Bullets in Bolivia: Ghost Recon Wildlands Review
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest instalment in the Ghost Recon series, which is known for its hard as nails tactical and realistic action. In most videogames you can expect baddies and your heroes to take a few bullets before taking a dirtnap, but in Ghost Recon they err on the side of realism. Headshots and sneaking around to set up synchronous sniping are the order of the day here, and on some level that’s what you get from Wildlands, but I think they may have made a mistake in making it a huge open world. I’ll get to that though. Ubisoft Paris are the team behind Wildlands, part of the wider Ubisoft parent company that owns such properties as Assassins Creed, Far Cry and Watchdogs. They also produced quite a few Ghost Recon games in the past, such as Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Ghost Recon 2 back in 2004. However, the trend in the last few years for Ubisoft is to make things big. Huge, big, somewhat empty open worlds. Wildlands is one of the largest game worlds yet, 21 massive provinces are yours to explore in this fictional representation of Bolivia. I’m not so sure that bigger always means better. In Wildlands, you lead a team of specialists sent into Bolivia to disrupt the Santa Blanca Cartel, a massive drug organization led by a man named El Seuno. Your job is take down the various leaders of the cartel, and eventually the big man himself. This is accomplished through searching for intel in cartel bases, interrogating lieutenants or talking to various rebel leaders scattered through the provinces. Taking out enemy outposts is a lot of fun, reminiscent of Far Crys outposts. Scope out the enemy partrols and positions with your drone, set up sync shots with your computer controlled squad (or friends via online multiplayer) and then usually watch it all crumble apart and descend into a chaotic firefight when your team gets spotted. I didn’t really appreciate the story or characters too much though. The Ghosts are a bit too dry, with lots of gallows humor and military hoo-ha when they chatter. Also, you will hear the words “Tangos spotted, I’ve got a cartel gunman with sub-machineguns” about fifty million times as you play through the game. The targets in the cartel are somewhat interesting though, but the DJ and the music that plays on the radio is a little too comical and over the top for my liking. I appreciate that kind of stuff in a game like Grand Theft Auto, but Ghost Recon tries to be more “realistic”, so the humor either falls flat or feels forced. Gameplay wise, the enemies range from either braindead cardboard cutouts to psychic mindreaders who can spot you from a mile away and manage to hit you. The driving controls are also super slidey and don’t get me started on the helicopter controls. Flying is the most effective way to get from point A to point B quickly, but it’s such a simplified facsimile of flying a helicopter that while it doesn’t feel
difficult, it also never feels rewarding. That actually kind of sums up Wildlands really. It’s a giant sandbox, with some punishing aspects to it. If you get spotted and shot you go down pretty quickly, but so do the enemies. So you learn that the best way to approach every outpost is to slowly scope out everything and snipe them from hundreds of meters away. With the AI actually faking the sync shot mechanic most of the time it’s really easy to take out bad guys in twos, threes and eventually groups of four can be taken out really easily, and quietly. Once you learn that, you begin “the loop” that I always end up doing in these open world games. Find the easiest way to take out baddies, find a vehicle that I need and fly from point to point cleaning up everything up and hoovering up resources. It begins to feel like a chore really quickly in Wildlands. For the purposes of this review, I did reach the condition required to take on “the final boss.” Fighting a “boss” in a tactical shooter is very hard thing to do. You can’t give them a tonne of hit points or armor, because that would feel cheap. Instead, Wildlands gives you 10 minutes to fight your way through armored vehicles and a small army of soldiers to get to the last cutscene, which is on the other side of the map. I tried once, and was gunned down after taking the direct route. So instead, I went off the guided path, drove out into the wilderness towards an outpost that I knew had a helicopter. I didn’t fight anyone, simply burst through the gates and hopped in the chopper, and flew it towards the goal. To be fair, the chopper was shot down by a surface to air missile, but not before I jumped out and parachuted right onto the “glowy circle” that was the goal. Which led to a cutscene with the conclusion of the games story. After which I was popped back out, into the world and cut to pieces by the army of guards that had followed me to the big badguys base. Wildlands is graphically very, very pretty. It’s also fun with friends if you can get a full squad together to take on the cartel. But it’s also very large and empty, and sometimes hard to control. I don’t think I can recommend it over something like Grand Theft Auto V, and it’s such a tonal shift from the “tactical shooter” of the previous games that I can’t even really recommend it to fans of the series. My advice is to pick it up on sale, unless you’re absoloutely starved for an open world shooter and have a few friends who are interested in it too.