So I'm just in the process of playing Ghost Recon Wildlands, and it reminded me of an old game. Well actually that's an understatement it is for all intents and purposes an almost complete ripoff of that old game:
This game caught me completely unaware, I didn't really know anything about it, I found it in the discount bin at a store. I really had no idea it will turn out to be the game I'll use as a positive example for open world games.
The story might be simple, but I don't care, the keyword here is gameplay. The game mechanics are the best I've seen in any open world game, and the atmosphere is excellent too. It doesn't take itself extremely seriously, and it suits it very well. But this lack of seriousness only affects the storytelling and conversations, not the actual gameplay.
Everything just fell into place nicely, I really felt that I was in a South-American country, that's stricken with civil war, with numerous third parties warring over the resources of the land.
You assume the role of a mercenary soldier, who got stranded in the country due to some unfinished business. I have to applaud the designers, because, you can actually choose from multiple characters to play as, but what's really awesome is that your hero is not made to appeal to your everyday values, they made to be believable as mercenaries, so they have questionable moralities at best. Even the female choice is made to look like someone who can get the job done. To me this makes a world of difference. But what really sets the game apart is the freedom you have. You can go about accomplishing your missions any way you like, there are no restrictions here. You can rush the enemy base in tank, attack from the air, sneak in on foot, or if you have the funds, call in an air-strike. Yes you can really do that in this game.
The area to explore is huge, I only managed to discover a third of it thoroughly, by the time I finished the main story line. Not because it was bad or short, but because the area is so large. And it's not just some fancy scenery either. The world truly feels alive, there are guerilla bases in the rainforest, NATO bases, Oil cartels, even North Korea decides to drop in a few troops. Oh and of course China wants a piece of the pie too. And the best thing, every single building or object is destructible, so if you have the firepower you can go through a city in a straight line.
Of course you can acquire missions from almost any of the factions present in the game. Even switch sides in the middle. But be aware that your actions are not without consequences, if you get on the bad side of a faction, they'll attack you on sight later.
There are three types of missions in the game you can do to get more funds. These include missions from faction leaders, headhunting to bring in wanted people dead or alive. Yes it matters, you can either submit the photo of the dead body, and get half the reward, or submit the person, and get the full reward. And the third type of mission is destroying key targets. Each faction has a list of targets they wish to be destroyed.
But of course not everything in the garden is a flower, there are some flaws in the game, for one here is the save system (I know I have a problem with those every time). This one only records the objectives you completed in a mission, but doesn't record the number of enemy soldiers remaining, or their positions, well it doesn't even record your position. So if you die during a mission, you can expect to be place somewhere you never been before. The other problem is, that while the terrain is varied, the missions not so much. About a third into the game you really start to feel that you're doing the same tasks over and over again, just at a different target. Headhunging does offer some variety, because it's about getting into a base, capturing the person you're after, then getting out. So there is some variation due to the terrain, and due to your methods. Later when the money is not so important you can even waste the person from a distance and not bother with clearing out the base to be able to take the prisoner alive, or to be able to hand him over to the faction that wants him.
Commandeering vehicles, is not as easy as a touch of a button. You can take over each vehicle in a Quick Time Event. And the complexity of the QTE is in proportion to the value of the vehicle. You can take over a simple jeep in a two part QTE, but you have to do a long QTE sequence to get a tank, while taking over an enemy helicopter is almost impossible. I'm usually against QTEs, but in this case I feel they're appropriate. My only problem with them is that they're tailored to the reflexes of a space monkey overdosed on adrenaline, the keys are shown for a very little time, and on a random area of the screen. I believe it's impossible to get any of them right at first for a normal human being. Maybe Flash could do it. Fortunately they're fixed for each vehicle, so after you memorize the sequences it actually becomes fairly straightforward to take over smaller vehicles.
Apart from the quick time events, the controls are all right, The default keyboard layout needs some getting used to, and I was just too lazy to change it, that's not really the game's fault though.
The vehicles handle well for an action game. The graphics is fair. For the size of the world and the things you can do it's OK.
- The taunts voiced by your character, and lots of other comic relief moments
- Huge and interesting area to explore
- Everything is desructible
- Tons of usable vehicles and weapons (you can use any vehicle or weapon you see in the game)
- Multiple ways of solving missions
- You can call in supplies, and vehicles to your position, so you never get stranded without weapons or means of transportation.
- Missions become dull and monotonous later in the game
- Bugs: Like ships flying upside down, your helicopter won't drop the supplies you asked for
- Save system
- In theory it's possible to create custom vehicles at your base after you acquire the mechanic. But to do this you need to find parts scattered around the map. While I wasn't specifically looking for these, I expected to be able to have some custom vehicles by the end of the game. But I didn't even have enough for half a car by then, which is a little over the top imo. It should be easier to find these parts.
- To call in air strikes you have to put up a smoke beacon, but to do that you have to get in close to the target, which kind of makes it pointless to call in air support if you have explosives with you.
- Tanks are virtually invincible to regular weapons, this means some missions become a walk in a park if you use tank for them. Since you can level an entire enemy base with just one tank. But this is mostly specific to the first half of the game, later on there are many RPG soldiers as well.
overall impression: 8/10