Ghost Recon Wildlands is divisive. For me, it was a tonne of fun. For David Hollingworth, not so much. While David’s issues were more related to painful crashes, the general consensus online is that Wildlands sucks when played alone.
But, holy freakin’ shit, it rocks if you can play with at least one other person. It’s at its peak when you’re playing with a four-stack co-op party, which is why I played around 16 hours of open-world mayhem when it launched earlier this year. I didn’t even touch it in solo, because why would I? That’s clearly not the right way to play the game, but I can understand that finding three, or sometimes even one or two, other players isn’t always possible. The reality is Wildlands has a solo component, so it should be fair to expect it to be a quality experience on your lonesome.
Fast-forward to today, though, and as is the tradition with Ubisoft games, they get better with subsequent patches and content drops. In terms of the latter, there’s a free Predator special challenge in Wildlands that’s only available for a limited time. It’s been released to coincide with the 30th anniversary of one of the most amazing action movies ever made, and if you own Wildlands, you owe it to yourself to reinstall the game, if only to experience this one mission. Pro tip: look for it on the far right of the map.
It’s that good. For Predator fans, it’s essential. For non-fans, well, you don’t exist. But in all seriousness, even if you’re not hot on Predator, it’s an awesome mission that, like the core game, is best played with other people. Do what you must to rally three other buddies to play with you because I’ve watched a video of it being beaten solo, and it’s honestly boring in comparison to what I experienced.
I might be wrong on this, but it appears the difficulty of the fight scales based on how many human players are involved. And it’s a goddamn tough fight with three other players. Sure, the extra-terrestrial hunter cheats a bit: the Predator doesn’t take damage at times, it teleports away at points, its plasmacaster sometimes kills through solid objects, and its cloaking also apparently renders it immune to activating mines. But you won’t care because of how much damn fun you’re having.
I took three of my buddies into the fight, all seasoned fraggers and up for the task. Before we got into the main fight—and I won’t ruin the creepy lead-up—I figured we’d knock it over first attempt. In reality, it took around half a dozen attempts to best the fight. Normally, I’d just tell you to watch the replay, but ShadowPlay is temperamental with recording my microphone, so you’d be missing out on my panicked cries and only hearing my teammates. And this is a big part of what makes the mission so intense.
There were two times when we came close to winning, but those both boiled down to three of us being downed, and the fourth person left to fight alone. Y’see, not only does the Predator’s plasmacaster have splash damage (double downs happened on more than one occasion), the bastard hunter has a tendency of targeting the player who’s reviving another. If your teammates aren’t quick enough to hit him before the shot (not an easy task, given he moves around quite a bit), you don’t have time to cancel the revive and avoid the shot, so that starts to complicate matters.
I managed to prone-duck a plasmacaster round a couple of times, but the second time I did it, it flew on to down one of my teammates. Whoops. In between standing back and shooting from range, the Predator sporadically runs between players, close enough to make you shit your pants. It results in the same kind of panicked fire I can only imagine is the perfect digital recreation of the fate that befell Jim Hopper and co in the original movie.
Just when you think you have the fight figured out, there’s a final phase (which, again, I won’t ruin) that’s positively punishing. It’s not the kind of mission you’ll be rewarded for playing through more than once, but the half hour I played on the weekend goes down as my favourite co-op experience of 2017 (and maybe beyond, too). It seems I’m not alone, either: while overall reviews for Wildlands on Steam sit at Mostly Positive, the recent reviews are at Very Positive. Get onto it before it disappears back into the trees in early January.