Ghost Recon Wildlands Review

An ambitious idea, decently executed.

Tom Clancy is one of the most respected names in the gaming industry. Since his passing back in 2013, his legacy has continued on in long running franchises such as Rainbow Six, and of course Ghost Recon. The “Tom Clancy” name is highly iconic and well-known throughout the filming and gaming industry, but almost if not all of the Tom Clancy games have been praised for their overall presentation and gameplay. The same does apply here, but at the same time, it is the game’s only saving grace.

Gameplay:

Ghost Recon is highly known for its tactility and adaptive gameplay. To start off, the gameplay here is highly adaptable and enjoyable. But at the same time, it is also shallow. During my playthrough I noticed many similarities to Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain (2015). The easily adaptable stealth and combat gameplay, along with the open mission design do make for some memorable moments, but at the same time, it slowly gets repetitive unless you, the player attempt to mix things up.

The player is first given a small variety of customization options that they can use in order to create a standout out operative when exploring the open world of Bolivia. The options given are strikingly low compared to other open world cooperative titles like Watch Dogs 2 (2016) and The Division (2016). While the designs and camos are interesting at first, the camos feel pointless as the enemies see you depending on the difficulty, not the camo attached. I could put on a gold camo for one of my shirts and go running in the middle of the street, and if I had the game on easy, the opposing force wouldn’t notice me. This is a small gameplay element that seems to have been thrown out the window when compared to the critically acclaimed third person stealth title Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater (2003), which actually required the player to change camos depending on the environment. So, to put it bluntly, the camos and clothing have no effect on gameplay whatsoever.

There are vehicles within the world, most of which are easy to drive with, but some seem as if though the tires are smeared in butter. This specifically applies to the dirtbikes within the title, as they are difficult to maneuver with. These vehicles tend to allow the players to traverse any area in order to strategically attack or flee from the opposing force. The player can also attack from the air by parachuting out of a chopper or plane, which is highly entertaining to say the least. The chopper mechanics do feel slightly more difficult than the driving mechanics, as it seems no matter which direction you are attempting to move to, you always feel like the chopper is quickly going down, and slowly going up. Compared to other open world titles that allow the player to fly air vehicles such as Grand Theft Auto V (2013), the flying mechanics within Ghost Recon Wildlands (2017) do feel like they need some fine tuning.

The boots on ground gameplay, on the other hand, is far superior to the driving mechanics. The player is able to traverse a large variety of surfaces and is able to go prone or crouch and crawl around restricted territory. Now, crouch tends to be the main position the player will be in during any shootout or infiltration. This, combined with the surprisingly fantastic cover mechanics. Make shootouts and infiltrations cinematic and enjoyable.  But at the same time, the different locations feel empty with no life to them.

The player is able to purchase upgrades by leveling up their character through the game’s progression system. The player cannot purchase every skill from the get go, he or she must collect supplies all ranging from food parcels, to gasoline for the rebels that are attempting to dismantle the Santa Blanca Cartel. These rebels can drop off supplies and vehicles and even commence attacks depending on the player’s preference. The game does offer you complete freedom, which is actually impressive. But with this freedom comes lack of organization, as the player can tackle any and all objectives right from the beginning, this combined with the not so polished driving mechanics, makes exploration feel more like a chore, than actual enjoyment.

When it comes to tackling mission objectives, the game offers a ton of different tools, perks, and weapons that they can use in order to complete the task given. These options also bring out another flaw, which is a lack of mission variety. Each area tends to have “informants” that the player can talk to in order to find information about weapon caches, supply raids, and rebel ops, etc. The game offers a large variety of  weapon customization and camos. Yet as I had stated, there is no camo system and it has no effect on gameplay.

Reconnaissance is also a key factor when capturing outposts and interrogating captains. It’s best to know what you are facing before you face it. There are four main mechanics that help the player infiltrate outposts. The binoculars the game offers tends to be the best option at first, later the drone can “tag” enemies inside a compound from almost any angle or direction. The drone at first has a short battery life span, and a weak signal which affects the distance the player is able to send it. Later on after a few upgrades, the drone is much more effective. Now two smaller yet highly effective mechanics, is the “squad tag” and “scope tag”. The other three squad members are able to point out certain supplies and enemy locations due to their AI. But you are also able to tag the enemies yourself by aiming down the sights and waiting for the tag icon to appear. To tag an enemy allows the player to see their location through any surface and it proves to be a highly useful stealth mechanic throughout your playthrough.

It’s also possible to locate key points, accessories, missions, and perks by interrogating drug lieutenants, or by photographing files and other props showing the cartel’s plans. While you will be exploring, you will encounter the Unidad, the “police” of Bolivia. That at times, clash with the Cartel, but on other occasions you become their main target. They tend to only be harder enemies to take down rather than an intimidating and challenging force.

You are given squad commands but these commands are almost useless as it takes longer than it should have to take effect. While you’re squad can deal with enemy threats, they only seem to prove useful when they resuscitate you, or when you use the “sync shot” mechanic. Other than that, the squad proves almost useless, which is a wasted opportunity for a game that revolves around a whole squad taking down a drug cartel. The game is best played cooperatively, but communication is key when playing with friends.  

The game shows a “large variety of tactical options” that the player can use in order to accomplish their objectives. Makes sense, but after the mission is completed there is little to no aftermath. In the first gameplay trailer it showed the team of Ghosts infiltrating a drug shipment. It showed many stealth aspects, graphic performances, and aftermaths. For example, in the trailer the scripted audio had stated that after their interception of thievery of the illegal shipment, they had no reason to “take out” the lieutenant. This seemed to have added a dramatic layer to the gameplay, and an interesting one at that. Players looked forward to this aspect of the game, look no more because this mechanic is nowhere to be found in game. The simplicity of the missions goes to show that many things seemed to have been cut in order to create a larger open world. Developers often make this mistake, you can make a fantastic title with a smaller world with more depth. In this case, it would’ve been a better idea. As there are may gameplay aspects that should be there, but are nowhere to be found.

Is the game fun? Yes, at times it is highly enjoyable, especially with cooperative play with other players. But the lack of depth in the world, and a severe lack of a interesting story or antagonist goes to show of what could’ve been and what is.

The large open world is praisable, and considering the size and scale of the game, graphically it is highly impressive. In fact there were many moments during my initial playthrough where I stopped and looked in awe in the size and scale of what Ubisoft Paris created. The game is enjoyable, and at times addictive but there are flaws that cannot be ignored and must be fixed if Ubisoft intends on continuing the Ghost Recon series in this gameplay format.

Story:

This part of the review will be really short. You’re an operative, one of your own was killed by the cartel, go have fun. Also there is a rather bulky cartel boss named El Sueno who will more than likely not retaliate as he watches his empire break apart. That sums up the overall story. While the game does have its signature characters each with their own personalities and self separate lifestyles. The game relies too heavily on its large scale open world rather than its story.

To summarize the rather cliche, and unoriginal story here it is. After the bombing of a U.S. Embassy, DEA agent Ricardo Sandoval is kidnapped, tortured, and the killed by the Santa Blanca cartel. A highly powerful drug cartel that has turned Bolivia into a narco state. The head of the organization is run by a man named El Sueno, and it is your job to dismantle the cartel piece by piece. That summarizes the entirety of the story, you’re squad does has distinctive characters, such as a sniper and an engineer. These characters never really showed their key traits, it is better at times just to go as a “lone wolf” than go with the pack.

With little to no interesting characters, it is obvious the game solely revolves around its open world and gameplay. While the size and scale of Bolivia is beautiful and impressive, it lacks serious depth along with an intriguing story.

Pros:

  • Highly adaptive and enjoyable gameplay.
  • Beautiful open world with an extreme sense of scale.
  • Overall, great sound design.
  • Satisfying customization system with a vast amount of different weapon sights, attachments. Along with a rather large amount of obtainable firearms that are all entertaining to use.
  • Stable frame rate and rendition considering the scale of the open world of Bolivia.
  • A high amount of detail is seen in the world, making everything is traversable.

Cons

  • A lack of compelling characters and story.
  • Shady A.I. for both the squad you “command” and the enemies of the world.
  • Little to no consequence for the destruction of the open world, it seems the cartel does not know how to defend their next outpost from the same thing that destroyed the last.
  • Way too many similar character models, I’ve seen the same cartel gunman well over twenty times.
  • The flying and driving mechanics definitely needs some fine tuning.

 

While Ghost Recon: Wildlands (2017) does a fantastic job of creating a large scale open world with easily adaptable gameplay that is highly entertaining with friends, it suffers from a lack of compelling characters and an interesting story. The game is worth playing with friends, but on it’s own it does have some key faults that may make a playthrough alone seem tedious. Ubisoft Paris’s efforts are commendable considering the scale of their work. The gameplay is enjoyable and the world is beautiful, but the story lacks the same amount of depth the open world of Bolivia has.

Final Score: 7.8/10

Developer(s):

Ubisoft Paris

Publisher(s):

Ubisoft

Director(s):

Eric Couzian

Designer(s):

Dominic Butler

Producer(s):

Nouredine Abboud

Writer(s):

Sam Strachman

Composer:

Alain Johannes

Platform(s):

Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC

Series:

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon

Release Date:

March 7, 2017

Genre(s):

Tactical Shooter

Mode(s):

Single-player, Multiplayer.

 

About the Author

Gavin Boyce
Gavin Boyce is a junior at Millbrook. Most of his time consists of writing and watching multiple classic films, such as “Apocalypse Now”, “Pulp Fiction”, and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.
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