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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands review

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  • Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  • Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Dumb, fun action
  • Brilliant for co-op play
  • A vast, beautiful sandbox crammed with toys

Cons

  • Dodgy storyline with clash of tones
  • Dubious enemy AI
  • Not all that tactical or brainy

Key Features

  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Tactical third-person shooter
  • Developer: Ubisoft Paris
  • Manufacturer: Ubisoft
  • Review Price: £44.99

Available on Xbox One (reviewed), PS4 and PC

Buckle up, Ghost Recon veterans. We’re a long way from Advanced Warfighter, and not just in terms of the 6000km southwards shift from Mexico City to mountainous Bolivia.

For all that it shares GRAW’s third-person view, recon drones and four-man squad dynamics, Wildlands is another example of Ubisoft’s single-minded dedication to large-scale open-world games. Tactics take a back seat, action grabs the wheel and the whole vehicle’s heading in a familiar direction: Far Cry via Assassin’s Creed via Watch Dogs.

Even then, I’m not sure that even Ubisoft has delivered something this big, dumb or bombastic before.

Poking holes in Wildlands isn’t difficult. In fact, it’s on the fish/barrel, candy/baby level of challenge. The storyline is every bit as clichéd and stupid as you might expect, making you part of an elite unit working deep in drug cartel territory, taking down the cartel piece by piece. There are efforts at nuance, irony and satire, but these clash with the gung-ho spirit of the action.

It’s as if Wildlands can’t decide whether to be Bad Boys 2, Narcos or Sicario, so it just tries to be all of them at once. There’s also something really cheap and nasty about the way it uses brutality and violence, as if hanging corpses and tortured bodies represent nothing more than suitable set dressing for a villain’s lair. There’s nothing here you won’t have seen in a Call of Duty, but so what? That’s not exactly a byword for intelligent storytelling, either.

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There are problems with the gameplay, too. As we noted in the preview, Wildlands hints at a tactical dimension without ever really committing to it. Sure, you can use your binoculars or a drone to spot ‘tangos’, mark them for death and synchronise shots – and there’s something undeniably cool about pulling that off. Yet your enemies are dim-witted, prone to dumb corner-camping strategies and spectacularly unobservant, to the point that shooting a helicopter down so that it crashes into a narcotics farm won’t necessarily stir the neighbourhood killers into action.

I’d say that they’re all high on their own supply, except they’re meant to be chewing coca, not nodding off on dope.

Your AI-controlled squad-mates are made of sterner stuff, capable of blasting away baddies and reviving you when you’re downed. However, they can’t do much more than that, and it’s not long before your limited command set begins to feel like it’s holding you back.

Beyond this there are minor technical issues that see dialogue from one mission appearing when you tackle a later one, or where a collision between a cartel soldier and an SUV might see an assault rifle sticking out of the bonnet for the duration of the ride. At one point, my protagonist was wondering around with a sniper rifle emerging from his chest, and couldn’t shoulder it to take a shot. Bizarre and annoying.

Ubigame-haters will take their usual grumpy satisfaction in knowing that Ubisoft has once again stuffed a map full of side-missions, systems and different collectibles without necessarily bothering to make them interesting or distinctive. Don’t worry if you botch stealing medical supplies, hijacking that helicopter or grabbing and interrogating that cartel lieutenant; another one will be along in a minute, and another one not too long after that.

And why does a game where stealth and cover are so crucial have such dated systems for both? The cover system isn’t half as smart or flexible as The Division’s. Stealth-wise, it’s comfortably behind both Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs.

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In short, you might expect me to say I hate Ghost Recon: Wildlands, but the horrifying truth is that I kind of love it. Why? Well, it really comes down to a couple of things.

Firstly, Bolivia. The world Ubisoft has created here is just vast, taking in a range of diverse environments and ecosystems: mountains, jungles, swamplands, desert, shanty towns, military bases, cocaine factories and upscale lakeside resorts. It’s fun to get around, too, whether you’re sliding a dirt-bike around the hairpin corners of some narrow, muddy mountain track, bouncing an SUV down a rocky hillside or racing a drug lord’s stolen sports car along the highways at ludicrous speeds.

And that’s just the land vehicles; there are zodiacs and powerboats to speed around in, not to mention helicopters to hijack and planes to pinch. If you’re a fan of stupid vehicle high-jinx in a sandbox playground, you’ll love Wildlands – and it all looks absolutely beautiful to boot.

Secondly, Wildlands has a more addictive and engaging gameplay cycle than some recent Ubisoft open-world games. Instead of finding towers to discover new collectibles and missions, you search for intel which will lead you to story missions where you’ll steadily frustrate the cartel’s plans. Bolivia has been carved up into regions, each with its own theme and its own cartel boss, and this gives each its own identity, so that you’ll end up smashing up casinos and running sex surveillance scams in one, then tracking down gold caches and fighting a weird, witchy cult in another.

At times, Wildlands feels like a bunch of different episodes crammed together, but with the caveat that you can flit between them just by getting in a car or leaping in a helicopter.

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Ghost Recon: Wildlands

While Wildlands can’t match The Division’s compulsive shoot, loot and upgrade cycle, you can still enjoy levelling up, unlocking new skills and abilities and discovering and modifying guns, taking them apart piece by piece using the Gunsmith interface Ubi introduced with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier to tweak each and every one for your own style of play.

Most of all, though, Wildlands gets the action right. Driving around like a maniac, blasting away at cartel goons is a lot of fun. Sneaking through the swamplands to find hidden prototype drug-mule submarines can be tense and exciting, as you pick off your enemies from a distance while dodging hunting 'copters. The same goes for infiltrating military bases, instructing your team to take out snipers while you search for a lurking cartel boss. Even at its silliest or most cliché'd, Wildlands is wildly entertaining.

If that's true played solo, it hits a new level when you bring in other players. The whole shebang is designed for four-player co-op play, and you can join with friends or activate the automated matchmaking at any time you like. It’s flexible, too. It doesn’t matter if all four of you are fighting in different provinces or if two of you run one mission while the other two run another; Wildlands is cool with that.

The automated matchmaking does its best to pair you with players that have similar play-styles, at a similar level and with similar objectives on the go, so if you can’t play with friends – the ideal option – playing with strangers shouldn’t be a waste of time.

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Of course, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes you can find yourself tackling the same infiltrate-and-abduct mission over and over with some moron triggering the insta-fail alarm every time. At other times one player will pull down an army on your head before quitting out to leave you alone to face the music. But when you’re playing with friends or with a great bunch of strangers, Wildlands can be one part ridiculous to two parts sublime.

At one point I was close to death’s door trying to escape an almost endless swarm of cartel sicarios when a team-mate suddenly appeared in an armoured car. I jumped into the gunner’s position and it was payback time. I did one tricky infiltration mission alongside a pair of snipers, with me and another player running in to do the dirty work while they gave cover and picked off enemies around us. I’ve been part of a wrecking crew that dropped into a cocaine factory by helicopter before ripping the place apart with grenades and machine guns.

It can be crazy, chaotic or even just plain carnage, but there’s something about this over-egged, ultraviolent sandbox that just works.

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Verdict

I’m not suggesting for a minute that Wildlands is one of the open-world greats. It hasn’t got the style or attention to detail of Metal Gear Solid 5 or the depth of The Witcher 3. It’s not as rich, articulate or funny as GTA V – and any comparisons there aren’t helped by a single radio station that starts to repeat itself within the first few hours of play. Arguably, its sheer size and scale is a bit exhausting, both over long bouts of play and the campaign as a whole.

But if you’re looking for a really big, extravagant sandbox game that’s great fun solo and hilarious in co-op, don’t be shy. Wildlands isn’t Ghost Recon as we know it, but it’s the wildest party in town.

Overall Score

8

Mark Coull

June 22, 2015, 1:30 pm

This game is hopefully the game we've all been waiting for since GRAW2, future soldier was ok but nowhere near the game the GRAW series is.
Hopefully 16player coop is back along with 8v8 adversarial or more players, open world's in this game could be legendary. The enemies could be hundreds in COOP multiplayer modes in separate locations.
And I hope they bring back player hosting, hosting in future soldier was total crap. At least with player hosting a lot more people have high Internet connections now.
#GR4LIFE

justerthought

January 16, 2017, 7:11 pm

Thankfully they dumped the linear special ops gun nerd rubbish and went sand box open world. The "tango" crap is so childish even when used by real soldiers.

This game is going to be great if they can iron out the clunky glitchy stuff. One half of me says they won't when I look at AC Unity, the other half says yes when I see that the game is learning a lot from the excellent Far Cry series and GTAV.

This could either sell big and be a huge success, or be a total flop with angry gamers doing a No Man's Sky over the hype. It really all does depend on the polish they can pack into the game on the consoles at 1080p with a smooth frame rate.

If they can fix those clunky gay running animations and the glitchy characters clipping through the vehicle roofs and walls, then they have a winner. The gameplay looks great because it's leaning heavily on emergent Far Cry stuff and it looks like the longevity will be there if we are allowed to replay missions at our choosing using a different approach.

justerthought

January 16, 2017, 7:59 pm

16 player coop? What planet are you from. With coop, the least players the better otherwise it just turns into a free for all with zero teamwork. A small team allow players to get to know each other and work together. You need to the learn that 'bigger is not better.'

4 players is the maximum, but as Uncharted 3 coop proved, 3 players is the sweet spot. But even ignoring the lack of teamwork with too many players, there is the technical limit of fitting all the activity down a network pipeline without overloading it and resulting in serious latency and ignored player bullets.

Uncharted 4 coop is a perfect example even though it remains at 3 players. There is so much action going on at the high difficulty settings and latter stages that the game hits a glass ceiling for most gamers. The player's connection gets flooded with traffic causing bullets to be ignored, resulting in over aggressive AI acting like a bullet sponge. That is not fun for gamers and extremely frustrating, with every one crying "killed by bullshit".

A game like this should be designed to work well for all the people who buy the game. Not just the few that can afford an expensive low latency ISP connection and just want to go free for all.

Joshua N

February 6, 2017, 9:35 pm

I had exactly the opposite of this reviewers experience.
I found the team AI to be pretty sharp if left alone and they completed the orders I gave them.
Sync-shot, which lets you assign a target to each squad-mate and do 4-man simultaneous kills worked perfectly.
However it is very clear that this title was made for co-op.
Having friends to roll with made scouting and tactical base take-downs an absolute blast. Sometimes it required a bit of patience to tag all the enemies or get everyone positioned for the execution of whatever plan you hatch but as Hannibal said- "I love it when a plan comes together." And when it does(which was frequent in my play through) you just feel like a badass.
And I genuinely enjoyed the design of the towns and outposts. Some of which are massive and almost all have a great degree of verticality. with some buildings that stretch 4 or more floors.
I suppose everyone will have their own opinion but my friends and I can't wait to squad up and really open it up.

Oh and vehicle battles are crazy fun! Hectic, a little chaotic, and wildly exciting.

kyrill .

February 14, 2017, 4:42 pm

I noticed that it is for me the first game that uses most of the time 100% CPU (
intel I5 4690k @4.0 Gig.) power next to 100% GPU ( GTX 1080)
AI only takes CPU power. Make sure your CPU must be at least a good gaming CPU, and no programs in the background.

Rob Halstead

March 3, 2017, 1:03 pm

I ignored this review as soon as i saw the words 'PS4 vs XBox comparison'... like that matters ever to anyone !

James Segrue

March 5, 2017, 9:10 pm

The 12 hours I put into the Ghost recon open beta, I had more fun than the 30 + hours I put into Watch Dogs 2, the main reason is it does everything better than Watch Dogs 2 bar the characters, in WD2 they are more interesting, GRWL has better combat/shooting, WD2's has possibly the worst combat/shooting ever in an open world game, better driving, WD2 is almost game breaking and a huge step back from WD, a better open world with way more realism and 10 times better graphics. 4 player coop is where Ghost recon will last, when they say play how you want they really mean it, as the controls are almost perfect it is really down to the player/players to make this game interesting and if you are a boring person you will play it boringly and be bored doing it, if you are creative and use your imagination this game might be the best openworld multiplayer shooter of all time for you. Will have to wait and see on realise when the entire map unlocks and soon there will be PVP so GTA online will have a rival.

FenixNoT

March 7, 2017, 11:00 am

That's more likely an issue with Windows 10 and a very common one - google Win 10 100 disk usage. It's usually the superfetch service or windows defender. AI does not specifically use your CPU. I don't know who told you that but it's not true. Even were it true the AI in Wildlands is very basic, so it is definitely not that. It's either a bug you experienced with the beta, or it has nothing to do with the game.

It should not be using 100% of your CPU as I have an i5 3570K @4.2GHz and the completed game (and the beta) use about 60% of the CPU when i'm in game. I'm using the High preset. With all post processing effects like AA etc cranked up full.

Bob

March 7, 2017, 2:08 pm

WD2 depth and mission variety? HAHAHAHAHA. Was the same gameplay mechanic and mission over and over and over and over and over

J.J. Kabaluk

March 11, 2017, 10:15 pm

Finally, a down to earth assessment of this game. I am also having a blast playing this game. It has all the elements and themes that I appreciate in a game. The environment appears very realistic, however, there could've been more added to the local populace to add a more organic feel (much like Assassin's Creed). The game plays very much like a B-movie Action flick which is appealing.

dr3yec

March 13, 2017, 1:48 am

This game sucks. Glad there was a beta. Saved my 60 bucks

Martin Lee

March 19, 2017, 3:33 am

I've been playing since the release date and I'm still putting in crazy hours and can't wait until the dlc releases. Your ability to create your own strategy is a big plus solo/co op doesn't matter. Great game looks great wish the cars handled better well I wish all of the vehicles handled better but you adjust sort of lol. I played alot of GTA so it was weird at first. Upgraded skills are awesome some of my Favs:
#1 Emp Drone/Explosive Drone
#2 Sync Shot
#3 Rebel support Spotting and Guns for Hire
You can do a lot with these alone. There are some things that aren't that attractive about the game but its worth every buck! Much better than Infinite Warfare IMO even though they are totally different in game style and gameplay.

Fierro

March 28, 2017, 4:49 pm

TRUSTED REVIEWS? FCK YOU

Seventh Angel

April 4, 2017, 5:53 pm

Still better than Horizon Zero Dawn. That game gives you only three weapons the entire time. The quests are repetitive and the story line is boring. Even as a women I'm annoyed by all the Feminist undertones - all the males are stupid or evil, all the women are brave and honorable, etc.

Despite some obvious flaws I kinda liked Ghost Recon Wildlands because I always expected it to be a little bit like all the other Ghost Recon games. Like all the Call of Duty's or Battlefield's aren't somewhat similar either?

But Horizon Zero Dawn was hyped up by the liberal feminist media and by far the most overrated game I've ever played. 3 weapons, 6 outfits, you can't go into buildings or interact with anything in the open-world environment, and a few typical side quests fighting the same 8 enemies and crafting arrows for hours. Yay! LOL

The video game industry is becoming more and more generic and politically correct.

Darth Kaltavius

April 21, 2017, 1:16 am

I enjoy this game and also the Division..

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