8 things I wish I knew before starting Ghost Recon: Wildlands - free from 12-15 October 2017

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is an absolutely immense game with more depth than you can shake a cocaine cartel’s AK-47 at, and best of all it's free for all players between 12-15 October 2017. You’ll develop your own play style over the many hours you spend in the fictionalized Bolivia, but there are a handful of things that will make your bloody adventure both more efficient and enjoyable, which we've picked out here to help you along your way.

1. Always use the drone

Wildlands doesn’t make a big deal out of the fact that your soldier carries around a handy recon drone, and doesn’t emphasize just how important it is for you to actually use it. The drone, and to a lesser extent the binoculars you also carry, is the ultimate assault planning tool for every situation. It insta-spots enemies and is nearly invisible to the cartel baddies until you literally run it right into their faces. It’s fantastic right from the start, and the optional upgrades for things like battery life and range just make it even better. If you find yourself getting constantly ambushed by enemies you didn’t see, it’s probably because you forgot to toss that fancy little gadget into the sky. 

2. Roads are optional

I was worried early on that following the web of paved roads, rocky paths, and muddy shortcuts was vital to preventing whatever vehicle I had recently hijacked from falling apart, but thankfully that’s not the case. Vehicles in Wildlands are extremely durable and even the most lowly sedan or busted-up pickup truck can be sent down the side of a mountain with very little in the way of consequences. The only time vehicles seem to actually break down and explode is when they’re peppered with repeated gunfire, so just avoid stray bullets and you can ignore the roads entirely. 

3. The mini map is a godsend

Wildlands doesn’t do a particularly good job of hammering into your head just how important the minimap is, but you’re likely to learn that yourself after repeatedly running straight into enemy outposts that were clearly marked on the tiny GPS in the corner. Hot red and yellow areas are spots where enemies are, though their exact locations remain a mystery until you spot them with your own eyes or drone. The minimap is also great for spotting incoming reinforcements, whether they’re part of the cartel, which show up as red, or members of the corrupt Unidad police force, which appear as purple. 

4. Prone to survive

I played almost three hours before realizing that if you hold down the crouch button for a half second longer than normal, you can go fully prone. It might not seem like a useful ability, but when many rock walls and boxes still allow your head to be struck with fire when crouched, prone is your lifeline. Going prone while planning and initiating an assault is also a huge advantage, and you can take out marked enemies from within tall grass when you don't even having a clear line of sight, and without being spotted yourself. It’s truly a must for maximum effectiveness. 

5. Fast travel isn’t cheating

Have you ever felt like fast traveling to a destination in an open world game is kind of like cheating? In Wildlands, it’s an absolute necessity. The in-game map is massive, and if you insist on traveling by car or even helicopter 100% of the time, you’re going to quickly find yourself with a lot of free time to contemplate your life choices. The key here is that getting into small battles in between locations is of little consequence, where in some other open world games it’s crucial to leveling up and finding new missions. In Wildlands, you’re not likely to miss out on anything game-changing if you just do a little magic jump to your nearest safe house. Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone. 

6. Use your night vision

Nights in Wildlands are dark enough that you’ll be squinting to see what is happening on the screen. Even in areas that are lit up at night, like bases and the more populated towns, toggling on your night vision makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. With your night vision equipped the screen shifts to a familiar shade of illuminated green, and everything is clearly visible. Enemy indicators and the rest of the UI stays the same, so you won’t be confused by different colored icons or anything of that nature. Plus, you feel like even more of a highly-trained killing machine when you’re taking out foes in the dead of night. 

7. Remember to command your squad

When playing solo with your gang of computer-controlled AI partners it’s tempting to just run straight into a battle and let your crew do whatever they want. Trust me, it’s best to take the time to send them to specific spots and guide their movements if you want to avoid running over and reviving them every minute. The point and click command system is really easy to use and it only takes a second. Plus, your team will be much more effective at actually taking down enemies when you tell them specifically to do it rather than waiting until they get shot in the chest to return fire. 

8. Always tag supplies

Every roadside stop, bunker, and base has supplies for you to tag so that your rebel friends can come and pick it up later. Those supplies help your cause and also give you much needed fuel to unlock additional abilities, weapons, and skills in the progress tree. Never walk by a box, barrel, or crate without dropping your tracker inside and you’ll be richly rewarded with all the unlock credits you could ever possibly desire. It’s like a built-in shortcut system, so take advantage of it.

Got any more tips for succeeding in Ghost Recon: Wildlands? Let everyone know about them in the comments below.