The last entry in the proper Ghost Recon franchise, Future Soldier, streamlined the series with a more cover-based shooter approach, leaving fans wondering if the tactical side was being abandoned. While Wildlands brings some of that back, Ubisoft have now gone with their typical open world map approach for the first time, doing away with the linear path of previous games.
As we begin the game, the Ghost Recon team are gearing up to take on Santa Blanca, a bunch of Mexican drug lords who have taken over Bolivia; politicians, police and all, with one leader, el Sueño, who has delusions of being a god. Bombing the U.S. Embassy got them noticed, though, so now the ghosts are sent in to put a stop to this cartel once and for all.
Four player co-op is the focus here, either AI or human based, and generally it works, but as I made my way further into Ubisoft’s imaginary version of Bolivia’s drug world, I wondered if they’d perhaps spent less time thinking about plot and story as a trade off. The storyline is very simply one of revenge and killing off the ranks of Santa Blanca to get to the top man, so the chief in charge of the ghosts can avenge herself of a friend’s death. The problem here is that there’s very little flesh to the story beyond offing another name on a list.
Thankfully, we have Bolvia’s beautiful countryside to marvel at, a typically large open map with large dams, forests, mines and towns, along with plenty of winding roads that you can either choose to follow or plough straight across without a thought to your team’s safety. Most of the time the land based vehicles are happy to jump off the edge of a steep ravine, plunge down the dusty or muddy hillsides and land perfectly safely on the next flat surface. It’s only when it comes to enemy fire that the damage and risk of explosions occur. So very much Far Cry Bolivia at this point.
The team based tactics do manage to set this game apart, though, with orders being given to your team via simple commands and the possibility of lining up shots to either take out multiple opponents at once or to ensure a single enemy dies without missing a shot. Your AI team-mates are pretty good at this, even telling you when the enemy has gone out of the line of sight, but it’s also open to abuse, in that you can get a heads-up of enemy positions from your drone once you’ve unlocked its maximum reach and then assign the rest of the team to go hunt them down while you watch.
With friends in tow, providing real skills to replace the AI, it can be so much more fun, assuming they’re all on the same wavelength and communicating. It feels almost like a whole different game at times.
Upgrading your equipment and skills (including the ability to buy parachutes, something I’d have thought was pretty standard among top-class assassins who constantly chopper in to situations) is done by completing side missions and earning skill points to add to your powers. Early levels don’t really require too many skills in all but the hardest game modes, but as you move through the map and take on larger gangs dotted around a big area, you’ll be glad for the extra reach of the drone, the night vision and the added skill shots from your AI team mates to help out.
By the half way point, Wildlands feels a little samey, it’s a bit like the other Ubisoft open world games where they throw in too many side quests and dot the map with 101 new icons. Focusing on the story itself helps, though it’s not really the best written game narrative and won’t keep you on the edge of your seat and co-op play really does help alleviate some of its issues.
Is it enough to warrant giving the game a miss? Not really, Wildlands is still a fairly fun open world shooter with tactical overtones, but I still miss the days of Advanced Warfighter.