The only information i had prior to Wildlands was the E3 trailer and the beta trailer participation, other than that, i had no expectatives (positives or negatives) of Wildlands besides of killing narcos in a jungle/desert/forest/snowy biome and begin operator while taking down cartels.
I went completely blind into the game but with the experience of having played almost every Tom Clancy game (including The Division and Siege) but specially Ghost Recon (new gen too), so needles to say i was ready to have fun one way or another and even got so happy to play it that i started giving away codes to everyone i could, some on this subreddit, others in fourms and others to friends.
I played 6 hours solo and 6 hours with some friends (Ghost, no hud, no minimap), here are my thoughts on the "beta":
Wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle…
I had no idea of how to start with my biggest problem, the open world. The game itself looks great and i wont talk about graphics themselves, but the world itself and the different dynamics this brings into the gameplay.
Before i start, i would like to make a quick comparasion to help you understand, why i think that Wildlands has no depth. When i think of tactical open worlds, i think of MGS V, in that game, you had different approaches to how you would infiltrate a base, you could watch the patrols go on their daily route (if you took your time of course) and scout them out either from hills or from different outposts, those outposts could receive reinforcements from the main base if needed or send reinforcements if the main base was attacked. They were connected and the AI soldiers would react calling into HQ via radios you could destroy to isolate a enemy base or you could kill or stun everyone in a outpost so a main base would be left without reinforcements, that was about the only depth that the open world brought to MGS V.
Now in Wildlands, there is no such thing as destroying radios, neutralizing reinforcements or having different approaches to how you will go into a base.
But you can scout out an area from hills too!
Well, here is my problem, you can do that in other Ghost Recon games, you could scout out areas, see which area was the less dense with enemies and infiltrate from there. I expected that when i ambushed a convoy, the cartel would take a hit and be less prepare to deal with any X situation i would throw at them, that however was not the case, simply put ANY event you do outside of a main mission wont have any effect whatsoever into the main world, there is no depth, no substance to fill a checklist of side stuff to do other than upgrading your gear (i will discuss this later), also the fact that there is no mission variety at all, you will soon realize what type of patron the game follows.
The world itself is filled with small villages and outposts which some of them, if not most of them, are kinda copy pasted into the world, i cant explain it, but you will find the same layout of a outpost with the same buildings on a big hill surrounded by forest but with different supplies inside, some have different layouts but same buildings (farms for example are the biggest ones), the first hour of driving around really makes you go "Wow this place is huge", however after that, the honeymoon phase wears off and you start to fast travel around (this was a side effect of playing with a friend, solo i never used the fast travel to confirm if i was seeing the same buildings or not, and the confirmation was, that indeed i was not crazy).
Gunplay & Tactics
Everyone who played recent Ghost Recon knows how the gameplay is, snap to cover, control recoil, blindfire a bit, hipfire is a double edge sword and all of that.
Wildlands has a bit different approach, i would like to say that the game feels like The Division gunplay from level 1 to 12, but i would be lying. Why is that? you may ask, the answer is not simple. The movement feels strange, like it wants to be a smooth type of movement (think something like MGS V with almost no delay from player-character control for quick actions) and also it wants to be a bit more wonky (The Division with a quick delay between turning, jumping and running), it becomes a weird, clunky type of movement that i just cant explain but everyone who played videogames can get use to it in question of half an hour.
Then it comes down when you start shooting, shooting feels very and i mean very light, from my point of view i never truly felt like recoil was a thing in the game, it just feels, without wanting to say it, arcadey, very run and gun and go prone to regenerate health, the game is very run and gun friendly for some reason, that is if you change that bad switch from FPS to TPS.
There is no more "Press X to cover", you just stick your operator glue ass into the wall to take cover, this removes that snap feeling of taking cover when you really need it, and it also removes the ability of dash from cover to cover when you are compromise plus the fact that there is no combat roll or dive to go directly into prone if you need to get out of sight of the enemy. It just feels worse than shooting in The Division, but it feels more light to gun and run, also the bulletdrop is just horrendous, i really dont want to bash the gunplay that much but jesus, shooting a sniper rifle feels like if you were shooting a paintball gun, i made tests and even at 50m, the bullet takes about 2 seconds to reach the target, 2 whole seconds while a assault rifle takes less with no drop. But the drop itself is just something that you must experience to describe it. (I played also ARMA and older Operation Flashpoint games, so yes i have an idea of how bullet drop can be done in videogames in a fun way)
"Stealth and AI"
I will admit, i saw that video of a helicopter hovering over some NPCs that didnt react to the players until they landed and then they started shooting. So of course i tried that and got the helicopter shredded, the AI detection isnt that bad, but is not good either, as they seem to be able to spot you from randomized distances sometimes even at night or sometimes they wont even see you sitting next to a crate while in prone with your upper body expose to them (for some reason going prone saved me most of the time, they must have coded them to player prone= 25% detection).
Anyway, the way the AI works is just not good enough to be a challenge, i tried to see their "patrol" routes when a friend was down going into a base i could watch from atop and i hope i was joking, but the AI patrolled around the same small building 2 times and called off the search. So we went into a Unidad outpost near a lake, this are the military guys so we expected better AI when it comes down to searching, he shot his weapon unsilenced killing a soldier (Protip: The soldiers actually dont have armor until they enter combat mode, thus you can kill soldiers with 1 headshot with a pistol but if you are fighting them head on, they need 4 headshots to go down) and nothing happen, so he went off to kill other guy with his buddies, the firefight begins and my friend runs back to a building and hides in the second floor, so the military surround the building exits and i think "Finally some good shit", until i see them disperse to other sides and seconds later "We aint found shit, sir" calling off the search.
Well they dont have good AI when it comes down to stealth, but combat is different.
This is wrong too, the military never employed anything even remotely similar to something tactical, they are literal lemmings that will shot at you in open field and run at you guns blazing while taunting you, they will never attempt to flank you, they will never attempt to use suppressing fire to hold you into a position so others can move up to finish you up (this is employed by NPCs in The Division, more specifically the military type of NPCs), each firefight felt the same in a different layout, never once i though that if i didnt move from my position, i would be dead if i kept covering myself in full cover (By the way, there is no way to blindfire) other than the occasional grenade, i could hold my ground easily, also the AI doesn't care if they are getting shot, they will never react to suppression fire and will only seek cover when they are near one, they will never run to cover from the 12 hours of gameplay i had.
And your AI partners, i only saw 1 of them go down once in the 6 hours i played solo, but i saw them getting shot to hell, so they must have a pretty good health pool to sponge so many bullets, as for tactics go, well, they are no better than the narcos/military NPCs and giving them commands is hell, they really wanted to go with a wheel of command instead of issue commands from a list (which opened up the possibility of telling each squad mate where to go and what to do). So when it comes down to solo combat, you really need to relay just on yourself (Also funfact, the AI wont react to your squad when you are stealthing around, they can pass right under their noses literally and they wont react).
This one is the hardest one for me to explain without bashing it, it feels just wrong, like the vehicles themselves dont have weight, jumping off a cliff and the vehicle will always try to relocate itself even if you dont want it to, always trying to go for that action shot even if you are jumping over a small rock in form of a ramp, motorbikes feel the same but with a smaller hitbox, they feel like you are just slipping away with the dirt, i cant explain it but my 3 friends did agree that they didnt want to drive around either, flying is just more of the same, it looks good on video, it just handles terrible and that must be because of the way the physics work.
A FarCry from a upgrade
Imagine if you combine the FarCry upgrade tree with the ones in the Division and you get the Ghost Recon one, for those that never played either one, let me explain it, in Far Cry you usually can level up by getting XP, this lets you chose a perk that unlocks something new like "Do 10% Damage with your machinegun" or "Press R3 to stab someone from a distance" or mundane things like that, The Division however lets you unlock perks and talents that let you use new gadgets like a rolling mine, a deploy shield, healing stations and all that sort of things, but to unlock them, you must first gather resources from missions or side quests and then (actually this happens in Far Cry too, you gather resources to unlock perks too) you unlock them.
Same thing happens here, want your drone to get a small % extra battery? Gather supplies plus skillpoints (XP or missions), want to get a parachute? Gather supplies, want to be able to zoom in futher with the binoculars? Gather supplies, same goes if you want a flare gun, mine or some type of grenade.
I wouldnt mind these type of unlocking system if i haven't already seen it so many times in past Ubisoft games, from Far Cry 3 all the way to Watch Dogs 2, this type of unlock system has been there and the main reason to have this type of system in those games is to have a checklist of "Content" to do to upgrade your character, the world is filled with these type of supplies. Those supplies are the only reason you will explore the game world and take down outpost after outpost, just like you have done always in other Ubisoft games.
Difficulty of Ghost + No hud
So i went into the game with the setup of playing it in the purest form there is, i was ready to be tactical and check my surroundings and chose the best way to approach a situation, i was going in full on max difficulty (which the devs said 1 shot= 1 kill) and i didnt need no HUD.
I was so, so wrong about this.
Going minimalist approach was a mistake, first and for most, there is no way to deactivate the markers of enemies without deactivating the markers of objectives, so fine, i will use the main map.
So i realize how painful is to open the map each 2 seconds to know where the hell to go, but if i activate the minimap, i will see which area is populated by enemies and i dont want that, just a indication of where to go, but i pushed forward without minimap or markers and i reached a hill where my objective would be, so i move in, grab the narco and i realize something, the narco is not speaking and my character is doing jack, turns out, i need to actually activate the HUD so the promps can pop up and chose what i want from 3 different rewards.
Same goes to trying to sync shot while solo, you cant actually try to sync up a shot if you have the HUD turned off, this made me realize something pretty quickly.
The game is not meant to be played without HUD but it gives you the option to do so, so props to them but in the first firefight i get where i try to blindfire so i dont get shot by the thug wearing a tank top rushing at me, i get 3 shotted and downed by it, that is when i realize quickly that there is no blindfire and that leads me to the conclusion of:
Ghost expects you to not get hit by bullets, but at the same time it gives you no tools to not get hit unless you cheese the system by abusing stealth or clearing a outpost with a sniper rifle before going in. This game is not balanced around the Ghost difficulty
That is what i thought until i got a better handle of the controls and started running and gunning around with a SMG and sniper rifle, where if i got downed, my AI team mates would come, clear the hostiles around me and then pick me up (up to 2 times, then you die.)
I cheesed 3 outpost by getting downed, having the AI magically (they teleport to you after a few seconds if they cant get to you, there is no bodies when they revive you, this happens after you kill a NPCs and a minute passes) clear the hostiles and getting down again in the most activate zone possible to clear them out, there is no penalty for going down, neither penalty for not begin a actual "ghost", so i tried to play seriously again and stealthe'd the rest of the missions, stealth is the easiest way to finish the beta, period, even without minimap or HUD, breaking Line of Sight and going prone was my to go tactic to play, i was carving something better, something more tactical, that is when i called in my friends to play.
"But i had fun with friends!"
Playing with friends didnt fix anything, but it made it hilarious how many ways we could come up with to break the game, we tried to play a mission seriously, but with the AI shenanigans, either it was WAY too easy or something funny would happen and we would just run and gun.
I did have a good time playing with my friends, but it was not because the game provided that type of gameplay, but because we just broke the game in every way we could (the most effective tactic was doing drive by's in the 4 small cars, since you dont take any damage and you can completely destroy anything in your way by shooting).
And i realize that this was the same thing we do with broken games, when the game doesn't provide us with good content or gameplay, we just find ways to dig out for fun, take for example GTA Online when it came out for the PS3, that game had jack shit for content and i played it because we just were screwing around doing nothing.
And when i come into this sub, i always see the positive people saying "but is fun with friends", even the shittiest game/movie can be fun with friends, everything will be fun with friends no matter what and Ubisoft took notice of that, take a bunch of friends into a open world with NPCs a small no important things to do and they will find the way to have fun.
The game is mediocre at best in the current state but it could be decent if they could fix some issues with it, an open world filled with meaningless content, very little mission variety, ok shooting, terrible vehicle controls, mediocre stealth and AI and it really feels like The Division beta of "played it once, seen it all" type of game, the core gameplay wont change, maybe the NPCs will get different clothing and weapons but at heart the game will be the same as it is now.
This is not a beta, this is a demo to see what major game breaking issues there could be that need to be fixed ASAP so they avoid getting eaten by the reviews, the optimization will be fixed? Yes it will, but the other minor bugs or issues will keep pilling up making the experience a sore one after playing it for some hours, i seen The Division subreddit go though this phase, i seen R6 Siege go though this, Destiny, No Man Sky among other games go though this same phase of "BUT IS BETA", all those games were fixed 6 months or more after they came out.
There is also the rumor of this build begin 3 months old, if the rumor is true, what are we testing then? If there is 3 months of progress between this build and the current build, then that means that these issues are fixed right?
If so, wouldn't it make much sense if they gave us the current, non-buggy build to test it out for them and find probably new potential bugs?
Please people, dont forget what has happen before in those games.
Will i buy the game? Yes i will, after the game is patched up, fixed and the physical copy is 20$, is literally a win-win situation if you wait just a few months for the game to come out, get patched and fixed and then you get a cheaper game.
You will enjoy a much better experience if you wait for the game to get patched like The Division, Rainbow Six, No Man Sky, Destiny, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed and even god damn Homefront got fixed afterwards.