Clancy uni­verse ad­ven­ture al­lows co­op­er­a­tive game­play

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY JOE SZADKOWSKI

Aquar­tet of war­riors works to lib­er­ate a coun­try from an evil drug lord in the third-per­son, open-world shooter “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Re­con Wild­lands: Gold Edi­tion” (Ubisoft, Rated Teen, re­viewed on Xbox One, $99.99).

Ubisoft is no stranger to cre­at­ing open­world ad­ven­tures such as pop­u­lar fran­chises “As­sas­sin’s Creed,” “Far Cry,” “The Divi­sion” and “Watch Dogs.” Now it un­leashes its largest ex­otic lo­cale to date for up to four play­ers to get lost in its covert, mil­i­tary-style shenani­gans.

Specif­i­cally, an elite team of Amer­i­can spe­cial forces sol­diers, un­der the U.S. govern­ment-sanc­tioned Op­er­a­tion Kingslayer, must sin­gle-hand­edly bring down the Santa Blanca car­tel and its leader, El Sueno, who are turn­ing Bo­livia into a narco-state.

Af­ter cus­tomiz­ing an avatar — down to minu­tiae such as fa­cial hair, body ar­mor, patches, cloth­ing, head­sets, tat­toos, head­gear and back­packs (a roughly 30-minute process for the mil­i­tary fash­ion-con­scious fa­nat­ics) — a player en­ters the mas­sive won­der­land of vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions.

Within 21 prov­inces set among lively land­scapes in­cor­po­rat­ing such ter­rain as moun­tains, salt flat­lands, jun­gles, swamps and caves, the player’s team must elim­i­nate or cap­ture crazed drug bosses while deal­ing with nar­cotics agents and weapon-loaded min­ions looking for a con­fronta­tion in each small town, field and road­side.

A rebel fac­tion will help the group ac­com­plish mis­sions and even fight along­side them, while a col­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles (roughly 60 types) is to be found and used at will, in­clud­ing he­li­copters, planes, boats, trac­tors and ar­mored SUVs.

Be­yond the bare-bones, rather id­i­otic story, play­ers will find a time-suck­ing, into-the-weeds game where they scour a map to look for mis­sions, submissions and sup­plies. They will in­ter­ro­gate bad guys, res­cue cit­i­zens, shut down ra­dio tow­ers and as­sas­si­nate foes among their many chal­lenges as they cause chaos when­ever pos­si­ble to dis­rupt the car­tel.

Af­ter spend­ing about 15 hours in the Ita­pua prov­ince, I think the game may take a life­time to com­plete. Here are some ob­ser­va­tions and tips for the solo player work­ing with three com­puter-con­troller squad­mates:

● Han­dling a he­li­copter was as equally frus­trat­ing as ex­cit­ing. Try­ing to ma­neu­ver it in the air was a real pain, but once I had it po­si­tioned at an en­emy hot zone, it was quite a show. I could use the on­board ma­chine gun to fire on en­emy-in­fested struc­tures while my team­mates blan­keted the grounds with gun­fire.

Once the craft took too many hits and smoke be­gan pour­ing out, I was able to use a para­chute to aban­don the craft, land and clean up any re­main­ing foes.

● I found lit­tle rea­son to ap­proach mis­sions with any stealth tac­tics other than to get close enough to de­ploy a drone and con­trol it to sur­vey an area (yes, that is as cool as it sounds), as well as to com­mand my team to at­tack the en­emy.

● I ap­pre­ci­ated the va­ri­ety of weapons — nearly 80 to­tal, hid­den in crates and taken from bosses — that range from a M40A5 sniper ri­fle to a SMG-11 com­pact ma­chine gun and Su­per Shorty shot­gun. Each can be adorned with dif­fer­ent paint jobs and up­graded with at­tach­ments in a very slick in­ter­face.

Over­all, for lovers of clas­sic sol­dier war­fare, “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Re­con Wild­lands” ex­pan­sive ac­tion is a wor­thy co­op­er­a­tive ad­ven­ture. It’s easy to learn (ex­cept for pi­lot­ing a plane or he­li­copter) and great fun for a quar­tet of pals.

How­ever, it never quite matched the bril­liance of the “Grand Theft Auto” fran­chise or the char­ac­ter depth and block­buster mo­ments of the “Un­charted” se­ries.

Note: The Gold Edi­tion of the game ($30 more than the standard edi­tion) con­tains a Deluxe Pack of good­ies in­clud­ing a wilder­ness ri­fle and hunts­man mo­tor­cy­cle along with a Sea­son’s Pass to freely down­load two ma­jor ex­pan­sion packs (“Narco Road” and “Fallen Ghosts”), and ex­tra items such as a col­or­ful Bo­li­vian bus and mul­ti­ple cloth­ing and weapon cus­tomiza­tions.

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