Can Ghost Recon Wildlands Avoid Being The Division 2.0?

When we look back at The Division, the ambitious, but flawed shared-world shooter from Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment, we’ll think about all the things that could have been. Considering that the biggest downfall of The Division was a combination of over-fiddling on the part of the developers and a reliance on character progression over content, it makes sense to be wary of the next open-world cooperative Tom Clancy title. Ghost Recon Wildlands doesn’t appear to be attempting to compete with the likes of Destiny, with the emphasis instead being placed upon expansive cooperative gameplay with a high chance for chaos. The thing is, we’ve seen enough promising Ubisoft marketing material before to be wary of what could end up being a fairly rote experience. Will Ghost Recon Wildlands be a pleasant way to begin 2017 or will it be yet another example of a big-budget Ubisoft title that fades away in a matter of weeks?

Ghost Recon Wildlands is going to have experience and loot systems, as is customary for any tactical open-world shooter nowadays, but the fact that the entirety of the experience doesn’t rely on this is promising. Recently, there has been a surge of titles that are hoping to loop players in with their addictive progression treadmills without paying attention to structure. Consider how strange Destiny’s navigation system and fragmented world structure is when compared to basically every other shooter out there. Think about how The Division’s open world often felt as though it was empty, despite always having an online connection. It’s exciting to think that Ghost Recon Wildlands is aiming to suck players in through a combination of tactical gameplay and AI that can’t always be predicted. If this turns out to be a silly set of sandboxes to fool around in with three friends, then Spring is going to be a heck of a lot of fun.

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Now, if you were to consider the other side of the equation, the outlook isn’t quite as rosy for Ubisoft’s four-player cocaine adventure. Let’s say that the story feels a bit thin compared to similar open-world titles, and imagine if there really wasn’t anything to do after you complete a fifteen hour main questline. If this is yet another example of a Ubisoft open-world game loaded with shallow collectibles and vapid open-world activities, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many dirt bikes your friends can blow up next to you. In order for Ghost Recon Wildlands to avoid the issues that ended up causing The Division to fade away in a matter of weeks, it has to have enough staying power to make coming back for more enticing. There’s no point in having a loot grind or cooperative play if there isn’t anything driving the player to engage in those features, so if Ghost Recon Wildlands is just The Division West, the gaming universe is going to start taking a look at what it wants from the Tom Clancy’s brand.

The most likely scenario for Ghost Recon Wildlands is that it ends up falling in the low-eighties on Metacritic, with a groundswell of support initially before everyone moves onto new games. There has been no indication from Ubisoft that Wildlands is aiming to be a game that players sink hundreds of hours into, meaning that it’s likely to exit the public consciousness before Summer. Still, if we end up getting a massive open-world adventure loaded with meaningful activities that don’t feel like filler, Ghost Recon Wildlands might end up being the title that rights the Tom Clancy ship after a number of stumbles.