Where the wild things are.
It’s been a while since I actually played a Ghost Recon game. As in, the last one I touched was Advanced Warfighter 2. Well over 10 years. But GRAW and GRAW2 were some of my favorite games on the 360 back in the day. I then quickly fell out of war shooters and gravitated towards RPGs. Now, the new Ghost Recon is here, and while it keeps some of that old school GRAW feel, the series has evolved into a much larger, faster paced style game.
Wildlands is an open world shooter where players are tasked with taking down the Santa Blanca cartel who has taken over the country of Bolivia. The Ghosts will work their way up the pecking order and make their way to the top of the food chain. It’s a long road full of tactical operations, explosions, and maybe even some hi-jinks along the way.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $59.99 with co-op friends/ $40 for single player only play
It begins in a 3rd person perspective while moving around, driving, and sneaking. When aiming down the sights of the gun, it then shifts to a 1st person perspective for more pinpoint accuracy with weapons. Accuracy is very important in Wildlands. Most missions begin as a sneaking mission where not being spotted is usually the best way to go. If players are spotted, they can brute force their way through guns blazing, but this is a Ghost Recon game. That means, it a bit more realistic in its damage taking. Most enemies will go down in one or two shots, but so will the player characters. Being tactical and thinking ahead is not only rewarded, but also a requirement for many missions in Wildlands.
Speaking of planning ahead, Wildlands gives players tools to do just that. Equipped with some pretty good binoculars as well as a fantastic remote controlled drone, players can mark enemies, strategic locations, and other vital things in a possible warzone. After surveying the area, players can then split up and take on the area with different vantage points and perspectives. It really adds a lot to each encounter and when one goes off without a hitch, it feels so satisfying.
In order to get missions that progress the main story, players must first gather intelligence on the boss of the area. These are spread throughout the map and are usually guarded by a small group of enemies in a fortified location. After gathering intel, players can then take on missions that will eventually lead to taking down one of the major players in the Santa Blanca cartel. It’s a nice progression system that keeps the players going while keeping things interesting. Along the way, players can also take on side missions that usually have players either stealing a helicopter or car and taking it somewhere, or activating something in an area and holding off waves of enemies for a short period of time. These, while fun, can get a bit monotonous after a while due to the lack of variety.
All of these missions offer up experience points the player will use to level up. When leaving up, players gain skill points they can use to upgrade their Ghost in multiple categories. They can improve their gunplay, physical abilities, their drone, and much more. There is a caveat to that. Players can’t just have the skill point. Each upgrade requires materials along with the skill point. These include fuel, food, medical supplies, and others. These can all be found in the world. They show up on the map and mini map when the players get close to them. Simply walk up to them, tag them and they are added to the supplies. It’s another collectible that is there to make the game feel a bit longer. Sure, it’s padding, but it’s not too bad. On top of all that, players can find and unlock new weapons they can use along with new attachments for them using the gunsmith mechanic that has been known for the past Ghost Recon games. The customization is actually really impressive and each gun will feel and act different depending on what players have equipped.
Now, you may have noticed, I have written this entire review talking about “the players” that’s because I’m talking about Wildlands in the sense that multiple people will be playing this co-op. Let’s be honest here, Wildlands was meant to be played with friends. There most certainly is a single player mode here where the squad is controlled by the AI. While it works for the most part, I played a good four hours in single player and decided I should wait for my friends to come online to play with me. The friendly AI leaves much to be desired in that sense. They are many times slow to react, do very stupid things that jeopardize many missions, and overall just don’t coordinate with the player as well as having other players helping out. While it is not unplayable in single player, it is ten times more fun with some buddies online.
Visually, this game is stunning. The attention to detail with the environments, like fish jumping out of the water as we drive by in a boat, or how smoke looks through the headlights of a car, is pretty amazing. Not to mention, the draw distance is some of the best I have seen in a video game.
While the story is serviceable, the dialog in this game is cringe worthy at times. It’s not the delivery itself, it’s what they’re talking about and how it is implemented. There are constant stories being told while driving or flying to a mission that end up either being dumb or the equivalent of a dad joke. And hearing every person talk about cocaine like it’s both a person/god just makes me shake my head.
There are a few technical issues I have with the game. Wildlands has some glitches. Sometimes enemies will get stuck in the world. Sometimes they physically won’t show up in the world yet can still shoot me, and many times they just materialize out of thin air while I’m running around a mission area. That’s never a fun time, especially when the game revolves around getting the drop on enemies.
I can’t finish this review without talking about the micro-transactions. From the very beginning, players can purchase with real money boosters that allow them and their squad mates more XP for missions. These boosters are time limited. There are also multiple weapon and skin packs that can be purchased as well. For the most part, they are cosmetic and since this is either a single player or co-op game, boosting one’s XP isn’t that big of a deal. It’s not like I’m gaining a competitive edge over people I’m going against. I’m basically paying for cheat codes.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a rather fun co-op game. It’s made for co-op and should be played in co-op. While I’m against the solo play, I will say that solo players will have some rough times trying to get the AI to cooperate with you. But with a squad of four players, tagging enemies, syncing shots, and doing crazy stunts like jumping out of a helicopter onto and enemy base just to see what will happen is what really makes this game special. There are some issues here and there, and while the game can be difficult, it feels fair for the most part. The run and gun shooter fans may be put off from it, but I highly suggest Wildlands to players that are looking for a fun co-op shooter with some more tactical aspects. There’s a lot here for anyone who likes making their own fun in a giant sandbox.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.