(Pocket-lint) - When we first fixed eyes on Ghost Recon: Wildlands at the end of Ubisoft's E3 gaming expo pre-show conference in 2015, we were gagging for more. Come the 2016 show, where we got to actually play the open-world game, turns out it was absolutely worth the wait. Think Far Cry 4 for four players and you're most of the way there.
Wildlands is set in Bolivia, where "the king" - the head of a dangerous drug cartel - rules with an iron fist. That's where the "ghosts", an "elite military team", come in to take down this underworld - by stealth and by force.
Now, we say "elite military team" in inverted commas because, well, we weren't exactly acting elite in our play-through. Our Ubisoft guide so wanted us to take the game seriously - which we did, to a degree, but heaps of hilarity ensued when we messed things up or went rogue.
Which, we think, is just what happens when you open up such games to curious people looking to have a laugh and see what's possible. Just look what happened to Grand Theft Auto 5 when that was opened up to PC modders.
Our Ghost Recon: Wildlands goal, with a team of four lined-up a different stations, was to research a lead, capture a hostage for intel and escape unscathed. Played properly, it would have been a thing of stealth wonderment.
But we weren't down for that. Llamas were shot, helicopters were landed upside down (no, really), the hostage target was accidentally (on purpose) shot in the head and, as it turned out, all these decisions simply change the way in which the game develops. You can still source intel in a different way, just with a hardened stance rather than a stealthy one. It's great to have those variety of play options unfold as things do or don't go the right way.
Some of the set pieces in the game are excellent too. Skydiving out of a helicopter, looking out across the hills of Bolivia, is a thrilling experience. Don't open your parachute and you'll end up flat as a pancake, but, again, it's all part of the fun.
Like in multiplayer online shooters, team mates can revive one another when taken down, which is an additional tactical point of attention. Because the world is so vast, different players can be set long distances apart to perform different tasks: you might choose to fire a sniper from the hills, or go hand-to-hand in close quarters combat. Get caught out and killed miles from your team-mates and you may end up laying on the ground for quite some time before you're back in the game - as respawning doesn't happen and communication is critical.
We've already mentioned Far Cry 4, but for good reason. Ghost Recon: Wildlands looks and feels a lot like that game. From the driving, to the environment and effects. Which is great news, really, because that game was one of our favourites of last year, so Wildlands is in good stead to better it. Especially with its distinctive four-player mayhem.
Elite or obsolete, the way you play in Ghost Recon: Wildlands is down to you. It's a versatile, vast, fascinating open-world game that mixes stealth with serious combat. It's inadvertently hilarious, brilliant fun. And, for that, it's one of the best games we've played so far this year.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is released for Xbox One, PS4 and PC on 7 March 2017. And it's shaping up to be an absolute cracker.