The last time we saw a new installment in the Ghost Recon franchise was in 2012, and after a three year absence it has returned. Ghost Recon Wildlands will be the newest iteration in the series, however, this is the first time we will see the franchise in an open-world setting. Open-world games are something Ubisoft does quite well, but for the developers at Ubisoft Paris, Ghost Recon Wildlands isn’t just about tossing on an general open-world skin and calling it good. This game marks a real change for the series, publisher and industry.
The industry sees massive games released all of the time, but just because a game has size does not mean it will maintain meaning. Giving meaning to a player’s actions and ensuring that their actions carry weight isn’t always the easiest of concepts to maintain. Ghost Recon Wildlands Senior Producer Nouredine Abboud told atombash.com about what has been important to the team at Ubisoft Paris as well as the weight they believe Wildlands will carry.
“What is for sure is the game is massive and the quantity of work we’ve put into it is massive. Of course you can have the feeling that things have moved very fast, but the things we have in mind is that every step is like a long step. It’s really important for us to be a co-op, open-world, military shooter. This should change the way you look at how you play that sort of game, and that’s what we’re happy about. It’s a big change for Ghost Recon and it’s a big change for Ubisoft. We feel like it’s a real change for the gaming industry as far as all military shooters go,” Abboud said.
When you look at this game, it’s difficult not to immediately think of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and I use this comparison because of how each game implores gamers to be tactful with their actions. Obviously one is a single-player game and the other is co-op, but the same idea of beckoning players to be intelligent is a mutual trait.
The cynics will look at Ghost Recon Wildlands and think this is just another Ubisoft open-world game, but that was exactly what Abboud and his team wanted to get away from. “When we looked at the open-world, the biggest thing was not creating an open-world for the sake of an open-world.”
The development team acknowledged all of the things Ubisoft has done in the open-world genre, but they still felt like they didn’t need to be slaves to a given formula or equation. Ghost Recon Wildlands Creative Director Eric Couzian told us about the journey they went through to get Wildlands to where it is now.
“The first thing was how can we live and interact within this open-world. We’ve spent over three years making this game and took the core elements of the previous game and tried to bring it to larger maps to see what happened. We had some playtests with four-player co-op to see how they interacted and what was important. We also made some prototypes with the trees to see what types of tactical things they created. Then based on how people were reacting, we got to think about how we can extend this little bit in order to make a larger one,” Couzian said.
There will be nine different environments for players to traverse through. These areas will range from snow-covered mountains, to dense jungles, to dry and flat deserts. Ubisoft Paris wants each of these nine areas to challenge players and force them to think and play differently from one another. One approach may work great in the mountains, but when used in the desert, that approach must then be altered.
“When you’re in the jungle, the way you play with your friends is completely different because you have to tell your friend exactly what you see due to your point of view. It’s completely different in a desert because the challenge is trying to find cover. Every time you’re in a different environment, the co-op is different and you have to adapt to each one,” Couzian said.
Not only will the game’s terrain influence your gameplay choices, but so will the time of day. AI will behave differently during the daytime compared to how they behave at nighttime. Ghost Recon Wildlands’ AI plays a crucial role as Ubisoft Paris told us and it could even be a breakout aspect of the game.
AI can be a very decisive feature in a game, especially if it doesn’t challenge gamers to think intelligently. Gamers often thirst for games that challenge them and when AI can help do that, great things can happen. Couzian and Abboud talked about the game’s “autonomous AI” and how they will not be predictable, like AI in some games is.
“The AI is completely autonomous in the world and the world is living in that every civilian, every AI you’ll meet has it’s own agenda, it’s own schedule, and all of that [depends] on its faction, its job, the time of day and the weather. We can’t spawn the enemies or NPCs just around the players because we don’t know if they’ll split [up] or which mission they’ll decide to do,” Couzian said.
“What’s interesting about this is that people really have the feeling that they are actually part of the story. The job is to create chaos inside this universe. It’s fully logical because what they are here for is to change the agenda for these guys, try to trigger things to see what the consequences are and what the butterfly effect is of what they just did. Within this, the things are connected, the size of the world, the quantity of options and freedom, the story itself; it’s all part of the circle that is Ghost Recon Wildlands,” Abboud said.
Player choice is a major part of this new Ghost Recon because not only is the game open-world and there is inherent choice in that, but gamers will be able to choose the exact order in which they play each mission. With this being the case, it’ll be interesting to see how the story is crafted and structured as a result.
The world and AI around you will react to the things you do. Killing a leader within the cartel will send a ripple effect through the game’s AI, so players will need to think about who they decide to take out before doing so. Couzian elaborated further on the impact gamers can have with a single bullet.
“If in a region you kill this guy from the cartel, then it will impact the way the other factions are living in the world. It’s how you live just by walking in the world and traveling in the world, you feel the impact [of your own actions]. Depending on your play style, if you like to manipulate the factions you can do so to help destroy each of them,” Couzian said.
Turning factions against each other to help you secure your goal sounds like a whole of fun and something that could add another dimension to a player’s thought process. There is still a whole lot more to learn about Ghost Recon Wildlands, but we expect the game to debut sometime next year, barring any delays. Wildlands will launch for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.