Ubisoft's rumble-in-the-jungle shooter Ghost Recon Wildlands is getting a free update tomorrow called Extended Ops (opens in new tab) that will add a new PvP mode called Extraction, new maps, and new "Icon Costumes" based on characters from Rainbow Six Siege and the Wildlands campaign. (Because there's nothing weird about running through the Bolivian jungle in full Arctic gear.) The update will also introduce Battle Crates, which Ubi described as "an additional and accessible way to complete your cosmetic customization experience."
First up, the Extraction mode, in which teams must either raid a compound and escort one of two hostages inside from safety, or defend the compound and keep said extraction from happening. It's not clear if, like in the real world, defenders can prevent the hostage rescue by simply shooting the hostage: I'm pretty sure that was an option in an old Action Quake 2 mod I used to play, but the blurb says only that the attackers must get the hostage out "without being killed by the defending team." Extraction will be playable on two new maps, Institute and Garage, with more coming in the next update.
As for those Battle Crates, Ubisoft said in an FAQ (opens in new tab) that they will have "zero impact" on gameplay and progression. All players will receive a Spec Ops Crate (for the campaign and co-op mode) and a Ghost War Crate (for the Ghost War PvP mode) with the update that can be redeemed via the Ubisoft Club, while more can be purchased for 400 Credits each. Real-money pricing wasn't listed, but a "base pack" of 800 Ghost Recon Credits sells for $5 on the Microsoft Store (opens in new tab).
"Spec Ops Crates contain Epic Weapons, Exotic Weapons, Vehicles and tons of cosmetic items for you to enjoy even more in the whole Campaign mode," the FAQ says. "Ghost War Crates contain Exotic Weapons (re-skinned versions of weapons already available in the game – no impact on the weapon stats), customization items and an exclusive new line of skins for your character, called Icons."
More than 200 items of varying rarity will be available in the Battle Crates, and Ubisoft said there will be no duplicates: "You will only get items you do not already own." All items contained in Battle Crates will also be purchasable in the Ubisoft Store in various packs—except the Icon Costumes, which will be exclusive to the crates.
Ubisoft seems to be doing all it can to be gentle, but this is, putting it mildly, a tough time to introduce a loot box system. It's not entirely surprising to see it happen, though. Despite the backlash against them, a recent GDC survey strongly suggests that loot boxes are not going away—and that games like Ghost Recon Wildlands are likely to grow increasingly reliant on them in the future.