First, a challenge. Take a shot every time I mention Far Cry 3. You’ll be trashed by the time you’ve read this.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series. It’s also the latest Ubisoft
Fuck. Fuck. Shit. Whatever just make another Far Cry 3 Clone, open world game. In the game, you are tasked with bringing down the head of the Santa Blanca drug cartel in Bolivia. This is done by taking out various underbosses until you reach the head of the cartel, El Sueno. In what order you take down the bosses is up to the player.
Visually the game looks great. I wasn’t able to run it maxed out, but I never had any frame-rate drops, and some of the details in the game are amazing. The environments are varied from urban areas to jungles, to deserts and even snowy mountaintops. This gives a lot of variety to the game’s environments.
Character models are pretty good too, especially the player’s character. From the way you would get dirty, muddy or wet, or how the pouches would change depending on what weapons you had equipped, it looks incredible. You do get to create your own character and dress them up. Unfortunately, wearing body armour doesn’t reduce damage, and wearing civilian clothes doesn’t make you less conspicuous in the eyes of the cartel.
Then again if I wanted to spend my time watching something that looks good, I’d be at a strip club or watching a Denis Villeneuve movie. As said before this game takes a lot of elements from Far Cry 3. Just like a lot of recent Ubisoft titles such as Watch_Dogs, Splinter Cell: Conviction and Far Cry 3, there are a lot of similarities to a lot of previous Ubisoft titles, even though this game is from a different franchise. You can recon enemy bases and mark their positions. There are a ton of collectibles. There are numerous attempts at edgy dialog that feels like it was written by a fifteen-year-old kid and although it’s implied your character has been in the military since 2003 and you’re leading a team of special forces commandos, there’s the obligatory skill tree to level up your character.
Sadly this really just makes the game feel generic and routine. There’s nothing new or interesting in this game. You can play the missions in any order, but it doesn’t affect the cartel in any way. Taking out security doesn’t seem to reduce the number of sicarios around, and taking out their ability to produce cocaine doesn’t seem to limit their funding for equipment. It would have been more interesting if taking down certain bosses of the cartel first had an actual effect on them.
Another enemy you have to contend with is Unidad, who are some sort of corrupt Bolivian special police unit. These pricks are relentless and annoying as fuck. Once in a fight, if you kill a few of them they’ll call in attack helicopters that endlessly follow you until you’re dead. This becomes especially annoying if you end up bumping into one of their patrols whilst on your way onto a mission, or even during one. I truly found the harder sections of the game were only harder because there were more Unidad troopers driving around.
It’s a shame because Unidad could have been an interesting element to the game. Trying to get them to align with the player could have been an interesting addition. Getting them to work with you might mean turning a blind eye to brutality and corrupt dealings, but it might mean the difference to them helping you in a gunfight, or being left for dead.
Onto combat itself, it’s pretty frustrating at times. Your AI teammates are worthless (if you are going to play this game, play it CO-OP) and struggle to even follow you around and cover your six. This isn’t helped by the fact that you have regenerating health that’s pretty limited. I found a lot of times my deaths came from being flanked because I wasn’t being helped by my teammates. Enemies aren’t really smart, but they are numerous and as mentioned above, if Unidad joins the party you can be quickly overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
Although this game allows for the player to go loud and assault, taking a stealthy approach is much easier. This is helped by the fact that for some reason enemies will die in one bullet no matter what if the player is undetected, from a .308 rifle round to the head to a 5.7x28mm pistol bullet to the foot.
Controls can also be pretty awkward at times too. For example, to change firing modes or switch to an attached grenade launcher requires the player to aim down sights. This can be pretty annoying if you’re behind a wall and you want to change something, as now you have to expose your character to do so. Rainbow Six: Vegas (another game in Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy line up) got this right, by allowing the player to modify such things by holding down the reload button and using the mouse/joystick to move through a menu.
Driving is another element that’s pretty bad. The controls just feel floaty whilst driving a car, but too sluggish whilst driving heavier vehicles such as trucks and APCs. There’s also not much of a sense of impact when you crash. Thankfully driving isn’t rarely important and is just a means to travel faster (although there is a frustrating segment later in the game that forces you to drive between hordes of enemies). The flight model is simplistic, but I admit I kind of prefer that.
To be fair some improvements to combat have been made over other Ubisoft titles. There’s no longer any heavy enemies that can take a seemingly endless amount of ammo. Even helicopters can be shot down with more powerful weapons like belt-fed machine guns and grenade launchers.
Weapon balance is also somewhat better than other titles. Light machine guns aren’t so inaccurate that they can’t hit the broad side of a barn, and semi-auto sniper rifles are weaker than their bolt action counterparts (although better in emergency close quarters due to their rate of fire). Submachine guns still pale in comparison to assault rifles as the later can attach grenade launchers and most can still reach a magazine capacity of fifty. Shotguns are like always pretty worthless as most enemies die in a few rounds anyway.
I feel that this game could have done with a weight system of some kind. There’s no difference in speed or fatigue between carrying a 10-kilo machine gun and a 9 kilo .50 cal sniper rifle or carrying a 2.5-kilo submachine gun and a 3-kilo assault rifle. This could have been used to force the player to limit their loadout, similar to Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2.
Also, there are some weapons locked behind a paywall. Although not needed, I think it’s bullshit to have to pay for additional weapons that aren’t a part of any DLC with real currency. It’s not game breaking but it’s pretty greedy considering this is a full priced game.
Story-wise there isn’t much to latch onto. None of the characters are compelling and I didn’t care what happened to them. That said I did like that at times the player was forced to do some not so nice things, such as blackmail, attacking parties with civilians in the crowd and threatening family members of cartel bosses. Some of the cartel bosses were also at times manipulated or forced into what they are doing. Both things made the game feel a little more real.
Overall I’d struggle to recommend Ghost Recon: Wildlands unless you really like open world games. Although it’s not the worst game I’ve played, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and honestly I think Ubisoft needs to start getting more creative if it wants to keep being such a force in the industry. If you’re really interested, I’d wait for this one to get to around 20 or so dollars.