Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Review Screenshot 1

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest installment in the renowned and much-loved Ghost Recon series, developed by the somewhat infamous Ubisoft. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands fuses a tactical shooter and an open world game together to great effect.  After taking part in the closed and open betas, I had my doubts about the longevity of the game, as the missions in the beta (they were the same both times) felt uniform and a bit dull in general.  I still decided to give the full game a chance, and I’m glad I did, as it was a pleasant surprise compared to the very limited, and bordering on boring, beta gameplay.

In Wildlands, you play as an American special forces operative aka a Ghost, with the assignment of travelling through the many biomes of Ubisoft’s representation of Bolivia, all the while dismantling the Santa Blanca Drug Cartel, piece by piece.  You work your way through the ranks of the Cartel, murdering through the thousands of foot soldiers, lieutenants, snipers and heavies with impunity.  You begin with gathering up pieces of major intel, usually nestled inside well fortified enemy positions, making gathering the intel an experience in and of itself.  Once you’re surrounded by enemy corpses and have the intel in hand, it unlocks story missions in the region you’re in, allowing you to further your progress.  You carve through the hierarchy of the Cartel, starting at a Buchon, then moving up to more senior positions, eventually facing the face-tattoo-sporting ‘El Sueno’, the big boss of the Santa Blanca.  I found it amusing that it translates to The Dream in English, bit of a soft name for such an imposing and ruthless drug kingpin.

While the game is available to play in single player, you are assigned a squad of cheesy American AI controlled operators, constantly spouting cringe worthy lines and weak jokes.  The game definitely shines in multiplayer, and it makes it 10x as fun when you’re eradicating the Cartel underlings in a synchronised combination of long and short-range, covering each other with perfect co-ordination and call outs.  That tactical warmth you feel once you’ve marked all of the unsuspecting enemies, taking them out inch by inch, one man at a time, careful to silently destroy power generators along the way to aid your stealthy endeavors, is thrilling.  Wildlands makes it quite easy to get spotted and the enemies get spooked very easily, they can spot corpses and react to their allies getting shot even from quite a distance, so you have to make a quick judgement on whether your long ranger sniper kill will put the whole facility on alert or not.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Review Screenshot 2

Going loud is by no means less satisfying than ghosting your way through a base.  Taking off those suppressors and hearing the true voice of your weapon is extremely gratifying, you feel like you have so much more power in your hands, ripping through so many more unfortunate Bolivians in a fraction of the time.  Even when you go loud however, you have to think about certain things, such as whether the base you’re attacking has an alarm system.  I have found that if an alarm is set off, reinforcements will be called and will make your attack turn from a swift and efficient cover swapping, multi-killing rampage to a studious waiting game, picking off the odd enemy when you can, staring and waiting for an opening in the wall of new troops staring at your position.  You can, however,still approach your guns blazing assault tactically, send in your drone or get to a high up spot with binoculars, mark all the enemies and items of interest, such as alarms and generators.  This stops your daring assault devolving into a disappointing anti-climax, where one unexpected flanking heavy gunner can cut your run short.

Personally for me though, nothing beats that methodical, silent take down, and this doesn’t just apply to bases and positions, but side missions as well.  In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, you collect resources by marking them for a small Rebel group local to Bolivia, fighting the Cartel, to come and collect.  These include things like gasoline, comms tools and medicine.  This is just the games’ way of giving you some kind of currency to use to upgrade your skills, which I found to be ultimately useless, functional, but useless really.  They aren’t necessary, they are just quality of life upgrades, but it does add another layer to the game, to aspire to customising to your play style, and in games in general and open world games more specifically, it’s always better to have too much to do than too little.

But back to the point at hand, convoys, and side missions in general are a nice addition to any open world game, and are now considered essential for any decent open world game.  The side missions in Wildlands are refreshingly replayable.  I came out of both betas after playing the same side missions both times thinking ‘These are going to get dry quickly.’, but that was also because I thought there would only be one type, as that was all that was showcased.  Fortunately, when the 42GB game finished downloading, I was pleasantly surprised to find 4 or 5 types of side mission, and much more to glue the game together instead of just story and side missions.

Convoys are by far and wide my favourite type of side mission, I suppose they don’t really constitute a whole mission, but they are extremely enjoyable every time.  As you peruse the map, you’ll see the resource value of some side missions on the map with a corresponding symbol, such as a medical cross and a number such as 2500, to designate a side mission to steal that amount of supplies.  You might be surprised to find a resource quantity moving along the map, these are the convoys.  These are made up of one resource carrying vehicle in the middle, accompanied by an escort vehicle in front and behind.  Depending on the region difficulty of the region you’re in, the escorts can range from a few Cartel boys in an SUV, to a minigun toting Humvee and Cartel chopper flying overhead sporting two more miniguns.  Once you become experienced enough however, none of this is a threat, but the chase is still very enjoyable.  Once you spot a convoy on the map, your voice adopts a stern authority, alerting your squad as they pile into the car and you race after the rolling resources.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Review Screenshot 3

Another entertaining way of claiming those sweet resources tactically, is getting used to the distance between the front and back escort vehicles, setting up a kilometer down the single jungle road, placing C4 in an estimate of what will be before and after the escorted resource vehicle, and lying in wait to pick off any survivors.  I really enjoyed this tactic, and didn’t actually anticipate it would work too well, expecting to catch the resource carrier as well or to miss entirely and have to give chase anyway.  The ‘VHC Damage’ skill does help in these situations, essentially transforming your bullets into small-scale explosives when they hit a vehicle in terms of damage.  This gets a bit ridiculous, for example when 3 shotgun blasts causes an armoured Humvee to explode, it feels a little bit arcade-y and takes away some of that light tactical realism the game pivots on.  My point is, there are many ways to take down an objective in this game, and each and every one is gratifying, and feels as if Wildlands rewards preparation and a good steady aim.

Up to this point, my cousin (my gaming partner) and I have been mostly traversing the diverse looking world of Wildlands and collecting all the weapons and customiseable weapon parts from every corner of the map.  Only now we have our tuned up death dealers to hand are we beginning to take out the Cartels top dogs.  Although we now approach these hardened enemies and strongholds with an air of efficiency and precision, learned through our multiple base raids leading up to this point.  The gun customisation in this game is pulled from Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which was called the Gunsmith system at the time if memory serves.  This system pulls your weapon apart and shows you all the innards and interchangeable parts and you switch bits and pieces out to fit your play style.  Long barrels for longer range and more damage, but less mobility, compensators for less recoil, a classic ACOG sight for those medium range shootouts, then it forms it all back together and places it in your character arms, so you can marvel at your newly unlocked rifle.

To summarise, I think Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands actually turned out very well, despite my expectations.  From the time I spent in the beta I expected Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands to become dry quite quickly, and the gunplay to get boring, the missions not have enough diversity, and the map to be either too small or too sparse.  Fortunately, and to my surprise, none of these things turned out to be true.  The game sticks well to its roots and keeps that extremely cool tactical feeling you felt in past Ghost Recon games.  The gunplay feels great, every shot feels like it carries a lot of impact as a sharp spurt of blood exudes from every wound you inflict and the enemy flinches and falters, and sniper shots in particular throw the target to the ground as if hit by a truck.  The missions have enough variety that even after a solid 20 hours of gameplay they feel fresh and repeatable.  Counting down to a synchronised shot on a patrolling duo is always a fantastic feeling.  Walking casually around an enemy settlement, stepping over the fresh corpses of the newly exterminated troops, that is always exhilarating.  If you like Ghost Recon as a franchise, with a dash of Just Cause-esque open world traversal and objectives, then give Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands a shot.

Rating 8

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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