Clancy universe adventure allows cooperative gameplay
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.