I’m new to the Ghost Recon franchise, and, having missed previous entries in the series, it wasn’t really on my radar until I had a chance to try out the first closed Beta. Even then, as much as I enjoyed the sizable portion of the map and missions available during the beta, it was still launching in a month that is already bursting with AAA games. Horizon and Zelda make for formidable foes. Yet here I am itching to get back to the tactical gunplay with my squad that we fondly refer to as the A-Team…
Character customisation is Ghost Recon’s first stumble, the options available are pretty limited. With just 11 faces to choose from, don’t expect to recreate yourself in any recognisable way. There is a bit more variety in the clothing and accessories but it leaves a lot to be desired; for example, I took my time creating B.A Baracus and ended up with a character that looks identical to one of the A.I. teammates. We eventually managed to create a squad that resembles the A-Team, you just have to squint a bit…
In Wildlands, you’re presented with Ubisoft’s biggest map yet. Quite an achievement when you think that the majority of Ubisoft games are set in an open world. Their now controversial take on Bolivia is certainly vast, but after the Beta, I was worried it could end up being full of copy and paste environments, that’s definitely not the case; there are over 20 provinces and each of those seem to be set in their own little biome. You get jungles, flat lands, marshlands, deserts, farmlands, mountains and more, which makes each province feel different enough for it to not become too repetitive.
The different areas are not just for looks either. Your strategies and tactics will need to change to reflect the world around you. One memorable encounter had us attempting to steal a supply helicopter from a lakeside outpost. With the only land access heavily guarded, I had to take to the water and swim quietly into the camp whilst my accomplice mapped the area with his drone and prepared to snipe. If we alerted them too early, they would take off and the supplies would be lost. Careful coordination had us picking off the stragglers on the outskirts of the outpost before I popped out the water like Rambo and gunned anyone who moved down with an LMG. Anyone attempting to escape with the helicopter was dealt with. A similar mission in the flatlands would play out completely different as there would be no cover, forcing you to tackle the mission in a completely different way.
The size of the open world also means there is a lot of traveling to be done. I almost always opted to travel by air because A) it’s quicker and B) the handling of vehicles is not brilliant. You do eventually get the hang of the driving, but the cars, buggies, bikes and trucks just don’t feel as smooth as they could. The planes and helicopters suffer from poor handling too, but at least they don’t feel like you are driving over a frozen lake.
Large open worlds are great and all, as long as they are filled with things to see and do. Wildlands’ map has plenty of icons scattered over it to feel populated, and there is always something to do nearby, causing many a diversion from the intended path. Outposts, towns, mines, factories, prisons and more are dotted around with plenty of intel to collect and weapon upgrades to be found. Yet, whilst the map is packed, it’s all very repetitive. Most weapon types feel the same, enemy variety is not a thing and objectives and missions are of the same structure. Go here and blow up X, go here and steal X, go here and kill X or go here and extract X. That covers almost all the missions to be found. Yet the repetitive feeling of these missions is alleviated by the players choice to tackle them in any way they see fit. There is no right way to do anything and that’s where it shines the most. Especially in co-op.
Playing online in co-op makes a huge difference to the enjoyment to be had in this game. The drop in and drop out is seamless and progression made is saved for each person. In single player you have three AI teammates; however, as soon as one person joins you the AI is gone and your squad is down to just two. I prefer it this way as, once again, it causes you to re-think the way you may tackle something. With a full squad of four human players this game really becomes its own thing, human error means that your perfectly laid out plans will often backfire and the chaos that ensues is some of the best multiplayer action I’ve played in recent times. It’s obvious that this is the way Wildlands is supposed to be played, and even though there is enjoyment to be found playing solo it never quite reaches they high notes the multiplayer hits.
Visually the game is not very impressive and I noticed a lot of texture pop in. You can forgive them to a degree due to the ridiculous size of the map, but, on more than one occasion, I’ve had a tree pop in directly in front of me that I promptly plowed my helicopter into. That’s not the end of the bugs either. I’ve been stuck behind a few pieces of scenery one too many times for it to be funny. These glitches are never game breaking, but when you find yourself stuck between a rock and a fuel canister it certainly hampers the enjoyment of what would have been a perfectly executed mission. Another bizarre bug i’ve encountered is that my AI team mates will continue to have a conversation whilst im playing co-op, meaning there is a four person conversation happenin even when there are only two of us in the car, made even weirder if one of us is of the opposite sex and its four very macho men chatting.
The story is more than serviceable. It’s 2019 and Bolivia has become a playground for the Santa Blanca, a Mexican drug cartel. After DEA agent Ricardo “Ricky” Sandoval is kidnapped, tortured and killed, the United States initiates Operation Kingslayer, which sees an elite squad of “Ghosts” sent into the country to destroy Santa Blanca and uncover it’s connections to the local government. The story isn’t going to set the world alight, but it gives you enough story to give a purpose to the missions you will take on.
Right from the start, you are given a spider’s web of bosses and leaders to take down and no discernible order in which to do it in. Each province has a difficulty rating and a set of story missions, with the final mission being to take down the head of that province. When I initially saw the map of people to take down, my mind fantasised about a Shadow of Mordor type Nemesis System; however, that is certainly not the case here. Yet the freedom to do these missions in any order is refreshing and adds to the open nature of the game.
Wildlands is far from perfect, but it’s addictive Multiplayer and impressive scope is enough to keep me wanting to go back in for one more mission, with the prospect of updates introducing a PvP mode and more I can see Wildlands spending a lot more time in my Xbox. I will say that the sheer size of the game means I haven’t 100% finished the game, but this review was written after 30 hours with it.
- Addictive Multiplayer
- Huge varied open world
- Tons of content
- Texture pop ins and bugs
- Poor Vehicular Handling
- Not much mission variety