E3 isn't real. Yes, the event is happening in the real world. Yes, the games are intended to be real. The truth about E3 is that it's full of unreality. There are videos illustrating ideas and concepts that will be cut, changed, and completely unrecognizable when they're released years later. There's enhanced vertical slices of games currently in production, with additional effects, audio, and graphical oomph to make a splash on the showfloor. There's developers who have rehearsed their demos to point they can play them in their sleep. E3 is real, but it's also very unreal.
Ubisoft capped off its press conference with the return of a classic franchise, just not the franchise I expected. Instead of the Prince of Persia or Splinter Cell game I was looking for, the final reveal showed off Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Wildlands is a new entry in the classic team-based military franchise, which last saw a release in 2012's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Honestly, I had sort of forgotten about Ghost Recon until the reveal, despite enjoying the last few entries in the series.
Instead of the discrete levels of previous Ghost Recon titles, Wildlands is drawing from Ubisoft's open world playbook. This time around, the Ghosts squad is in Bolivia, South America, hunting the Santa Blanca drug cartel; Ghost Recon meets Call of Juarez. Think of what you've played in Future Soldier and Advanced Warfighter, blown up to take place in the sprawl of rural South America. You're still hunting bad guys (or at least I hope they're bad guys, because the devs definitely killed a bunch of them). Wildlands is still all about stealth, marking targets, breaching areas, and setting things up for the perfect assault.
I admit, I'm still a bit fuzzy on how Wildlands will bring across the (recent) Ghost Recon experience if you're alone. Ubisoft says Wildlands can be played entirely solo or in four-player cooperative mode, but the hands-off demo I was shown was the latter experience. The new Ghost Recon has drop-in, drop-out coop that syncs up automatically and players don't have to be in the same region as one another. The developer demo had the players starting far apart, working together on separate actions that eventually fed into a single mission. It's something that illustrates the unreality of a show like E3, as we could follow these four unified players across four screens, watching them all come together perfectly. Not many players will probably have that same experience.
Recent Ghost Recons used the marking mechanic to give your AI partners targets to take out. It's not necessarily about the shooting, it's more of a puzzle where the solution involves shooting. I'd consider that a big part of the experience, but there was no word if you'd have alternate AI Ghosts helping you in Wildlands. It's something I'm going to be watching for in the future.
The eponymous Wildlands themselves are huge and while you can walk across every desert, salt flat, and mountain on foot, that might take a while. The Ghosts can hoof it, but vehicles are a new and integral part of the experience. Cars, trucks, bikes, and helicopters are all available to you, if you have the skill and firepower to take them from their owners. You can even use these vehicles to ferry other players or high-profile targets.
The demo had the developer Ghosts freeing a traitorous drug cartel lieutenant from his own people. They "escorted" their target out in the midst of a firefight, threw him in the trunk of a nearby vehicle, and drove him out of the prison. As the car evaded other cartel members, the second member of the extraction team was able to hang out the window and drop some lead into their pursuers. Once free of the cartel, they drove to a nearby rendezvous point where other devs awaited in a stolen helicopter. They transferred the target from the truck of the car to the helicopter to guide him safely to headquarters. Mission complete.
And that's really the point of Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It's a chance for the Ubisoft open-world formula to be applied to the traditional third-person military shooter. That immediately will turn off or turn on a number of folks.
The tone of this isn't as bombastic and out there as Far Cry 4 or Just Cause 3. There's certainly potential for those kinds of moments: like the moment when two of the Ghosts jumped out of a helicopter and parachuted into the prison itself, but it's not the focus of Wildlands. What you do have is a wide amount of freedom to approach objectives and missions. With a great multiplayer team, I could see Wildlands being one of the best Ghost Recon titles. I just want that team to be AI occasionally because I'm a sad man who doesn't want to play with people.