Ghost Recon Wildlands co-op is beautiful anarchy
“I see the target,” one of my teammates said. A marker soon appeared over our prey’s head. He was in the middle of a heavily defended compound, surrounded by guards. It would require guile and stealth to take him down. Our squad would need to function like a fine-tuned machine, with each member doing their jobs to perfection, using every tool at our disposal.
As we moved in, we slowly dispatched the outliers, sniping them using silenced weapons. We crept ever closer, preparing for what would certainly be a pitched battle. Drones went up to mark target, and locations were called out so we were all familiar with the area.
“Everyone check in,” I said in my best, most serious imitation of a black ops soldier. “I’m in position.”
“In position on the hill, ready to snipe,” was the first response.
“I’m on the ground ready with grenades. Waiting on the first shots,” came the second reply in a completely unnecessary, but totally in character whisper.
“Heads up, suckas!”
Seconds later a plane loaded with C4 crashed down directly on the target’s head, exploding with a sound that mocked the entire concept of stealth. It also caught several vehicles in the crash, turning our sneaky mission into a Michael Bay movie.
Plan B it was. The guy waiting to snipe decided to grab a truck and play demolition derby with the remaining vehicles, while the rest of us (minus the pilot, who died ridiculously in the crash and respawned further out) rained grenades down on the base. Planning out our assault took about five minutes; the actual attack took about 30 seconds followed by hours of joking recriminations.
It was a little annoying to have my strategy unraveled by a Leroy Jenkins type, but I couldn’t deny that it was effective. Still, in response, I offered the rogue pilot a ride. When he wasn’t paying attention, I rolled out of the car and sent it careening off a cliff, resulting in a satisfying explosion and his death. I think I shoulted something like “try flying now, jackass!” It was petty, but hilarious.
And that is what makes the Ghost Recon Wildlands co-op so, so good. Not the ability to be petty and vindictive – or at least not just the ability to be petty and vindictive – it’s the ability to creatively solve problems. You aren’t limited to following the developers’ assigned path, nor is there a “right” way to approach things. Wildlands gives you tools, gives you objectives, then lets you handle it however you want.
Wildlands is a game about freedom. Usually, when you take an open world and inject co-op into it, that mode comes with limitations. For example, take another Ubisoft attempt at open world co-op, Far Cry 4.
Ubisoft’s 2014 game had a huge map to explore and dozens of missions and side-missions to play. Unfortunately, the co-op was a truncated version of that. It offered the side missions, but none of the story. It also allowed only two-player co-op, with the guest joining the host’s game, which meant that all side mission progress went to the host.
What Far Cry 4 did, it did well. There was a freedom similar to Wildlands, but without a story mode it quickly felt like a demo of what could have been, rather than a substantial game mode in its own right. Wildlands improves upon that in every way.
To begin with, the structure of Wildlands is designed to allow everyone to play their own game at the same time. Anyone can put forward a mission, and it is up to the team to accept it. If someone has already played that mission, it will simply come up as white instead of yellow. Replaying still earns experience, and given that the game is set up non-linearly, taking missions out of order doesn’t really have any negative impact.
The only real negative to the co-op mode isn’t specific to Wildlands, but rather to the nature of co-op.
You can jump into a random game at any time, but unless you are willing to throw on a headset and talk to the people you are playing with, it’s just kind of like playing missions with erratic AI. Sometimes they can take out bases on their own, sometimes they will blow themselves up. They are wildcards.
If you are having trouble with a specific mission, jumping into a game and asking for help from real players is a smart move, but there is no guarantee they will accept and actually help. Again though, that’s just kind of the nature of playing co-op with people you don’t know.
Wildlands – like most co-op games – is made to be played with friends, ideally good friends that aren’t going to be put off by shenanigans. And Wildlands is very much shenanigan-friendly with a side of hijinx. And explosions. Lots of explosions.
Whatever your jam, Wildlands has plenty to offer you. If you are mission oriented, you will have many, many options. If you want to quickly earn experience, you can assign multiple people multiple missions for big rewards that are shared. If you want to turn a trip from one location to another into a race, go for it. The lack of constraints in Wildlands makes it the new gold standard for co-op games in an open world.
Wildlands isn’t the only game to offer this level of openness, but it’s the only one where you can toss an explosive onto your buddy’s dirt bike and make it explode when they get a little lippy, or start a fight with an opponent and then go off to do your own thing, leaving your surprised teammates to take care of things for you. Some might call it griefing, but others might call it creative gamesmanship.
With open world games becoming something of the norm, Wildlands offers a path for the future. It’s a path free of limitations. It’s the type of game where you can take out a boss using stealth and guile or hit them with a car. You can hover overhead in a helicopter and casually drop grenades, or coordinate your sniper shots. You make your own game. You do what you want, how you want. It pays to get creative. Not in actual rewards like experience, but more in the sense that it’s amusing.
If co-op isn’t your thing, Wildlands might not be the game for you. It’s still got a lot to offer on the single player side, but it’s made for co-op and few games do it better.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.