Following a four-year hiatus after the release of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Ghost Recon: Wildlands offers a gigantic open world for players to be a part of a greater picture with their friends in cooperative play. Naturally, not every Ghost Recon player is looking for a cooperative experience, and Wildlands is also playable without. But after spending a few hours exploring Bolivia for the first time as a Ghost, it’s clear that Wildlands is best played with a group of friends.
The closed beta for Wildlands allowed players to work their way through the game’s initial prologue and tutorial area, playing through a set of story missions and a few side activities revolving around supply acquisition. For my first time through, I decided to pull in three of my friends and bump up the difficulty to the highest setting — called Ghost — where two or three stray bullets will put you flat on the ground. It required us to be smart about every combat situation, planning our attacks on enemy bases ahead of time and making sure that we kept up with each other’s positions. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a shooter for years, namely because we were all required to take each mission seriously.
Squads in Ghost Recon: Wildlands are made up of four team members who are required to evenly balance loadouts to effectively tackle objectives. In our case, that meant two of us were equipped for close- to medium-range engagements with assault rifles and silencers while the remaining two would hang back from a distance with a vehicle and sniper rifle to cover our retreat if things ended up going south. We usually kept silent and coordinated shots using the game’s sync shot feature, systematically eliminating threats and keeping each other up-to-date until we all made it out alive with our objective complete. On Ghost difficulty, things were always tense, and it made Wildlands feel more like a tactical simulator than a Ghost Recon game of the past.
Once we completed our closed beta missions, I went ahead and spent the next day on a fresh account to dive back through the prologue on Ghost difficulty using A.I.-controlled teammates. As expected, I could move them around and issue specific orders via the in-game command wheel while using the sync shot feature to eliminate groups of targets without any issues. But the second my planning started to get complicated, my A.I. squad members just couldn’t keep up.
Unlike working with other players cooperatively, I couldn’t tell my A.I. squad members to go fetch a helicopter for our escape or parachute into different positions around the base we were infiltrating. Instead, I was stuck with them following me around like hawks unless they moved too far away from me, in which case they could teleport back to my side instantly. Eventually, I started to ignore using them and focused on eliminating targets as a one-man team while wishing I could trade them for a team of coordinated players like I had before.
With not much time left until Ghost Recon: Wildlands officially launches on March 7, the limited capabilities of the A.I.-controlled squad is concerning. While they work well in an open firefight, they don’t seem capable of handling more specific commands. For those planning on diving into the game at launch solo, maybe consider getting a group of friends together instead. Otherwise, you’ll be missing all the tactical opportunities Wildlands has tucked away for you to enjoy.