Ghost Recon Wildlands is set in Bolivia, and tasks you with taking down the Santa Blanca cartel. Explore the massive open world or go straight for your targets. Play the game how you want. Should you take a step into the Wildlands of Bolivia? Read our review below to find out..
Ghost Recon Wildlands is the first game in the series to take the open world route and most of the time it does it really well but it doesn’t come without a few minor hiccups along the way. The game sees you and your team dropped in Bolivia and you are tasked to slowly chip away at bringing down the Santa Blanca Cartel, going after every head, underboss that all eventually leads to you going after the main boss of bosses and closing the whole operation down. The people you are tasked with going after are a nasty and ruthless, group who will do anything they can to maintain control of the provinces, which is why you and your reputable team of ghosts have been brought in. Wildlands uses an XP system that rewards you with skill points to level up which you can acquire by every piece of intel you gain, every cargo you intercept and every boss you ultimately bring down which you can use to upgrade your character, team, resources, gadgets and weapons. You have to choose wisely in the beginning and make sure you are using the skill points for the things you will need from the start like your parachute, which you will most certainly need as soon as you can get it. It is a system that works well and will be familiar to people who play games with similar level systems while not being too intimidating for casual gamers who may want a simpler way of levelling up.
The map in Ghost Recon Wildlands is rather big, it’s huge in fact and the sheer amount of things to do in the game will keep you busy for quite some time and on more than one occasion I would go off course on the way to a main mission and start doing little side quests or Intel gathering along the way to get that little bit of XP or resource to help me level up my drone or even my sniper rifle. As time went on I found that most of the tasks ahead started to feel a little repetitive, but Wildlands kind of counters this by giving you the ultimate freedom to approach every mission differently so you can mix up your play style, whether that be going in all guns blazing or taking the more stealthy approach. The game can be played as a single player game or it can be played in co-op with up to 3 of your friends where it uses a seamless drop in drop out system that works really well and it is as enjoyable in single player as it is in co-op, although the two experiences are quite different.
You have to plan more when playing with other players and you have to be a lot more patient with what tactics you apply whereas in single player mode you can utilise the fact that your AI team members are almost invisible to the enemy unless there is a gun fight happening. One of my favourite things when playing in single player was the use of the Sync Shot system that allows you to mark up to 3 enemies at once and trigger your AI teammates to take them all out with a stealth shot, but it takes some planning and patience and can’t be rushed when doing it. It was something I really enjoyed using when infiltrating bases, scouting the area with my drone and tactically taking down each enemy without being detected or any bodies being found by the enemy. The sync shot certainly adds something that you don’t really get in co-op and it gets your mind working on your approach to outposts and bases in a different way than it would when you are playing with your friends. The online co-op though is how the game is truly meant to be played and it really doesn’t disappoint as it will bring with it some brilliant moments that will have you all concentrating and being very serious one minute to laughing the next.
Visually Wildlands looks pretty good overall, there are times when it looks fantastic, especially when viewing the scenery from a far when on a high hilltop or flying in a helicopter or a plane and I have to point out that the draw distance is pretty impressive when you consider the size of the map too. The open world is full of detail and rich lighting effects that will at times stop you in your tracks to admire the area in the distance as the sun is setting behind the mountains. The dynamic weather offers some lovely visual effects like soaking your character in a storm, the wonderful fork lightning effects in the distance and some finer details that some people won’t even notice, like after its stopped raining, you will see muddy puddles around for quite a time later and in the snowy mountains your character will get partially covered in snow depending on where he was lying when scoping out an area or on his back when leaning against snow covered wall while in cover.
It is the little details that really stand out in the visuals of Wildlands and when you consider the size of the map and everything else that is going on around you, the visuals overall are pretty impressive. There are a few shortfalls though, as character models could look more detailed than they do, NPC’s seem to all have look the same and I did notice some screen tearing at times as well as a couple of minor frame rate dips when there a lot going on but it didn’t happen too often and it is nothing that will distract you too much while playing. The audio in Wildlands has all the usual authentic sounds of the weapons that you would expect from a Tom Clancy game and although the voice acting can sound a little stiff, it isn’t too bad for the most part but the cheesy lines from the AI teammates became a little annoying after a while when they would repeat certain one liners more than a few times, which became tiresome and the less said about the radio station the better, because it’s just very annoying and you will most certainly want to turn it off.
Overall the game plays pretty well with solid shooting mechanics and good stealth options too, with grenades, gadgets and all the different types of guns being great to use and finely tuned all round. There are a few little flaws in how the game plays and these did tend to get frustrating in certain situations. I love the option to be able to switch shoulders in third person games with shooting elements, I think every game in this genre should have that option, but for some reason this game has a very annoying automatic shoulder switch that seems to happen at random times when it didn’t need to and I found myself constantly pressing RB to switch it back which became a real hinderance, especially in a gun fight. I find it odd that there is a toggle button for this but there is no option to turn the auto switch off completely, as it would make things a little less frustrating and would give more control over when you felt you needed to use it.
The cover system can also be rather inconsistent as it applies auto cover when you are against a wall or a fence that causes more problems than it should, especially when you are taking the stealthier approach. I feel that a button press to cover would have suited this a lot better and having this auto cover along with the auto shoulder switch just made things so much more difficult than they needed to be and caused me to get killed a few times. With this being such a big open world there are obviously going to be a hefty variety of vehicles to use from cars, bikes, choppers and planes, they are all there, but not all of them felt very good to control.
The overall feel was very arcade like but with a stupid amount of over steer applied on most of the cars and bikes. The SUV was probably the one I felt more at ease with but the rest of the cars and motorcycles felt really loose and would slide about considerably while using them. The helicopters are the worst out of them all and it is more of a move the stick and hope kind of situation with them, but as fiddly as the vehicles can be, I found that I kind of got used to their shortfalls and adapted the way I used them with a little more ease as time went on, but this is an area I felt should of been more finely tuned, especially with a map so big and so full of narrow dirt roads and steep hills. Overall though, with those few little flaws aside, Wildlands plays pretty well and players familiar to third person tactical shooters won’t be disappointed. Ghost Recon Wildands deserves a lot of praise because Ubisoft have taken a risk by changing such an established franchise and trying something different with it and for the most part it’s paid off and I have enjoyed my time with it and will definitely be going back in for more.