Ghost Recon: Wildlands Predator Update is a Great Easter Egg, but not Much More
Like a lot of fans of both Ghost Recon and Predator, I was excited to hear that Ubisoft and FoxNext Games were planning on releasing a free Predator-themed content drop. Stalking the greatest hunter to ever bless a Schwarzenegger film in the dense jungle forest of Ghost Recon: Wildlands sounds like a heck of an afternoon, and for dedicated fans of both franchises there’s no doubt that this content drop is chock full of enough references and quotes to satisfy. Just realize that it’s obvious that this content drop wasn’t meant to be anything substantial, it’s a short experience, and it’s kind of cool, but it’s nothing to write home about.
To Hunt a Predator
Unfortunately, the whole experience feels more like a short Easter egg quest with a challenging but simple boss fight at the end than anything substantial. Considering it’s a free content drop, this isn’t surprising. But it’s hard to feel like you’re really hunting the predator when all the drop offers is a few set scenes pulled almost word for word from the original Predator movie and a short boss fight that plays like a game of peekaboo with a lead and laser twist.
The predator quest itself follows a pretty simple arc. At the quest location you find a woman in the jungle that bears a striking resemblance to the female lead in Schwarzenegger’s jungle adventure who repeats a few lines from the movie and then sends you in the general direction of three objectives.
Each objective is a simple set piece that shows off an iconic scene or sight from the Predator universe. One is a set of flayed bodies, another is a shrine of skulls taken as trophies, and still another is a crashed predator shuttle. All three paint a picture of a stranded alien getting its rocks off hunting the local cartel while it waits for a transport shuttle to take it home.
That said, the best part of the whole experience is undeniably these set pieces, which manage to ramp up the tension in Ghost Recon: Wildlands in a way that really makes us wish predator had been given the same treatment Creative Assembly gave to the alien in Alien: Isolation. As you explore the jungle and move from scene to scene you’re greeted with all the sights and sounds that ramped up the tension in the original movie, as well as the undeniably hair-raising knowledge that you’re being watched by something that really wants to kill you.
For a fan of the predator universe and horror games alike, it’s a sense of atmosphere that feels eerie and tight, and definitely got my blood pumping. After completing these objectives you find a trail of glowing green blood, which you follow to the final encounter with the Predator.
At this point your squad mates start firing off quotes from the original movie rapid fire, and you’re forced into a boss fight sequence where you and your friends try and take down an advanced alien hunter that’s more than able to rip you to pieces or blast a whole through your chest at a moment’s notice.
A Disappointing Hunt
The boss fight is a little difficult, especially if you’re running it on your own like I was, but once you figure out the mechanics I was able to solo it without any issue. The predator only has two real attacks, one is a blast from its shoulder mounted laser that will instant kill you, and another is the predator’s equivalent to a ninja teleporting behind you and throwing a knife at your back, which also instantly kills you. Complicating matters is the fact that the predator has his signature cloaking device, which is more like an instant invulnerability teleportation field. When activated the predator is immune to damage of any kind and disappears from existence after a few steps as a cloaked ripple in the air.
The trick to finishing the fight is understanding that the predator uncloaks anytime it attacks, and realizing that you can interrupt any of these attacks by nailing a few shots on him. Aside from that, it’s just keeping cover between you and the predator’s laser targeting, and then shooting him a few times whenever he drops his cloak.
The fight feels a little unfair when you first get into it, because the predator’s rounds are pretty good about curving to hit you mid-air, and because they just instantly kill you anytime you’re anywhere near the impact location. But, once you get used to the rhythm of waiting for him to teleport in, shooting him, and then hiding with your head on a swivel until he reappears it gets pretty simple, and eventually gets boring as he bullet-sponges his way through your supply of ammo.
I was expecting this to be the kind of event you could only finish with a squad of high-level players working together, but the AI served me just fine, and even at only level 10 I was even able to pull it off with a basic assault rifle and one of the first sniper rifles you find in the game.
Once you whittle your way through the predator’s health pool it falls to its feet and triggers its iconic wrist mounted self-destruct bracelet, which gives you a few short moments to escape the area before it detonates and kills everything in the area. Your character then gets a boatload of experience and resources, the quest is marked complete and no one ever mentions it again.
Compared to the lead up, the bland boss battle ending feels like a stark shift in atmosphere that’s more than a little disappointing. Rather than carefully hunting the predator through the woods, learning to outsmart one of the universe’s greatest hunters by your wits and wiles, you’re basically playing an advanced game of whack-a-mole where the mole is packing a shoulder mounted laser cannon that can fry you or your friends in no time. Whack the mole enough times and he dies, get shot by the mole’s cannon, and you’ll need to get picked up by a friend or one of your NPC squad mates, or you’ll get wiped and have to start over from the beginning.
It’s just a bit shallow and boring compared to the lead up that makes you feel like you’re genuinely tracking the predator through the dense jungle setting of the original Predator flick, which ends with an abrupt and generic boss fight that’s nothing to write home about.
All in all, it’s a fun little romp through the woods, but it’s nothing special. Unfortunately, the free nature of the content drop makes it feel like a few devs were given a shoe-string budget to make something to get player’s attention during the holidays, and they did a respectable job for what it is, but there’s so much potential here that’s absolutely wasted.
Because the quest is so short and to the point it feels like a reference filled tip of the hat that might have been better hidden somewhere in the map for players to find like a short Easter egg rather than something that merited an entire press release and set of holiday challenges.
There were parts of the hunt that were seriously entertaining, but for a creature like the predator, it feels disappointing to shift from an interesting and tense narrative experience to a flat boss fight that feels more like you’re shooting a bullet sponge than an actual enemy.
Personally, I would have preferred an experience along the lines of Warframe’s Stalker, where while on a mission in Ghost Recon: Wildlands you would have a chance of just being randomly attacked by the predator in small intervals. You would hear a reference from the movie, see a glimpse, and then be attacked, which would give you a few moments to respond and then chase the predator before he disappeared. After each encounter he would reappear with increasing frequency until you finally manage to kill him.
Maybe you could trigger the first encounter by beginning the quest and finding the three set scenes, or you could follow a series of predator themed resource missions that would run you down set paths that would force an encounter with our alien friend. Either way, it would have been nice to feel like you were hunting, or being hunted by, the predator organically, rather than fighting him in a tiny little blurb of a boss battle.
All in all, the predator event feels like a shallow reference to the source material that could have been so much more. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, but it definitely makes us hope that we see a quality predator DLC or full-length game blending Ghost Recon: Wildlands and our fleshy mouthed hunter again. There’s a lot of potential here, and there are moments in the quest that feel genuinely tense and interesting, but unfortunately there just wasn’t enough content in this tiny free DLC to explore those themes thoroughly, which makes it feel like Ubisoft was really more interested in selling cosmetic items and giving out snazzy new facepaints than actually delivering a quality experience.
That said, the predator DLC is free, so it’s hard to look at a gift alien in the mouth, and if you still have Ghost Recon: Wildlands installed it’s worth playing through once just for the experience.