Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Review: Definitive Tactical Shooter
After the two record-breaking beta tests, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is finally hitting the shelves in full force. The two locations that were available during the testing period did no justice to the story of this open-world tactical third-person shooter, and now it is clear that there is a lot more to Wildlands than it seemed at first.
The single player campaign took on a whole new meaning with complete cutscenes, over a hundred missions, and other objectives that provide over 50 hours of gameplay. That is without mentioning the upcoming 4v4 tactical PvP mode that'll be in the next free patch.
As of now, the game allows you to explore 21 provinces of Bolivia in a crew of four special operators, who try to extinguish the mighty boss of all drug trafficking in the country -- El Sueno. Read on to learn what the complete Ghost Recon: Wildlands experience feels like.
Warning: Minor spoilers ahead!
The Story and the Characters
El Sueno -- the main villain of the game.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands starts off with a beautiful cinematic cutscene showing the final boss of the game, the head of the Santa Blanca drug cartel, revealing his plans to take the entire country under his control… by producing and selling cocaine. It’s definitely an ambitious goal, but El Sueno’s violent measures have stirred an uprising in the form of a rebellious group called Kataris 26.
This rebel organization is not the only one that wants to see El Sueno in his grave, there is also La Unidad -- the Bolivia government’s own special operations unit. But this “love triangle” is intruded by the fourth force -- the US-based special unit “Ghosts.” It consists of four operators and their contact in Bolivia, Karen Bowman.
The reason why the Ghosts got involved in the first place was the murder of the DEA agent Ricardo Sandoval by the Santa Blanca cartel during a bombing of the US embassy. Since then the cartel has achieved the status of a terrorist organization, and now it’s your turn to get El Sueno either arrested or killed.
That's right -- there are two endings in Ghost Recon: Wildlands depending on which course of action you take with this drug lord.
Kataris 26 and Ghosts work together to get to the very top of Santa Blanca by using any means they can, including the help of civilians. But there is more to this story than it seems in the beginning, and certain points will reveal themselves only at the very end.
Missions and Objectives
TACMAP tags all unlocked missions and objectives.
If you had the chance to play the open beta, then you are already familiar with the first two areas that have been unlocked for free exploration. And as such, rumors circulated the web that in the full game, all areas would be open from the get-go. However, the story campaign follows a classical route, and you must go through a certain sequence of events and discover new areas one by one.
Santa Blanca cartel operates in all 21 provinces of Bolivia, each of which has its own function. In the beginning you’ll be dealing with El Sueno’s security, then you will get to the actual cocaine production and smuggling facilities. But the best part about El Sueno and his partners is the way they can influence politicians, and how that reflects on your missions.
One of the best features in the game is the HUD customization menu that allows you to turn on/off the elements of the display.
The game starts in the province of Itacua with the task to save the leader of Kataris 26, Amaru. The rest of the missions are mostly hunts for the El Sueno’s minions.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of driving involved in this game, since the map is absolutely huge and envelops the entire country. When you drive between the objectives by capturing and interrogating the small bosses, you unlock side missions and fast travel points that really come in handy.
Each objective can be approached in many different ways and from various vantage points. You start by sending a drone over the area that detects and tags enemies on your mini-map. Then, you can choose how to approach each objective and give orders to your other three partners by using the command menu.
As soon as the mission is over, you unlock new skills and move to the next objective. It does get a bit repetitive at times, but that’s the nature of this type of games.
Customization and Gameplay Mechanics
Weapon menu offers tons of customization options.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands offers a freedom of choice not only when it comes to missions, but also when you prepare for them. You can customize your weapons and unlock new ones by collecting them from weapon crates, such as grenade launcher that brings more fun (and noise) to your gameplay.
If you’re more into stealth, then you may be more interested in various attachments, such as suppressors and optics for your sniper rifle. Your little drone also has the potential to get better with every new skill unlocked. For example, at one point in the game besides getting faster and having a shorter cooldown period, it will also have thermal vision enabled and the ability to create electromagnetic pulse.
There is more to this story than it seems in the beginning, and certain points will reveal themselves only at the very end.
But one of the best features in the game is the HUD customization menu that allows you to turn on/off the elements of the display. It’s a good idea to keep the mini-map that shows the enemies in location, just in case you’ve already used the drone. But you can turn everything off if the idea of going blind on the enemy’s territory excites you.
It is possible to synchronize with the rest of your crew members, if you want to take out enemies quickly and without too much noise. On your way through the enemy lines you’ll be able to snatch all sorts of resources -- from food parcels to barrels with fuel. But your main objective is always gathering intel, either through hacking or interrogating the targets.
The main idea behind the rebel group that helps Ghosts on their missions is trust. There is something to consider here, because civilians play an important role in Wildlands. For example, driving is an integral part of the game, but since the vehicle physics are not that great, it takes nothing to hit and kill a civilian that casually walks along the road. So you have to be mindful while driving.
If driving bores you to death (and it does at times), then you can switch to helicopters, and jump off with the parachute on your back.
Last Few Things
On the technical side of things.... Ubisoft delivered lots of optimization fixes during the beta period, but there are still some small performance issues in the final game. Those are especially visible during driving and visually heavy scenes (e.g. explosions). However, the developer promised to fix all these bugs with the upcoming free patch.
As usual, there are microtransactions available in the game store, where you can purchase unique gear for real money. But other than that, it’s not distracting you from the gameplay at all -- so that’s a good thing.
When it comes to co-op shooters, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a strong effort. It is much better than the last year’s The Division. The developer learned from its mistakes and made this new game really fun to play. It will definitely shine when the PvP mode arrives, but for now you can enjoy the single player campaign just as much.
It’s hard to say more about Ghost Recon: Wildlands without spoiling too much, since there are a lot of things going on in that story. But you should know that one of the endings does suggest that the sequel is already planned, and there will be more work for the Ghosts to do in the future.
Note: The code for this game was provided for review.