In my time playing Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I’ve taken out outposts, murdered a loving couple with some disturbing tendencies, weeded out Santa Blanca cartel lieutenants and HALO jumped into a militia controlled factory. I’ve traversed the plains and mountain ranges of Bolivia, looking high and low for vital resources and assisted in the rebel efforts to thwart the growing drug trade. In contrast to the cool things I’ve done in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, I’ve also rescued a teammate who got himself stuck between trees, I’ve killed off dumb AI enemies who happily stand there practically asking me to pop a bullet in their skulls and I’ve mysteriously died from gunshots even though I was in cover. With everything that is good with Ghost Recon: Wildlands, there is always something bad.
One of these bad things is the overall story, a typical take-down-a-drug-gang plot that fails to hit the ceiling as a truly gripping story. First though, before taking out the head of the so-called Santa Blanca cartel, El Sueno, you must first take down his subordinates one by one. You can tackle them in any order with the first task to get them to come out of hiding. To do this, you gather intel and take out, or interrogate, key people slowly taking down the cartel’s infrastructure. It’s not long before your guy reveals himself, and it’s down to you how you take them out. It’s a weak plot overall, but the small intricacies and details leading up to the eventual battle with El Sueno are really well constructed. It’s not about your goal here, it’s about how it’s achieved. Each found piece of intel leads to a different piece of information, and your created ‘Ghost’ member, Nomad, discusses the next mission via radio to Pak Katari, leader of the Katari rebel resistance. El Sueno is a menacing antagonist, his introduction shown in the opening scene showing his devilish yet religious cross tattoo spanning his entire face enhancing his intimidation and his stature brilliantly but, sadly, none of the other cast, including your team of Ghosts, matches it.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ gameplay experience feels eerily similar to one of Ubisoft’s other shooters, The Division. You control Nomad from the third-person perspective, freely swapping between primary and secondary weapons which range from assault rifles and shotguns to sniper rifles and RPG launchers, as well as a third firearm being a wide range of pistols. Weapons are found throughout Bolivia in weapons cases which act as collectables, the same goes for weapon parts and skill point medals. The freedom presented in Ghost Recon: Wildlands allows you to hunt them out at your leisure, but the easier way is hacking certain laptops or asking certain civilians, each giving you the choice of displaying these locations on your map, displaying rebel side-missions or large caches of resources. Combat is wonderfully solid and, on the contrary to The Division, enemies go down easier here. A bullet to the head ends an enemy instantly, and a few shots to the body is enough to kill. Ghost Recon: Wildlands encourages the stealthy approach with the option of aerial reconnaissance using your drone or tagging enemies by using binoculars. Occasionally, your team will help out by pointing out enemy positions, and the tagging feature enables the use of your team to execute a satisfying Sync-Shot, taking out up to 4 enemies simultaneously on your cue. This is where the squad mechanic works well as they position themselves for a perfect shot whilst waiting on your go. Unfortunately though, the team orders are barebones, allowing you only to direct your team to a specific location, regroup or go all guns blazing. It would have been nice to direct the operatives individually to add more strategy.
Your squad are tough cookies. Each member can take considerable damage during tense firefights before falling, and when they do, another member will rush to their aid, unless enemies are in their immediate vicinity. The same goes for you, but they can only revive you once per battle, so drop twice and it’s game over. There is no way to order your team to kick down doors or secure individual people either, leaving you to do all the hard work. On foot your team can get stuck in the environment, which is a frustration during firefights, but leaving them a fair distance or getting into a vehicle makes them reappear. Vehicles range from civilian cars and trucks to gun equipped APCs and land and sea vehicles, such as helicopters, planes and boats. The handling of each vehicle has vastly improved since the beta which was one of my main concerns, but Ubisoft have rectified it making it feel tighter, and the option is there to order your team to assault nearby enemies whilst inside the vehicle you’re commandeering too as they stick out of each window, firing at any bad guys nearby.
Playing with others changes the game entirely as you and up to 3 other people cooperatively work to take down the cartel. This doesn’t necessarily make the game any easier, but it does open up more take-down opportunities, and it works. One of you can fly a helicopter as the other one can do all the shooting, or one can use his drone to highlight targets as the others carefully infiltrate a cartel controlled town. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a great co-op game that feels similar to GTA: Online, but you won’t be robbing any banks.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands has extensive customisation options for each weapon. Finding parts can be added to your weapon in the colour of your choice. My purple AK-47 looked slick with a blue stock and green sights, but occasionally you will find unique weapons with their own specific designs and attributes.
Once you have taken down your first cartel leader, you soon find you’re doing the same thing all over again. Hunting down intel, taking out and clearing key locations, stealing vehicles and interrogating henchmen. Repetition is Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ biggest flaw which, strangely enough, was the same for The Division.
Bolivia looks fantastic with its beautiful sunsets, weather effects and mountain ranges with lakes and farmland separating urban towns filled with civilians going about their daily lives. The cast of characters look drab, though, with iffy lip syncing and emotionless expressions which take away a degree of realism, and seeing your team just appear when you take off without them is very unsightly. There is lots of boomage in Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and it looks impressive. Destroying vats of cocaine and convoys of vehicles is extremely satisfying, especially when using C4 or a good old frag grenade.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 7th March 2017