By Ofisil 12.03.2017 1
The new tenth entry in the Ghost Recon franchise was announced a looong time ago, but it made lots of gamers turn their heads when it did. It promised one of the largest open-world environments; it promised multiple ways of playing; it promised an experience that was built for co-op. Now that Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands is here, does it deliver? The answer is: yes, it sure does… but does exchanging the more tactical, level-after-level structure of the past for a large sandbox wipe out the heart and soul of the series? Enter the Bolivian Wildlands with Cubed3 and find out.
Once the game assets finally decide to load (as of now, HDDs will tend to have to work overtime), you get to create your badass, 'Merica's finest, super-secretive Ghost - a dialogue sequence that is a taste of things to come, with tons of available accessories to play dress-up with, ranging from simple clothing attire, backpacks and tattoos, to bandanas, full-face masks, and ghillie suits.
Upon entering the narco-state of Bolivia, another thing is made clear: Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes place in a big, big world, and one that's quite varied and beautiful, as a well as one that needs quite the strong rig to handle. Finally, typical of Ubisoft, it's a pretty HUD-heavy title, with all sorts of markers and info popping up all over the place, but it's good to know that the developer included plenty of options to tone this down, or even completely erase it.
Needless to say, though, that Ubisoft's latest foray into the Ghost Recon franchise feels a lot different this time around. Its vast borderless landscapes and overall sandbox nature of the whole thing make this feel more like Grand Theft Auto, and indeed, the gameplay generally leans more towards that; you are able to steal all sorts of vehicles, roam the world as you please, and begin a mission - be it a main or side one - whenever you feel like it.
Moreover, this also has some of the flaws of many open-world games, and especially those from the hands of Ubisoft, in that it all feels like a repetitive checklist. While there are lots of provinces to explore, with plenty of items to find, supplies to tag, skills to unlock, and, of course, missions to do, the problem is that all these soon start to feel the same from beginning to end, with most missions presenting a few variations of a handful of themes, be it assaulting a base, chasing a bad guy, or protecting an NPC.
Sure, Wildlands lets the player decide which way to handle things, so it's possible to be stealthy, use a sniper rifle from a distance, explore enemy territory with a drone, or go full Rambo on the enemy's behinds. There's a certain mechanic at hand, however, that's so efficient that it will be used all the freaking time, making it all feel even more repetitive. This goes by the name of Sync-shot, and it basically lets you "tag" foes, and then order your AI mates to shoot them in unison. It definitely feels good… but it almost renders alternative strategies useless.
Of course, this was always meant to be played co-operatively. Sure, the single-player mode doesn't feel cheap or anything, but while your CPU-controlled comrades are generally less stupid than the ones in most games, this is infinitely better when playing with three friends and trying more things out. One "minor" side note, though: when playing with only one more person, the two leftover AI soldiers disappear, which means that the player will have to handle the same amount of enemies with half the manpower - although even one human can make a big difference.
If there's one section where Wildlands' fail is a bit stronger, it's the narrative. Sure, this is mainly about the gameplay, but an immersive world that feels alive and breathing is always a welcome thing… but that doesn't happen here. Apart from a non-existent plot (just kill the head honchos until you reach the main fat cat), this has a bit of an identity crisis, as it doesn't know what it is, awkwardly running back and forth between not-that-funny and easy-going, to serious and weakly realistic.
Negativity put aside, this is definitely not a bad action title - in fact, it can be quite enjoyable at times, especially on the higher difficulty settings, and even more with a disabled HUD. It plays well, it looks great, and its non-linear nature certainly feels very good… It's just that most of the flaws that tend to come along with open-world games are present here, too. In conclusion: wait for a price-drop before embracing your inner CIA-payrolled gun nut.
The freedom imbued in the gargantuan and beautiful world of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands' Bolivia sure makes this a worthwhile purchase, but only if you plan to enjoy it with a couple of friends, and only if willing to put up with the standard issues of most sandbox titles, like repetition, repetition, and, most importantly, repetition.