The open beta for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands not only increased my anticipation for the game since playing the closed beta, but also added to my list of post-release fixes that would improve the entertainment value and appeal for this latest entry in the popular shooter franchise. Especially in a year that's already shaping up to showcase solid competition in a variety of genres, resting on the series' laurels won't be enough to stand out from a crowded field of top-tier games.

In the closed beta I played several hours solo, relying on squad AI and a simple command wheel to support my tactical approach to each scenario. For the open beta I mostly played with GIO friends Brian Seavey (Noobtubin8er), Joyful Penguin, Chris Mrkvicka and TheSniperXI. Though, mostly tormented is likely more apt, as for instance, I 'naded Brian into a sealed building (above), and literally drove Richard (TheSniperXI) crazy by driving us off-road.

What are friends for, right? Co-op play, however, did demonstrate pros and cons related to this mode. Joining another's game is easy, whether inviting them or selecting the join option, and gameplay seemed pretty stable. All players can obtain the same items from crates. And reviving each other is relatively straightforward. On that note, the ability to opt out of a revive, thereby eliminating the countdown timer, would be appreciated (instead of having to wait till you expire).

Also, Richard and I found out that when one teammate fast travels, the other(s) does not accompany them. If I recall correctly, your teammates also do not appear on your game map, though they do show up on the minimap. Enabling team fast travel and more obvious team markers would help boost team play. What also would help, is allowing for a full four-person squad at all times, including a mix of real and AI partners. Losing all AI comrades when even one real player joins can be problematic.

The open beta helped assuage some concerns about the level of competition, but even this new appreciation was based more on added gameplay elements instead of improved enemy AI. Going against Unidad (army) forces, for example, is tougher by virtue of increased armor and combat options such as mortar attacks and alarms that attract gunships (above). But improved AI that actively (and uniformly) flanks and seeks cover would help immensely.

Similarly, better teammate AI and deeper squad controls would benefit gameplay. While commands like Fire, Hold, Go To and Regroup are reasonably intuitive to execute (though the radial command can be imprecise) and faithfully followed, it would be nice to have comrades who return fire (without the Fire command), and who could be commanded individually instead of en masse. As in some other squad shooters, positioning everyone independently prior to ordering an assault would be optimum.

I was able to confirm during the open beta that your avatar does take cover (above) without having to use a button to stick to it. They will lean in to cover when next to it, and actual lean out when aiming from behind cover. For my money, this is an ideal use of a cover mechanic. AI teammates will also stay low and move to/from cover in general, though can be caught outside cover at inopportune times. Thankfully, teammates reliably revive each other, including the player.

Other areas for improvement include the narrative and dialog, which can be more original and less cheesy, respectively. Likewise, side missions would benefit by being less generic and repetitive (instead of typical secure, retrieve, escort operations). Of course these are based on about six hours of open/closed beta gameplay, so could offer more depth in the final game. Also, better vehicle controls (i.e. less floaty, more precise steering) would help traverse the open world, which generally is well designed.

There are plenty of improvements that can be made even post-release, and I hope Ubisoft will embrace those opportunities. Make no mistake, I've enjoyed the hours I've already put into this game in the closed and open betas, and I'm looking forward to playing a lot more of this game. The open-world, co-op squad-based shooter field is somewhat limited, and Ghost Recon is the kind of franchise that can fill that niche. And with some tweaks, Wildlands can succeed in doing much more than that.