other two provided covering fire. It’s this team work — coupled with Wildlands’ visual fidelity, which we’ll get to in a bit — which excites. The world seems big enough for players to head out on their own, leveling up and completing side missions, before reconvening for their ultra-violent A-Team moments. The demo was scripted, of course, but in the hands of real players the potential for creatively approaching missions — or just crashing the chopper into the village and jumping out at the last second — is huge.
As is the game world. Which in and of itself isn’t always a good thing, but from what we’ve seen (and take that with a mountain of salt) there appears to be the requisite density, both in settlements and mechanics, to make it work. Bolivia is realised superbly: topographically interesting, diverse in its terrain, and with a beating sun withering all it hits. Its bigger, showier elements, such as huge draw distances, complemented by smaller details, like individual rocks that you crush under your boots on the way to killing people for the good of America.
So far Wildlands is all potential, then, but the world that has been built seems perfect for inventively dicking around in. It’s hard to shake the feeling of over-familiarity when you’re marking targets and using all of Sam Fisher’s repertoire (right down to the animations) to take out guys. But the world’s the star, and the multi-part, open-ended mission I saw — intel gathering, vehicle acquisition, hostage rescue — worked wonderfully.
Yeah. Don’t do drugs, kids.