It seems that revivals of Tom Clancy branded series can lead to a winning formula, as was showed with Rainbow Six Siege. It appears as though Ubisoft is going to keep rolling with the punches in regards to the ol’ Clancy with a return of Ghost Recon. Although Ghost Recon Wildlands isn’t a runaway success, it is a wonderful take on the concept of previous Ghost Recon games and an almost fluid, fun and outrageous co-op capability.
You find yourself in the middle of cartel controlled section of Bolivia with your three comrades, you are the leader of a special ops team known as the Ghosts, highly trained in the form of subterfuge and tactical operations. The story goes that when something needs to be done with discretion and complete deniability. That’s pretty much all the explanation of the Ghosts you get outside of “Cartel bad,Ghosts good”. And so begins your open world rampage through Bolivia.
The overall game is designed in a really neat way that compliments its open world. The map itself is divided up into 22 regions and each comes with their own sets of missions, boss and collectables. From the get go you can drive straight to the hardest area of the map and take it over, but it would be exceedingly difficult as you wouldn’t have any higher tier weapons or skills. This method of structure still gives you the open world feel but also encourages character building in a way you don’t see all too often. The mission system in each of these areas are pretty diverse in their explanation but ultimately comes down to the same lay out of “go here, shoot this, go here” and sometimes “shoot that”.
Gameplay feels very familiar to the usual Tom Clancy third person design, with returning features from previous Ghost Recon titles like the “sync shot” ability which allows you to line up multiple targets for your AI buddies to take down in a synchronised fashion. Instead of manually entering cover you automatically cozy up to walls and low barriers as you near them, which seems brilliant on paper but in this particular case of execution it can sometimes be a hassle if you end up facing the wrong side or accidentally drop in to cover in the heat of the gun fight. Gunplay is simple and fun, offering you the option to go from over the shoulder aiming to First-Person Iron sights with the push of a button, similar to what we have seen in the Metal Gear franchise.
There is a level based skill system that divides your available skill trees across Gadgets, player abilities, AI squadmates and your handy drone . On top of the level based skills, you need to acquire resources to apply the points which in itself serves as cause to complete side missions. Another returning feature of Ghost Recon is the gunsmith which gives you the ability to swap parts out of weapons and mix and match to cater to your play style.
Ubisoft has crafted most of the gameplay after previous entries in other titles. The drone from Watch Dogs 2 worked amazing, and it works just the same in Ghost Recon, and the free roam and outposts are very akin to that of the Far Cry series. Ghost Recon is the amalgamation of the best parts of other Ubisoft titles, and none of them feel truly out-of-place.
It is to go without saying though that Ubisoft needs to put more effort into figuring out how to make driving manageable and fun, and not the absolute terror train it seems to be in Ghost Recon. Multiple times while driving did I accidentally go off-road because the turning was so sensitive. Riding a motorcycle was Russian roulette on wheels because sometimes if you fell too far off a cliff or hit a rock in just the right way you would fire straight forward at unrealistic speeds as if you were fired out of a cannon.
Boss based missions are hit and miss, sometimes they are really fun infiltrate and eliminate missions, or they can dip into the escort style mission. Only a few encounters stood out to me while the other ones felt anti climactic altogether.
Collectables are scattered throughout each region ranging from simple text files or weapons and accessories. I found myself taking a lot of time to track down weapons to improve harder encounters as opposed to finding these encounters. The full range of weapons is quite impressive and offers options for any play style ranging from CQB to long-range stealth. There is one downside to the weapon range, and that is the fact that certain weapons can only be obtainable via micro transactions, normally this doesn’t cause concern because if I like the game I don’t mind shedding $5 for a cool bit of gear, but the system in place for Ghost Recon is obscenely over priced and not worth it.
The environment is crafted with lots of detail and diversity, no one area is similar to the one before it . The areas will range from the Bolivian salt flats where you can see clean to the other side almost, or to dense jungles and mountain terrains. The detail and crafting put into the world did not transfer over to the player characters and surrounding NPCs though, as sometimes they would appear lifeless and poorly animated.
The multiplayer is truly what makes this game as playable as it is, playing with a group of friends opens the door for some ludicrous and hilarious situations. At one point I had packed my high damage single shot sniper and hopped onto a helicopter piloted by a friend and proceeded to a location we knew a convoy was going to pass through. The helicopter stayed perfectly still while hovering above the road and chaos reigned as I started taking shots, disabling vehicles in their tracks. Not once did I get booted from a friend’s lobby and rarely did I experience lag, which made the experience better.
The voice acting in the game sounds fine, but the writing behind the scenes is often terrible and takes away from the vibe set out by the premise. Gunshots and explosions sound authentic as does the wild life depending on which areas you find yourself.
All in all this Wildlands wasn’t a smash hit, but there are far worse outcomes for games these days. Lackluster and repetitive mission design take away from a beautifully crafted world that can be an absolute blast when you are going in with like-minded friends.