Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest game in the Ghost Recon franchise, in which you play as a member of the elite Ghost unit. Players create their own character, an elite U.S. soldier codenamed Nomad, sent into Bolivia to topple Santa Blanca, the largest producer and supplier of cocaine in the whole of South America and after a brief introduction from C.I.A. handler Karen Bowman, are sent freely out into the wilds of Bolivia.
Unlike previous installments in the franchise, Wildlands is set in an open world. Taking place in a fictional timeline in the country of Bolivia, you are tasked with bringing down the Santa Blanca Cartel, a drug empire straight out of Hollywood. Your job is to bring down the kingpin, El Sueño, which requires you to systematically tear down his empire. The Cartel is divided up into four operations: security, smuggling, production, and influence. At the top of each is a head of operations and below them an underboss. Each underboss oversees up to five buchons, who each control an area of the map.
In order to reach these heads and El Sueño himself, you need to undertake a series of missions that involve a variety of objectives. Now, these missions rarely feel scripted thanks to the unpredictable nature of Wildlands, what was supposed to be stealthy approach can turn into a fully blown out assault against enemy forces thanks to one stray bullet. This is best experienced in co-op with your friends as small skirmishes quickly turn into large-scale incursions, in fact, Wildlands shows it’s true strengths in co-op. While the enemy AI is good, if not great, your squadmates can be straight up dumb to the point that they ignore an enemy standing right in front of them. They can be given basic orders and can revive you if you’re downed, but you’ll be doing the majority of the killing.
Ghost Recon’s gameplay changes dramatically when shifting from single-player to co-op, while the mission structure can start to feel repetitive and boring in singleplayer, co-op adds a sense of unpredictability that comes with the added variable of other human players. But nonetheless, the ability to play alone will be a welcome feature to many players who might prefer to play alone.
Weapon and character customization are extremely well done, and you are blasted with tons of choices. Wildlands also has an experience system, leveling up rewards you with skill points which you can use to unlock additional skills.
In order to traverse the huge open world, you can use vehicles which extend from pick-ups and dirt bikes to planes to helicopter gunships and APCs. In between carrying out story objectives, you can travel around in search of new weapons, accessories and skill points, or conduct a set of side missions to help out the rebels of Bolivia, who can provide you with a range of support abilities – vehicle and ammo deliveries, mortar strikes, guerrilla fighters. The backbone of the game’s mission design is something Ubisoft has now made a publisher staple since the days of Far Cry.
Wildlands capitalizes on Ubisoft’s strengths and delivers a strong gameplay but fails to provide an equally engrossing story. Missions rarely have any solid story behind them and just act as fillers to get you to the next objective.
Complete missions to draw out the buchons, which in turn reveals their underbosses and, eventually, the heads of the cartel’s four major operations: security, production, influence, and smuggling.
Wildland’s freedom which is one of its strengths also turns out to be one of it’s biggest weaknesses because the game can be tackled in any order, the missions end up being mere copycats of one another with seldom variety. The same fundamental method used to take down La Yuri and El Polito in the game’s easiest province, Itacua, which boasts a one-skull difficulty rating, are used to take down Unitad Army’s General Baro in one of the hardest five-skull areas, Flor de Oro.
It’s tough to care about the characters or the plot with so little character development, and there are very few characters that do anything to drive the narrative of the story.
If there is one thing Ghost Recon Wildlands does flawlessly, it is world design and visuals. The game is pretty, there is no other way to describe it. From lush forests to snowy mountains, the fictional representation of Bolivia is as beautiful as it’s real world counterpart. I often found myself roaming around for hours soaking in the world.
Optimization is on par with most AAA titles these days, but most modern gaming systems should be able to run the game with some compromise. You will need a beefy system to handle the higher settings, of course. My system(8350, 1060 and 16 gigs of RAM) managed to get 50s with a mixture of high, very high and ultra settings.