Ghost Recon is a series known for tactics, realism and slow, calculated combat, but it seems like Wildlands doesn’t know its own history.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands (rolls off the tongue) is the newest game in the series, this time taking a Narcos-inspired turn with a Bolivian setting and drug cartel enemies.
A drug lord named El Sueño has used his cartel, the Santa Blanca, to effectively take control of Bolivia, turning it into the world’s first Narco-state.
After the cartel kills a US DEA agent, the US government sends you and your team of elite Ghosts into the country to dismantle the cartel and stop the flow of cocaine.
As far as plots go, it’s somehow both ridiculously farfetched yet also boring, probably due to every Hispanic cliché in the world being shoved down your throat at every opportunity.
The Ghosts are clichés themselves too, with generic military slang thrown around on a regular basis, not helped by the lacklustre voice acting.
Your CIA handler Karen Bowman isn’t much better as she veers from generic CIA agent to openly discussing breaking international laws at a moment’s notice. I get that the DEA agent murdered was her friend, but surely her job is to arrest the cartel if possible, instead she straight up tells you to murder as many of them as you can.
The jingoistic attitude the game seems to be shoving in your face is the most annoying part of the entire game, especially given the US’ track record with meddling in other countries’ affairs.
It feels like there was a chance to tell an interesting story, showing how dangerous and difficult internal and geopolitical situations it can be, but instead it’s closer to Team America than anything else.
Fortunately, the gameplay can be quite fun, despite the numerous bugs and general feeling of unfinished-ness, although it does not feel like a Ghost Recon game.
You travel the open world, finding intel, weapon upgrades and skill points, while completing missions which bring you closer to taking down the cartel, one leader at a time.
Some areas are more difficult than others, so you’re inclined to complete as many side quests and level up in the area you’re in, before moving on to a harder one. It all feels very like Far Cry and that standard Ubisoft open world formula which we’ve become accustomed to by now.
Go to an area, discover points of interest/missions etc., complete them and move on to the next area to repeat, all while levelling up generally arbitrary perks and abilities. After a few hours, it becomes fairly repetitive, especially considering the AI isn’t very intelligent and doesn’t put up much of a challenge, even in the harder areas.
Your three teammates’ AI is even worse, with them regularly wandering off in the middle of a fight, leaving you to fight all of the enemies alone. The enemies seem to ignore them and focus all of their attention on you, a bugbear of mine in any game, but one that’s hard to ignore here given the poor AI on both sides.
Your squad mates will also magically teleport inside your vehicle, so you never have to wait for them to actually get in, which really breaks the immersion, although is admittedly convenient at times.
It looks good, and apart from a number of bugs (not game breaking but annoying) it runs relatively well. Weapons and explosions sound realistic and overall, apart from the terrible voice acting, the sound design is strong.
I’m aware I’ve said almost nothing positive about Wildlands, yet I am still playing it regularly, but only online and with friends, as this is where the game really comes into its own.
Once online, your AI teammates disappear, which instantly improves the experience, although if your human teammates aren’t up to scratch, you can find yourself actually missing the dumb AI. That said, if you play Wildlands with three or even just two of your friends (and use mics), the experience improves dramatically.
Sneaking up to an enemy camp from different angles, calling out enemies to each other, working towards syncing four shots at the same time, nothing short of exhilarating. Managing to clear an entire enemy base like this without raising the alarm is genuinely hard and exiting, and makes you feel like a bad ass special forces agent.
Of course, playing with your friends also opens the door to a lot of fun, like buzzing enemies in helicopters humming Ride of the Valkyries or simply knocking your friends over with cars, only to revive them and do it again just to annoy them.
This is how I can recommend Wildlands to anyone who has friends also playing the game, it’s fun and exciting to work together with them. If you’re more of a solo-player, it gets much harder to recommend Wildlands, at least at full retail price.
Rainbow Six Siege is much easier to recommend for deep, tactical gameplay.