Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a four-player, squad based, co-op game, with a heavy emphasis on four-player. If a player has found themselves fortunate to possess more than one friend then they might have an ok time. That being said, if you’re the type of person to avoid any type of human contact then this game will feel like giving a piggyback ride to three art-degree college students who have just discovered weed.
What’s the Objective?
You play as one of the Ghosts, a US spec-ops sent into Bolivia to tackle a drug empire which has somehow engulfed an entire country The problem has reached such a point that the US in their infinite wisdom figured they don’t want this anymore, and the best approach they can take to eliminating an empire the size of Bolivia is to send four highly trained operatives. Four! To take on an entire country with hundreds of cartel members, who have been paying off the military.
The map is split up into 21 regions within four zones, each representing a different aspect of the cartel. You have security, influence, smuggling and production. Now taking any one of these out hasn’t made a particular impact on the in-game world as far as I’m aware which seems to be a missed opportunity. Each one of these zones is led by an Underboss who is meant to be really scary or something, I’m not sure; they always seem to run away to their friends seeing the sheer mass of gravity surrounding the balls of these four dipshits taking on an entire country.
Don’t get me wrong, working your way up the metaphorical spider web is fun to the degree that you can pick and choose which sorry bastard you’re going to inflict your balls upon next. Naturally, each underboss is given a back story of how they’re evil. The use of child trafficking and torture is shoved in your face though. This is probably to justify the very few extraction missions so the player can instead just find more and more creative ways to murder their target.
The true ‘Ghosts’ of this game are your AI squad. They can go unnoticed while squatting next to enemy cartel, perhaps shielded by their sheer morality of doing something noble. This isn’t to say the AI is bad as such, though there are times where you wonder what the point is in taking on a drug cartel when your AI squad mates can sit next to a member of the cartel and doesn’t even think to look at him. I found the AI experience would go up or down depending on how committed you are to “realism”, a term I’m using loosely as the realism in this game is pretty laughable considering how much it rains in each zone despite simulating different climates.
Soldier or Terminator?
The harder difficulties make the cartel, and your squad members or rebels, notice you faster, are more persistent and call they’re big brother, the Unidad army, in more often. If you want an easier experience where the difficulty is lower it can take quite a while of being in full view of a cartel member before they notice you.
With all this being said, Wildlands has managed to make the taking down of an entire drug cartel boring. And if that isn’t Ubisoft’s entire business plan then I don’t know what is. We’ve seen the butchering of ideas over the course of many years now and the sandbox genre is truly a way for Ubisoft to take fairly decent concepts and make them dull beyond repair.
But you can choose which missions and areas you take part in first, or whether you take the stealthy or more stealthy approach (because let’s face it guns blazing is even more tedious) I hear you say. While it’s true you can nab a helicopter and go to the harder areas first there’s little incentive to do so, they may be more of a challenge but when you can complete the game with the starting equipment and if you play with AI who are literal ghosts to the NPCs there’s still barely a challenge.
With Ubisoft playing out the typical sandbox playbook, from radio tower missions to taking out bases though the bases respawn meaning that even that has little impact on the overall game I couldn’t help but constantly asking myself why. Why bother? Why continue with this game when it’s the same as The Division or Far Cry; at least in those games you could take the drugs and hallucinate or pretend to count the numbers from the bullets entering your foe’s face like it’s meant to mean something.
There were some minor enjoyable elements to the game. The cut-scenes make the gameplay very dramatic, with cinematic edits and conversations highlighting just how merciless those you execute on an hourly basis are adding at least a bit of atmosphere to your heroism.
The customization of weapons is also fun for a bit, until you realise that once you find the best assault rifle and sniper all the other weapons become mere gimmicks. The inclusion of shotguns and SMGs, while offering a nice distraction, really add nothing to the game play. It’s meant to focus on stealth take-downs rather than pulling a Rambo and going guns blazing with short range weapons. Also, as a lot of the bases, and generally the map, are spread out, making weapons such as the shotgun or SMG fairly redundant. While it’s cool to blast your way with a boomstick it usually leads to you dying more than the cartel which is a testament to itself.
One refreshing factor of this game is the few bugs which have been discovered. Don’t get me wrong, a AAA game charging £50 should be a finely polished machine without any bugs, but the landscape over recent years has shown a large middle finger to that sentiment. This isn’t to say that there are no bugs. There have been times when I’ve been tasked with stealing a helicopter to arm the rebels and I’d arrive at the destination to find the machine half inside the world making its flying abilities redundant.
Overall I’d say this game is very average, adding nothing new to the medium it’s on. There were no crazy moments or memorable encounters of any kind. If you have three mates who liked The Division you’ll like this but then if you like The Division that much it’d be smarter to just buy the DLC for that instead.