Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is both a heck of an achievement, and an exercise in frustration. It’s clearly the most ambitious Ghost Recon game ever, but it’s also a title that needed just a little more time in the oven to reach its full potential. The intent is admirable: an always online, but solo-able open world adventure across the entirety of Bolivia on a mission to systematically dismantle a ruthless drug cartel. There’s so much content in Wildlands that I often felt overwhelmed with options. I thrive on those kinds of games, I’m a completionist. But then things like PC crashes, framerate issues, and buggy driving got in the way of my enjoyment. Little things keep a very good game from being truly great. Here then is our Ghost Recon Wildlands review.
Bolivia is Your Oyster
In a lot of ways, GRW is akin to The Division having a baby with Just Cause 3. You’ve got this massive open world, over a dozen varying regions to explore, and you can do it all by yourself or with up to three friends. I actually find myself enjoying Wildlands more than The Division, simply because the large open world feels that much more compelling and free. Cars, boats, planes, bikes, ATVs, helicopters – they’re all here. You can swim, too if you’re into that sort of thing. A jump button is still missing, but the automatic cover system works well and using Space bar to vault obstacles is enough of a jump for me.
Where The Division felt too fenced in, Wildlands feels vast and nearly limitless at the outset. It helps too that the game’s shooting is a lot more like traditional Ghost Recon than the bullet-sponge affair of Division or even Destiny. That’s because Wildlands is a shooter first, with RPG aspects second. You’ll still collect a ton of skills, level up your character, and even modify your guns. But a head shot is a head shot, and bad guys go down when they’re blasted in the skull – imagine that.
The Action is Tight
I don’t mean that in the colloquial way. I’m not that cool. The gunplay, cover, grenades, strategy – it’s all really well put together in Wildlands. I love roaming about Bolivia with my NPC allies, and my real life friends – piling into cars, driving while they shoot. Taking control of helicopters and skydiving down into a hostile gang base. Swimming underwater in the cover of night as I sneak up on an unsuspecting refinery. There are loads of missions and side missions, which are all worth doing. Resources and XP boost your skills and eventually make your character a walking weapon of death far more intimidating at the later levels than in the early areas.
The gunplay, cover, grenades, strategy – it’s all really well put together in Wildlands.
What’s not so good is the driving. Cars and bikes alike handle terribly, and it’s a good thing that you don’t need to stay on roads because I’m not sure most people could. It’s far more fun to go off-road and watch the crazy physics do weird things to your car as you bounce about the terrain. Once you unlock a few rebel bases with planes and helicopters, you won’t really need wheeled transportation anyway. Between flight and instant travel, cars become a thing you use only when missions demand it.
So Much to Do, Seriously
Did I mention that GRW has a lot of content? Because it does. There are dozens, or even hundreds of hours of gameplay here. The initial region of Bolivia you start in feels confined due to mountains, but once you move into the other areas, you see how wide open and varied the game world can become. And littered across each zone is a cavalcade of things to collect, rebels to free, bases to take, intel to gain, skill points to gather, weapons to unlock and… you get the picture. Ubisoft has become almost too good at filling their open world games with stuff to do, to the point where it almost feels like too much at times. And due to the hand-holding nature of how you’re let to and from content, it can often feel a little routine.
That’s Why You Should Bring Friends
Ghost Recon is a fun game when you’re solo. It’s a far more fun game when you’re with friends, or even strangers. You’re given a squad of four in the campaign for a reason – this is a mission best shared with friends. Friends help the unexpected happen, help keep you from just tracking down the next Point of Interest, and they help the game feel more spontaneous. Even if no one you know or game with is playing GRW, just sign up to be grouped with strangers. It works seamlessly, and all your progress is saved when you play. It’s really a fantastic achievement of co-op gameplay and we can only hope future editions of Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and others have a similar set-up. There’s no PVP yet, but it’s planned for post-launch, along with seasonal challenges, and two major expansions.
Final Ghost Recon Wildlands Review Thoughts
Wildlands is a shooter with a brain. Unlike most shooters, you’re rewarded for careful approaches, timed shots, and planned executions. You drone becomes a necessary ally, just as the Rebels become a wonderful assistant to your village onslaughts. Killing civilians isn’t just collateral damage, but it can actually cause a game over. It’s rare for an action game where anything goes to include that sort of reminder that not everyone is the bad guy. Wildlands could have used a more interesting story and less “dude bro” voice over for the main squad. It also could have used more time baking to right performance and optimization woes. If you’re getting tired of the open world games, as some have claimed, it might not be for you. But if you take a chance on the latest Tom Clancy offering from Ubisoft, you just might be pleasantly surprised by a fulfilling experience and a $60 game that gives you dozens of hours of gameplay alone or with friends. Recommended.
Editor’s Note: Our copy of Ghost Recon Wildlands was reviewed on PC, with a Uplay copy provided by Ubisoft PR.