Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands – Compulsory Co-op
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
Late last month, excited gamers the world over got the chance to check out the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands open beta. It is almost nothing like previous Ghost Recon games, but the beta showed off the game’s open-world co-operative gameplay well.
The beta wasn’t a perfect experience though – for one thing, the vehicles in Wildland‘s beta weren’t the easiest to control – especially the airborne ones. You could also hurl yourself off the side of a mountain, tumble down over craggy cliffs and rocks repeatedly, and still manage to land your vehicle on all four wheels and keep driving without even a scratch on its paintwork.
The game launched on the 7th of March, and thankfully, issues found in the beta are no longer present. Even better, the game itself is damn fun, offering some of the best co-op shooting action this console generation.
Wildlands takes place in Bolivia in the year 2019. The Santa Blanca cartel has risen up in Bolivia, with its leader, El Sueño, having created a narco-state. Bolivia’s narco-terrorists are becoming an international threat, with the United States government initiating ‘Operation Kingslayer’, a joint op between the CIA, DEA and JSOC. Its objective: to take down El Sueño and the Santa Blanca cartel, liberating Bolivia. They send in the ‘Ghosts’, a team of elite operatives who specialise in infiltrating and eliminating international threats.
The game’s plot is told in the occasional cutscene, between communication between characters, as well as through pieces of intel that can be recovered while exploring the game world. Ubisoft Paris brought in Hollywood writers Don Winslow and Shane Salerno to pen Wildland’s story, and while it won’t blow anyone’s minds it does benefit from Winslow’s 20-plus years researching the drug trade.
Similarly to the story, Wildlands‘ characters do a serviceable job of engaging the players with their tale, though don’t expect anyone to become your new favourite video game character. There’s no character growth to speak of, but they do interact with each other in interesting ways both during missions and while traveling to mission locations. Some times they mention their families, other times they mention past missions or muse about what will become of the Bolivian people after the Santa Blanca cartel is defeated. Dialogue and character interaction never progresses past throwaway banter and jokes though, and even when players complete the game, I doubt they will even remember their characters name’s or (cough) personalities.
Ultimately, the game’s narrative is enjoyable, though it doesn’t manage to rise above standard action game fare. I’m only speculating, but I expect that Winslow wrote more of the details behind the drug cartel and narco-state elements of the gameplay, while Salerno wrote more of the game’s main events and character interaction. For what it’s worth, the drug trade elements are gritty and detailed, while the Ghosts themselves have some very entertaining banter. Writing video games is no easy task, even for experienced Hollywood writers, but Salerno and Winslow have crafted an enjoyable narrative for gamers in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands.
Gameplay is a mix of first and third person perspective shooting, as well as open-world exploration. There are main and side missions, as well as other side activities that can be completed. During some missions, players are given opportunities to unlock additional missions and side activities. Whether it’s hacking a computer or interrogating a high ranking cartel member, Wildlands progresses at a balanced pace, with each activity complimenting the other and feeling rewarding.
One of the things that sets the game apart from other action games is how it allows players to complete in a number of different ways. Sure, you can go in guns blazing, lobbing explosives into the battle while you spray absolute chaos from the barrel of your LMG, but perhaps you would like to take a more stealthier approach, having someone cover you with a silenced sniper rifle while you introduce narcos to your pistol whipping skills. You can sneak into the base, ram the front gates down with a truck or maybe even parachute in as you dive from a commandeered helicopter or plane.
Most players will find an approach that works for them and stick to it, but some of the most fun you can have in Wildlands is actually when things don’t go according to plan. Alarms will sound, enemies will call in reinforcements, and then players will scramble for cover as Unidad patrol helicopters and armored vehicles rain heavy fire down upon them.
During the beta, the mix of third and first person action struck me as odd, though having played a great deal of the finished game I can say that I thoroughly enjoy the switching between the different perspectives. Should players prefer all their shooting to be third person, they can click the right analog stick when aiming up to manually switch perspectives.
Completing missions and finding collectibles rewards the player will skill points, which can be used in conjunction with liberated supplies to unlock certain skills. At the beginning of the game, players won’t be able to withstand much punishment or gain access to much equipment, though after completing the starting missions and activities they will start to become more powerful and better equipped. Of course, certain areas and missions of the game ramp up the enemy presence in both numbers and ability, so even when you unlock grenade launchers and exploding drones, Bolivia is no walk in the park.
Like a lot of modern squad-based shooters, Wildlands is best played in multiplayer. It is possible to play with the AI squad, though they frequently make bad decisions. During one mission, one of my teammates claimed he spotted an enemy combatant, which he then immediately shot at. The Narco’s death was witnessed by other nearby Narco’s who then made us, welcoming us by raining bullets down on us. Odlly enough, giving the AI team mates autonomy just makes me wish that I could control them on the d-pad, even if it’s just to decide when to break stealth or kill an enemy in stealth. Surely having a system on the d-pad or on an analog stick while holding a button would be better than one of my nitwit companions taking it upon himself to engage with the enemy?
Much like The Division or Destiny, the game is infinitely more enjoyable when playing with friends. You can play with as little as just one other player, or with as many as three companions. I would recommend playing with even just one other player over three AI players, though things can definitely still take a disastrous turn with real players. Like other Ubisoft titles, communication is key, so you’re best bet is to gather some friends you know you play well with.
Wildlands may bear the Ghost Recon name, but it is pretty much a reboot of the series. Players’ characters are bound to be unique to each other, especially when compared to the featureless identical grunts of the older Ghost Recon games.
If I had one major complaint about the game, it’s that it is extremely repetetive. Even with friends to keep you company, the majority of missions play out the same. “Drone up. Move up. Try to stay in stealth. If all hell breaks lose, call in reinforcements, strap on your grenade launchers and unleash hell”.
While I normally detest them being over-used in other shooters, some more set-piece style areas or missions would be welcome, as would unique missions that offer something you can’t experience just wandering around Bolivia with a machine gun. Look at Grand Theft Auto V, you can cause chaos all on your own, or you can play a string of story missions that climax with some truly amazing gameplay. Remember the heist where you practically took on an army of police officers with miniguns and ballistics armour? Or what about the jewelery store job where you knock out people with gas and then race through the sewers and tunnels on motorcycles? Where similar games like GTA V consistently ramp up the action, Wildlands misses this opportunity, content with dull repetition. Even the bosses are easily defeated – I have no idea how they rose to power in the Santa Blanca cartel.
Still, for all its repetition, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is an entertaining and engaging open-world action game – even if its narrative and characters are completely forgettable. Playing with friends will guarantee thrills and even laughter – just don’t expect the action to ramp up as you progress through it.
|Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands is an absolute blast with mates, though the action is repetetive and the narrative weak. If you're after a new multiplayer co-operative game, definitely check it out.||3.7 3.7 ( on 5 rating)|