Earth, Wind, and Gunfire: Exploring The Sounds of Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Earth, Wind, and Gunfire: Exploring The Sounds of Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Ubisoft Paris shows off all the work that goes into one aspect of a game that players rarely notice: the sound.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a Tom Clancy game, meaning it's not just the ambient sounds of the world that need to be right. Weapons are the next layer in Ghost Recon's sound design; an M4A1 assault rifle doesn't sounds like a Beretta pistol or SPAS-12 shotgun. Ubisoft Paris drew on the expertise of the Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft's North Carolina-based development house that was founded by Tom Clancy himself. Red Storm tends to pitch in on Ubisoft's military-based titles, including The Division, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon games.

"As a Tom Clancy project, we want to be as realistic as possible," says Soufflet. "We have an authenticity manager [at Red Storm]. The authenticity manager works with the U.S. military and gun manufacturers and he knows how each model of gun is supposed to sound. It's our interpretation of a gun sound, but it goes through that authenticity phase."

"From the start, the really big question for us is, 'How does it sound when you shoot your gun in such a gigantic environment? How does it feel to fire your gun?' We wanted the the guns to be incorporated into the landscape, for the open-world to be a resonant chamber for our guns."

So Ubisoft developed a dynamic echo system for the weapon sounds, which was probably the coolest damn thing I saw on my visit, while also being the thing that I probably would've never noticed in-game. This is the kind of thing that's key to creating a game that feels real, but if you do you job right, the player will never notice the illusion.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands' dynamic echo system identifies all of the surfaces that can reflect the sound of a gun, whether it's a mountain, cliff, or huge rock. Then the system positions a reflector on the objects in your surrounding area. An echo is played at the position of each reflector. The echo length and delay time are calculated according to the distance between the gun and the reflector. This means that while the guns themselves sound very different, even the same gun sound has variety depending on where you shoot.

"It's an immersive and very powerful feeling when you shoot a gun in the wide open," says Soufflet.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands wants the whole world to react to your gunshot.

The Songs of the Cartels

The next level up is the background chatter of civilian life in Ghost Recon's Bolivia. For the audio team at Ubisoft Paris, the key here is radio. The radio is a important part of the game in the same way that it would anchor a sports title like Forza Horizon 3 or Burnout Paradise.

"Radio is really important," Soufflet explains. "Not everyone owns a TV set in Bolivia. Radio is as important in Bolivia now as it was in your society 50 years ago after the war. We figure that if a drug cartel was able to take over such a country, they would use the radio for propaganda. They mostly

Ghost Recon: Wildlands music supervisor Manu Bachet

You'll hear the radio in local shops and homes in a village. The people of digital Bolivia are living their lives in tandem with the sound of the radio, so it's all around you. Unless you're out in the middle of nowhere, you'll hear snippets of the radio playing in homes or gas stations. If you're driving your car and listening to a song or interview, you can exit your vehicle in a town and pick up the rest of that song or interview elsewhere.

In the fiction of Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the government of Bolivia has been taken over by the Santa Blanca cartel and co-opted into a narco state. Santa Blanca isn't an old school drug cartel spreading boring messages over the airwaves though. Instead, the cartel has bought and paid off a number of local celebrities. This includes the local DJs and several pop and folk music stars. Santa Blanca uses the radio to play up its image and create stories of its exploits.

DJ Perrico is the primary radio DJ in Ghost Recon Wildlands and Ubisoft has recorded a host of content for the fictional host, much like the aforementioned sports titles. Perrico has local talking segments, interviews, commercials, small jingles, and more, all focused on Santa Blanca. He'll interview cartel bosses and advertise local Santa Blanca bootcamps. The radio station also features lengthy songs Ubisoft created for the world of Ghost Recon: Wildlands: the narcocorrido.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands music supervisor Manu Bachet has been in charge of the music for the series since Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. For him and his team, the narcocorrido is a way to capture the flavor of the region, while also providing narrative information to the player.

"[Corridos] are narrative songs, very popular in Mexico," says Bachet. "There's a lot of accordion and trumpets. The rhythm most of the time is polka. There is a subgenre of corridos, named narcocorridos, which you can translate as 'drug ballad'. These are songs that tell the stories and achievements of famous smugglers."

For Ghost Recon: Wildlands, every boss has their own narcocorrido and the songs were all recorded with a real corrido band in Arizona. Together with the radio station, the corridos are intended to provide a strong South American flavor to the entire game.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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