Game review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands – intimidating at first, even frustratingly difficult, but worth a look
Despite some flaws and repetitive missions, cooperative play is magic in Ubisoft’s latest offering with plenty of tricks up its sleeve
Regardless of what kind of games people usually play, many gamers are inexplicably drawn to Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy shooters.
The driving idea behind the projects has been to embed the cooperative multiplayer experience within the company’s hallmark open-world games. The first attempt was Tom Clancy’s The Division, a satisfying but linear game that leaned heavily on elements of role-playing games.
Ubisoft’s latest project, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands adopts the more traditional approach of a tactical third-person shooter and marries it to a massive reproduction of Bolivia. It’s more open-ended than its predecessor, but also shares some of that game’s problems.
Wildlands (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) lets players create their character, a member of the fictional Ghost Recon team. As part of this special-forces unit, players are sent to Bolivia to help dismantle the Santa Blanca drug cartel, which has taken root in the country. Since setting up shop, the gang has effectively turned Bolivia into a narco-state on steroids. Led by a larger-than-life leader, El Sueno, the cartel is operating with tacit approval from the government after it terrorised the nation.
Toppling a cocaine-producing syndicate won’t be easy. The Ghost Recon team has to start from the bottom, taking out Captains before moving onto Underbosses and eventually the heads of the cartel’s security, smuggling, production and influence operations. It’s a long and difficult undertaking that will take players across 21 regions, where they’ll fight 26 leaders.
Thankfully, players have allies at their side. They can play Wildlands alone with AI teammates filling out the three other roster spots. But gaming with friends is the better way to experience it.
Like The Division, Wildlands requires a high degree of teamwork. Each mission is essentially an open-ended problem. Players will have to rescue VIPs or tail high-value targets. These missions will take them to heavily fortified bases, small villages and even a decadent mausoleum.
Side missions will have players stealing helicopters or planes. They could also be tasked with commandeering a supply convoy or intimidating a Sicario leader.
Whatever the case, the combat system in Wildlands accommodates a number of strategies and requires exquisite coordination. Players can pick off drug dealers in tandem with sniper rifles before rushing a facility. Rebels can be called in to create a diversion, so players can sneak in and steal coveted plans. With teammates, players can set up a roadblock for a car theft.
The game offers plenty of tools, and it’s up to the players to use them for a solution. Ubisoft introduces an extra layer of depth by adding an RPG element, in which players earn skill points and resources. As they level up, they can spend those credits on new gadgets or traits that makes their operative more powerful.
The progression system opens up more paths to success. For example, players can take advantage of a moonless night and use an explosive drone (at high levels) to blow up a generator so that lights in a compound go out. With players using night vision, they have an edge against cartel thugs, who are literally in the dark.
With so many options, Wildlands can be intimidating at first, even frustratingly difficult. Those who take different tacks and try new tactics find success. The tools are there, even if players have to grind for resources to unlock them.
Unfortunately, Wildlands isn’t perfect. It suffers from the same problems of other open-world games. Missions can be buggy and fail to work. This often happens on stealth quests. Another flaw is that the game seems needlessly huge and, without a helicopter nearby, getting from point A to point B is a slog. The game should provide a few more ways to move around, especially when it comes to climbing or dropping down from cliff sides.
Despite these flaws and some repetitive missions, Wildlands is still worth a look. Cooperative play is magic, and with an unpredictable open world plus opportunities for teamwork, Ubisoft’s latest game has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.