Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands has a lot going for it. The promise of a sprawling open world Spanish setting and tantalising drop-in co-operative online play sounds like a match made in heaven. Paired with the work of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series and Wildlands should translate to pure gold, right? Yes and no.
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Windows PC
Players: Single-Player, Multi-Player
Genre: Open-World Adventure
Release date: March 7th, 2017
Wildlands takes place in Bolivia where the Santa Blanca Cartel, a narco-terrorist organisation has overrun the small Spanish country. What was once a small Mexican drug cartel has increasingly grown in power and influence, transforming Bolivia into a narco-state fuelled by corruption and cocaine production.
The online co-op mode worked seamlessly… matching me with other players on Wildlands in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds.
Things hit breaking point when DEA agent Ricardo “Ricky” Sandoval is kidnapped, tortured and assassinated following a failed bombing on the U.S. embassy. With one of their own murdered, the United States initiates Operation Kingslayer, sending in a fireteam of ‘Ghost’ operatives to destroy Santa Blanca and its leader El Sueño, and this is where you come in.
Arriving by helicopter, there’s a small debriefing with CIA contact Karen Bowman before you and your team take on your first pseudo-tutorial mission. Once completed, you’re given free rein to run amok in Bolivia, dismantling Santa Blanca however you see fit.
Character customisation has its limitations but there are enough options there to craft an avatar to your own personal taste – from tattoo sleeves, facial hair, and face paint to scars. There’s plenty to mix and match, with unlockable options opening up even more character loadout options.
Wildlands can be played solo or in a group, although playing alone means banding together with AI-controlled teammates that aren’t the most competent allies to have. The online co-op mode worked seamlessly for me, matching me with other players on Wildlands in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds. Once connected, Wildlands really comes alive. Whether you’re failing missions due to bad decision making or blitzing enemy camps with clever tag and kill tactics, playing with others breathes life to the Bolivian playground.
To say that Bolivia is huge map would be an understatement. Wildlands has one of the largest open-world environments in recent memory, represented by 21 distinct provinces, each territory specialising in an area of the cartel business. Terrains are stunning and varied, featuring sloppy mountains, dense forests, desert plains, and even salt flats – complete with dynamic weather conditions. Liberating a region destabilizes Santa Blanca stranglehold, with your ultimate goal to remove their power and influence all together.
Missions could have been more varied as the objectives tend to tread the same ground over and over. Most usually involve locating a target; shooting down anyone that gets in your way, before discovering they have already high tailed it out of there, leaving a paper trail behind for you to snap a photo of. Of course how you approach each mission is entirely up to you. Do you go in gung-ho and unleash a bullet storm of hail fire, or do you take a measured approach with careful planning and concealing yourself under the cover of night?
Side missions tend to be more engaging, helping to break up the pace of the main story into smaller, digestible chunks. With more than 100 missions on offer, there’s no shortage of tasks to accomplish.
If you have a close-knit group of like-minded friends that enjoy co-operative exploration and squad-based shooters, Wildlands could very well be the next big title to sink months of gameplay into.
The abundance of things to do is a pro and con in Wildlands. The missions available all at once can be a bit overwhelming when there are markers scattered throughout Bolivia that it can be hard to figure out where to begin.
Wildlands is the kind of game you’ll want to invest hours upon hours into. Although I’ve only been able to put in a few hours so far, there’s still so much content left for me to explore and unlock, from new skills, enhanced weaponry, rebel aid, to drone support. If you have a close-knit group of like-minded friends that enjoy co-operative exploration and squad-based shooters, Wildlands could very well be the next big title to sink months of gameplay into.
Unfortunately there is a sense that Wildlands was hastily thrust out the door to consumers, particularly given how buggy some things were leading up to the release date. The day one patch certainly helps alleviate much of the headaches expressed by beta players, but there are lingering remnants that can be hard to overlook.
Wildlands’ physics is flimsy, with vehicles bounding over terrain like tin foil.
Wildlands’ physics is flimsy, with vehicles bounding over terrain like tin foil. It’s near impossible to topple a jeep onto its roof, which I understand from a gameplay perspective, but it does take away any sense of realism from the game. It’s kind of a shame given how gorgeous the cinematic cut scenes are, painting a tense landscape gripped by fear, only to have floaty mechanics ruin the illusion.
Perhaps with more revisions and upcoming patches, some of these niggles can be addressed, but this really boils down to whether Ubisoft are committed to improving the quality of the gaming experience. Ubisoft has already announced a Season Pass throughout the year with two major expansions and PvP combat planned, so hopefully some technical issues can also fit into their schedule too.
Don’t get me wrong, Wildlands isn’t bad by any stretch, it could just be so much better with some fine tuning and love. Co-operative play is a delight; it just needs a more solid base in Wildlands to stand on.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is hugely ambitious, only let down by its lacklustre execution. There are moments where Wildlands hits its stride and your squad of Ghosts plays out like a well-oiled elite team. Unfortunately those highs are counterweighted by disastrous lows when glitches, weightless physics, and a lack of polish rear its ugly head. Wildlands is very much playable in solo mode, but to get the most out of the game, it is recommended you get social and play with others.