Review – Ghost Recon: Wildlands
I’ve played over 30 hours of Ghost Recon Wildlands on PC and still haven’t managed to finish the main story. I just don’t have the willpower to go on.
Let me start with something positive: the game is, at times, beautiful to look at, with so much detail in the world and some great lighting that really shines through, especially the rays in jungle areas. You can tell Ubisoft has spent a lot of time making the world as detailed and immersive as possible. The setup is also solid. You play as an elite force known as the Ghosts, sent into Bolivia to take down the Santa Blanca Drug Cartel by any means necessary. To take them down you will have to destabilize the key pillars of their network: “Production, Security, Smuggling and Influence”. Once you’ve done enough damage you can take out the big boss, “El Sueno”. But these are only smaller things, and that’s about all I can praise Wildlands for. Everything else, from the scale of the map, poor AI, terrible level design, and repetitiveness, bring this all crashing down.
The first cutscene promises you can choose your targets and how to take them out, but that’s not entirely true: it’s all predefined missions, and the only choice you have is in which order you’ll do them. Killing a boss doesn’t have any effect on the world at all. The only other real choice is if you decide to go loud or quiet, but there are no consequences to either choice.
If you decide to go loud, prepare for one of the worst cover mechanics I’ve seen since the first Mass Effect: it’s auto-cover, meaning that if you are close enough to cover, your character will just slide into it, even if you don’t want to. It’s got such a clunky feel to it I’d rather them not implement a cover system at all. Pretty much all the guns in the game, apart from sniper rifles, feel the same. The combat is just boring: enemies are very predictable and there isn’t much strategy or thinking behind it for a Tom Clancy game. All you need to do is just take cover and kill stuff. For a game franchise that tries to be tactical and intelligent, this is going well in the opposite direction.
Stealth is a tiny bit better: you get a feeling you’re playing Phantom Pain or, better yet, a less polished version of it. Enemy AI is inconsistent. Sometimes enemies will see you across the base and sometimes they won’t, even when you are right near them. Playing stealthy is also much easier: camp on a hill and take out whoever you can with a buddy, or just use the insanely overpowered Sync Shot that you can use with the Ghost AI.
Wildlands features an insanely large map which is split up into 20 provinces. Traversing through these provinces is a pain in that area thanks to the terrible driving physics that are somehow worse than they were in Watch Dogs. Luckily enough, cars aren’t the only option, as you’ve got planes, boats, helicopters and bikes, even though all of them are terrible to pilot. Each province has up to 6 missions, but in order to unlock each mission you have to run around the map and collect intel files. The mission variety itself is just as annoying. It’s either destroy, kill, capture, escort or defend, and this is the structure until you’ve done everything; after the first 2 or 3 provinces you complete, this quickly becomes a chore.
Escort missions are the worst since the person you’re escorting doesn’t want to get in the same vehicle as you, and will often crash his/her own car or drive right into the enemies. There will be many times in which a vehicle hasn’t even spawned yet so the escorted person will just try to run to his/her destination and simply die when the multiple waves of generic enemies approach, leading to several frustrating mission restarts. The defend missions can often be abusive: In one mission I had to “defend” a server room. What this means in Wildlands is survive until the timer runs out, and in order to complete this mission I simply hid in the back of a car (where the enemies couldn’t find me) for 3 minutes, on the hardest difficulty. There’s only a handful of missions that I played that were a bit of fun.
The side missions aren’t any better, as you only have the choice of stealing a vehicle or defending a radio antenna and they simply give you upgrade points for the poorly implemented skill tree. You can choose from several upgrade paths such as Drones, Grenades, Squad, etc. but the problem is that you won’t use very much of the gadgets except for the drone. You can also upgrade your abilities such as health, stamina, damage resistance and bleedout time (this should have been done via a gear system much like Rainbow Six Vegas in my opinion).
Then we get the voice acting, characters and story. . . This is some of the worst written dialogue I’ve heard in any game in the past 5 years. “Sh**balls”, says my character for upwards of the thousandth time, as my car slides down the side of a cliff or as I’m getting shot at. Someone at Ubisoft thought dialogue like this comes off as cool, but instead it gets downright cringeworthy. Your squad AI have banter while exploring the world when playing solo but it feels like you’re dragging around kids. They have names apparently, but you’ll forget them the moment you turn the game off. And finally, we have Karen Bowman, the most unlikable character in this mess of a game. Multiple times when she appears in cutscenes, I burst out laughing, not because the dialogue is intentionally funny, but because said dialogue sounds pathetic whilst trying to sound cool.
With a friend, Wildlands becomes ever so slightly more bearable thanks to the lack of annoying AI dialogue. You both can just make fun of the game by doing so, but in no way would recommend it.
Wildlands is not worth your time or money, with repetitive missions, cringe-inducing dialogue, and just plain bad gameplay. There are much much better games out right now. Even Mass Effect: Andromeda is leagues above this in every aspect. Do yourself a favor and skip this game, unless you hate yourself. In that case, just fire away.
Reviewed on PC.
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One