Wildlands’ “Ghost Wars” is a throwback blast

At long last, Ghost Recon Wildlands’ PvP mode launched – and it’s mostly great!

Player versus player competitive multiplayer didn’t make the cut when Ghost Recon Wildlands launched in March 2017. Now, just a few months short of the game’s one year anniversary, developer Ubisoft Paris has added “Ghost Wars” – a 4v4 class-based mode.

The basic no-respawn round-based team deathmatch and simple attack and defend modes will feel like retrod ground for competitive multiplayer fans. What Ghost Wars does so well, though, is fall back on classic multiplayer dynamics Ubisoft mastered with the Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) games. The time-to-kill is incredibly short, maps are vast but packed with cover and winning is almost impossible without teamwork.

Ghost Wars has four classes: Assault, Marksman, Support and Multiclass. Each has their own upgradable perks and bonuses that can be unlocked through leveling up. Within the Assault, Marksman and Support classes, there are distinct soldiers that have their own primary weapons and character-specific special abilities. Perks purchased for one soldier unlock the perk for all other soldiers in that class. Those who have sunk time into the base game will be familiar with character abilities and perks. Some characters have spotting drones, others have the ability to call in mortar strikes or disappear off enemy radars after taking cover.

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More often than not, in Ghost Wars, you’re only as good as your team. Sure, if you pick some of the more powerful characters in a class, you might be able to suppress a couple enemies at a time, but laying down covering fire, counter-sniping the enemy team and spotting requires coordination. Thankfully, the game has some built in communications tools that allow players without microphones to give and request orders. While I’ve seen it happen, “clutching” a match in a 1v4 after the rest of your team is wiped just isn’t likely.

Map design in Ghost Wars is sublime. Some of the locales are squared off to be relatively symmetric, but surprisingly, the competitive mode really shines when maps are lopsided to allow one team to get a foothold in urban environments while the other must approach using natural structures like rocks, trees and bushes. Even when the other team has a better starting position, it’s easy to turn the relative safety of a two story complex into frag hell with a few well-coordinated grenade throws.

Oh, and then there’s scale. Ghost Wars’ maps are huge, given the small 4v4 team size. Teams start on opposite sides of massive woodlots, industrial centers and quarries. Unlike games known for competitive multiplayer, these spaces don’t create kill funnels where players are forced to bottleneck. Instead, players can hug the perimeter of the map before moving toward the center of the map so they can provide overwatch for teammates operating in the thick of it. To counteract the massive maps, each game also has a recon tower that turns on halfway through the game. Players have to stand in an exposed position on the map to manually activate the recon tower, which reveals all enemy positions. It’s rare when a team needs to activate the towers, but it’s a smart mechanic from Ubisoft to prevent opponents from hiding in a bush until the match ends.

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All is not perfect in Ghost Wars. With the update, Ubisoft introduced two new loot crates that add cosmetic unlocks. Crates are common in multiplayer games, but in Ghost Wars, crates can only be unlocked through spending real-world money. Leveling up, performing well or progressing a class won’t unlock the cosmetic crates. This is not a deal breaker for Ghost Wars, but it’s disappointing to see Ubisoft require a player open his/her wallet to earn loot crates.

Questionable microtransactions aside, Ghost Wars is everything I’ve always loved about the Ghost Recon series. It rewards strategy and punishes haste, requires teamwork and is plain, simple fun. While many games would be sunsetting at this point in their lifecycle, Ghost Wars defies that tradition; providing more reason than ever to keep playing Ghost Recon Wildlands.

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