Developer: Ubisoft Paris, Massive Entertainment, Ubisoft Annecy
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Tested on: PlayStation 4
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Review
Ubisoft’s games are usually loaded with some politically correct statement about how their games are made by a multicultural team with different beliefs and bla bla bla. Which translates to: we are writing ourselves a carte blanche to get away with whatever cultural or misogynistic things we put in the game. Then comes Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and things go pear shaped for the developer. As soon as the setting of the game was announced and the motives of the protagonists and antagonists did the Plurination State of Bolivia show their displeasure. They didn’t like how the game gives the country the impression of being a narcotics safehaven. Like their government is for sale and anyone with a big sum of money can walk into the country and buy up everything. To the offended people, there’s only one thing that can be said: it’s a work of fiction, that’s what games/books/movies/series are.
You are one out of a set of four ‘Ghosts’ tasked to take down ‘El Sueño’, This is the dude who went around and bought up or took all the land he wanted and bribed officials/cops/the army of Bolivia and all for the sake of having a place to call his own and harvest his own coca, distribute his own cocaine. Which apart from being completely immoral is also highly illegal. So it’s up to you to take down the four pillars of his operation and topple his empire before putting an end to the dictator himself, cleansing the Plurination of Bolivia one bullet at a time. It’s easy writing, as going: ‘We need a bad guy.’ ‘How about a drug lord suppressing the people?’ ‘Yeah let’s go with that’, isn’t exactly going to stress out any writer worth his/her salt. There is some witty dialogue here and there, but it falls under the ‘rugged manly army talk with lots of swearing’.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a pretty game, no way around it. Then again it’s on current generation of consoles and on pc, so this is to be expected. The smoke particles are really well done, but due to the size of the map, and the vast amount of content, the game has a whopping size of 45 gigabyte and there are some graphical glitches. Helicopter blades stop moving and textures pop in, character ragdolling quite funny, civilians will jump away into your car or the hair on your characters face look like they are pasted on. Talking about character design, Karen Bowman, the undercover lead contact for all your intel needs, looks a lot like Elena Fisher, at least the from the first Uncharted. With the first Uncharted game released a decade ago, this means this aspect doesn’t show off the graphical fidelity of the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
Luckily there’s the saving grace that is the setting. The imagined Bolivia isn’t just one rocky hillside and some large trees growing everywhere, there are salt planes and other geographical oddities that break up the landscapes making exploring the map all the more interesting.
The main thing about the sound that will stay with you is the voice acting. When it comes to gruff American god fearing patriots, Ubisoft have their voice actors down pat. However when they try do to anything but throw out machismo and have some actual personality, things go awry. The writing is so military focused the characters feel shallow. When it comes to the shooting, the actual sound of the bullet hitting your target and the subsequent splat is a nice touch and you’ll know immediately if you’ve hit or missed, even without the visual queue. There is however one type of gun that causes some hilarity. It’s the machine gun mounted on a turret or on certain kinds of helicopters. It sounds like a fart when you fire it. Even if it is a 100% accurate sound, it does sound rather ludicrous.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is an open world first or third person shooter. You and your crew of ‘Ghosts’ are dropped somewhere in Bolivia and are tasked with taking down ‘El Sueño. To get to him you have to take down the four main parts of his operation. These are led by men or women and it’s up to you to kill them or take them hostage. This gives you the chance to learn more intel and get your closer to freeing Bolivia from the tyranny that is ‘El Sueño’. Ubisoft is behind this game and when you start that’s not a given. It’s when you are some way into it and interrogate people with white exclamation marks over their head – the game’s equivalent of the towers from Far Cry/Assassin’s Creed – to learn the whereabouts of weapon upgrades, side quests and upgrade points. At this moment, the map starts being littered and that famous Ubisoft ‘busywork’ feeling creeps into it.
The game boasts a decent drop-in drop-out online co-op mode. This makes it so the game doesn’t feel like a Far Cry knockoff with four A.I. soldiers at your side. You have the liberty to order these soldiers around when you are playing singleplayer to make use of them and facilitate the whole endeavor of taking down an enemy encampment. That’s the part of the singleplayer works as intended. You’ll never want to go back to it however when you’ve had a taste of the online multiplayer. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands becomes more than just another Grand Theft Auto V rip-off where you can’t run over civilians for the lols or drive a submarine, but an actual fun experience with a need for tactical thinking when it comes to taking down camps and large groups of enemies. You can dick around and have some fun with cars and see if you can rambo your way through the game – spoiler alert: you can’t – or take it slow and analyse the whole situation, using your drone/binoculars to tag enemies and have a better grasp of the situation. This is fun when you can speculate with your friends by talking in the headset. When you return to singleplayer however, the game will feel lacking in that gleeful teamwork based ‘we did it’ kind of feeling you get when you finally tackled a mission. So taking a single step into the multiplayer might make it so you never want to play singleplayer again and for good reason.
There’s an upgrade system, so you’ll gradually get more proficient at killing people. As you complete quests and/or shoot enemies, you’ll gain levels and points that go with it, those points can also be earned by picking up enemy medals. If you have enough medals and the necessary requirement of certain resources, be it data, food or medicine, you can upgrade a perk to the next level. This makes it so you don’t have to just run around looking for medals or continually killing enemies, but also gather resources and do side quests to gain those needed for the next level. So it’s a way to get you to play the vast amount of content the game provides.
As far as online co-op fun tactical shooting goes, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands has you all covered. Better to first get your grips on the singleplayer aspect and fine-tune your playstyle before digging into the co-op as doing it the other way around may make the game feel hollow and lacking. If you are looking for a shooter with a clear focus and a more linear gameplay style, then best keep looking as you won’t find that in this game.