Ubisoft said last year that the technical challenges involved in adding a battle royale mode to the third-person shooter Ghost Recon Wildlands made it "impossible to undertake right now." Apparently it's made some progress since then, because the final major update to the game will add a new mode called Mercenaries that will bring what sounds an awful lot like a small-scale BR/survival experience to the mean streets of Bolivia.
Mercenaries is an eight-player PvPvE free-for-all mode that begins with each player alone and unarmed. Job one is to scrounge weapons and gear in order to be able to effectively fight Unidad forces and other players, but the larger goal is to find and activate radio transmitters that will gradually reveal an extraction zone on the map. Once you've activated three transmitters, a chopper will come in, and the extraction zone will be revealed to everyone when it lands. The first player to fill their "extraction gauge" and get to the chopper wins.
While you're looking for radio transmitters, you'll also be able to use "intel markers" that will reveal the locations of vehicles, other players, or rare gear or weapons. New destructible doors might be concealing useful equipment, but smashing them open will make a lot of noise and could alert nearby players to your presence.
The new mode will also feature some mechanical changes to armor and health. Players will have an armor bar based on the gear they pick up that will absorb a percentage of incoming damage based on the penetration capability of whatever they're hit with. Taking damage will cause players to bleed and gradually lose a portion of their health unless they heal up with medkits, bandages, and syringes.
One big difference between Mercenaries and conventional battle royale modes is that death is not the end: If you get wasted you'll respawn, but without any of the gear you'd collected up to that point.
The new mode sounds interesting, but will it appeal to the game's existing fanbase? I really like Wildlands, but its true strength is the co-op antics it enables: The shooting is good, but wrangling four irresponsible goofs with guns in a deep, detailed, and entirely consequence-free arena is where it really shines. On the other hand, Mercenaries is free for all players, and you'll pick up the new Lone Wolf outfit worn by Cole Walker, the head bad guy in the upcoming Ghost Recon Breakpoint, after you've completed your first game. That's not a bad way to get people interested.
Ghost Recon Wildlands: Mercenaries will go live on July 18. A detailed breakdown is available at ubisoft.com.