Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Review
PC, PS4, Xbox One
I was super excited by the concept of Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The idea of some tactical shooting with three others on a massive map, taking on the drug cartels and basically being an all-around bad-ass was super appealing. I had visions of carefully timed assaults, frantic getaways and tense gunfights taking up my time as I brought justice to these drug dealers. And do you know what? Ghost Recon delivers exactly that, everything I dreamt of. So why do I feel slightly disappointed by the game as a whole?
I want to start by saying this is a stunning looking game. The map of Bolivia is massive, yet at the same time, Ubisoft hasn’t skimped on the detail. Towns and villages seem alive and lived in, while the jungles, swamps and waterways all feel appropriately savage and untamed. Even on the Xbox One, I found so much beauty in this world and on the PC (which I played the beta on) it looks even better. I can confidently say that this is one of the best looking games that Ubisoft has ever put out.
Combat is wonderfully satisfying. This is not an action shooter, a more tactical approach was required if I wanted to last longer than 5 minutes. Thankfully I had some wonderful tools at my disposal to allow this more measured and planned action. I had access to some binoculars and a handy drone (which later in the game can be fitted out with explosives) to mark enemies, squad commands for my AI teammates and some nice backup in the form of mortar attacks, spy reports and vehicle drops from the local rebel insurgents. Utilising all of the tricks in my bag was the key to victory, especially when infiltrating military bases or massive cartel strongholds.
The multiplayer is where this game truly shines and I can see this being the mode that keeps the game alive. Joining with a crew of friends, instead of the competent (if a little glitchy) AI adds a whole new feeling to the game. No matter how good a programmer is, there will never be a substitute for a real teammate and I had the most fun with this game in this mode. However, I did find the net code to be a little flakey at times. Some games with overseas players went off without a hitch yet one game with local friends, all with NBN speed connections, had some weird lag and warping. Hopefully, that gets smoothed out with a patch or two because this is where the meat of the dish is.
Speaking of glitches, there are quite a few in the game. It feels like this one was perhaps rushed out a week or two early and thus has a few rough edges. Teammates warp in and out of choppers and boats, they sometimes won’t notice an enemy standing right next to them and there are some instances of graphical artefacts and texture pop-in. Nothing game breaking and nothing that can’t be fixed with a patch but annoying all the same. Perhaps this would have been better off being an April release. It would have allowed some extra polishing time and also avoided the glut of high-quality open-world games we have at the moment. Another thing that could have done with a little polish is the vehicle controls. Bikes and boats handle quite nicely but cars and helicopters, my two primary modes of transport, felt floaty and unsatisfying. I constantly felt like I was fighting the controller when driving a car making convoy assault missions a pain.
Another issue I have is with the story. Boy o boy it is every Tom Clancy cliche rolled into one. Drug Cartel takes over South America country, destabilises the area and floods the market with cocaine. Of course, it is up to the good ole’ star spangled banner to stop it by sending in their crack black-ops group. Ho Rah! Look I have no problems with a story such as this, the problem being that in this case it is all broad strokes and there is no nuance to the tale. The bad guys are bad, the good guys are good (despite the plague levels of death they cause) and the USA is great. This story has been told a million times before and in most instances, it has been told better. Even the team dialogue is chock full of stereotypes and repeated conversations. This, more than any other area in the game, has the most room for improvement and I just wish Ubisoft took the story to an interesting place, not once I have visited multiple times before.
With all that being said I can’t deny I had a great time playing Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The combat and open world are sensational, with a huge amount of depth and tactical options at the player’s disposal. When joined by a group of friends that entertainment only grows. However, there is a host of little things holding the game back from being a must buy title. The story is blunt and cliched, the dialogue is repetitive and there is a general lack of polish evident in the game. Perhaps people would be better off waiting a month or two for some patches to improve things a little because at the moment, despite all the fun I had, it is hard to recommend when compared to its current open-world competition. If however, you plan to play it with a group of friends on a regular basis, well you should grab it now because that team play dynamic more than makes up for the rough edges found elsewhere in the game.