Ghost Recon Wildlands Review – A Wide Open Bullet Ballet

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
Ubisoft

I can only imagine what perhaps went down during a Ubisoft development meeting.

Developer A: “Well, we’ve been trying to make the perfect open-world shooter for a while now.”

Developer B: “Yeah, we have.”

Developer A: “But then Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain happened.”

Developer B: “Yup” [sigh].

Developer A: “Well, let’s try something new. I’ve got a premise…how about we have four special operations-type guys…”

Developer B: “Uh huh?”

Developer A: “And well, they go down to a fictionalized Bolivia to try and take out a drug cartel that has a stranglehold on everything.”

Developer B: “So, four people essentially against the entire country?”

Developer A: “Yeah.”

Developer B: [silence].

I gotta hand it to Ubisoft, besides their rather annoying, forced politically correct antics (such as the unrealistic and forced depiction of women within special operations units), they are a triple A video game producer that has never been afraid to take chances. Even with their recent mega-flop release of For Honor, an ingenious game plagued by crappy connectivity issues, their ambition and creativity is clearly evident.

It seems painfully obvious that Ubisoft has been trying to make the perfect (or near-perfect) open-world shooting game for some time now. It almost seems like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is the amalgamation of every effort that they’ve attempted thus far. It plays similar to their Far Cry series, but with healthy dollops of The Division thrown in.

It actually even reminds me of Just Cause (I know, different developer), only in this game, instead of anti-hero Rico Rodriguez taking on a tropical island full of military goons, you’re playing one or more special operations badasses who are taking on an entire country. Indeed, in Ghost Recon Wildlands, you and up to three teammates (AI or human-controlled) and your CIA handlers have been tasked with taking out the Santa Blanca drug cartel, which is thoroughly entrenched within every facet of Bolivian culture (and real estate!).

The cartel is broken down into four main spheres—production, security, smuggling, and influence. Helming each of these is a boss who reports to the cartel’s kingpin, El Sueño. Each of these bosses oversea several sub bosses which in turn run different regions of the game’s massive map of Bolivia. Yes, we’re talking a digital rendition of the entire country of Bolivia here in all of its splendid glory.

Like Perseus fighting a many-headed hydra, every time that you make a dent in the cartel’s operations, you cut off one of its heads. Your main goal is to cut off enough heads so that you get the opportunity to strike at the hydra’s body—Mr. Kingpin himself, El Sueño. But it won’t be easy. First, there is a lot of kidnapping, enhanced interrogating, and killing to do, and on Ghost Recon Wildlands’ higher difficulties, all of these can be pretty challenging to do.

One of the things I really love about this game is that there is a very nice character generation system in place to tinker around with, and you can really customize your digital avatars the way you want to. There is also a fully developed skill and experience system on hand so that you can gradually become more lethal in either your character’s talents or weapon’s skills.

From there you’re off to the races either on foot or in vehicles, and from there Ghost Recon Wildlands flexes its Grand Theft Auto muscles. Actually, due to this game’s enormous scale, it really puts even GTA 5 to shame. This is one huuuuuuuge game. Luckily, it looks so fantastic and there are so many missions and side-missions to choose from (at your leisure), that it’ll be a long time until you’ll get tired of it.

Gameplay usually revolves around taking on a particular mission, traveling to that mission’s region, performing reconnaissance and surveillance, tagging bad guys and girls, and then swooping in like some great bird of prey and taking them all out. Well, you can also slide in like a snake instead of noisily swooping in, if you so desire. If fact, you can tackle each objective as you see fit. I’ve tried going loud with guns blazing on missions, and then replayed the same mission over, but covertly.

Each mode of operations had completely different consequences, but I must say right off the top that I prefer the more clandestine approach. What’s great about the game is that it gives every player the opportunity to play it depending on their preferred playstyle. For Call of Duty types who love to sprint in, guns a-blazing, they can. While for us more Splinter Cell-esque folks, we’ll have lots of fun slinking around in the shadows and taking out enemies before they even know what hit them.

Graphically, Ubisoft went all out with Ghost Recon Wildlands. Although the game itself is geared more towards the casual gaming crowd, rather than methodical tacticians such as myself, its visuals certainly have a gritty sense of realism that lie in contrast to its dumbed-down gameplay. The digitized depiction of Bolivia looks stunning, with vastly different biomes that each contain vastly disparate scenery. You have rolling fields, arid deserts, deep forests, and icy tundra—indeed, I feel like every time I play the game I’m getting a geography lesson.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands really surprised me (as well as I think a lot of people). After Ubisoft’s much-maligned, botched release of For Honor, I didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, Wildlands’ release went off without a hitch, although there are a few minor bugs (non-game breaking) here and there which I’m sure will be addressed. I’m looking forward to the future of the newly invigorated Ghost Recon franchise.

SCORE: 86%

 

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