After pumping hours upon hours into The Division, Ghost Recon: Wildlands was for me one of the year’s most exciting releases. Now that the game has finally arrived though, does it live up to lofty expectations and deliver an experience combining all those that have come before it, or is it a bit of a let-down? The answer, really, sits somewhere in the middle.
Worked on since the summer of 2012, Wildlands takes place in a fictional Bolivia that’s overrun by the Santa Blanca Cartel who are producing and distributing huge amounts of cocaine. They’ve got the army on their side in the form of Unidad Forces; a group that will protect the Cartel and attack players on sight, with scattered rebels providing the only help to ‘The Ghosts’; a fictional group from the United States army who have been tasked with taking out the Santa Blanca Cartel once and for all.
The story’s a familiar one and certainly entertaining, especially for those who have enjoyed the likes of Netflix original series Narcos. El Sueno is the ‘Big Bad’ at the head of the cartel, and he’s a domineering figure. In order to make your way to him however, you’ll first have to take out the foundations that make up his organisation; those working in security, production, smuggling and influence. Be warned. There’s no ‘easing in’ for players with Wildlands. You’re thrust right into the action from the get-go, and forced to undergo a major learning curve if stealth isn’t your thing. Often going into a fight all guns blazing will simply see you put down in a matter of seconds.
Missions may get a little repetitive fast, but this does mean players are rewarding for continuously plugging away at strategies and plans of attack that they may have formerly made huge mistakes with. Wildlands is without a doubt best played with friends or fellow gamers picked up online. You can play through the entire campaign on your own or with a group of up to four, and the latter is certainly the most rewarding. Running through one of the biggest maps a game of this type has offered up, the landscape and surroundings are lush, filled with NPC civilians and animals alongside the Ghosts, enemies and rebels. Not enough good can be said about the views you’ll get on this map, so get your screenshot function ready when you’re not engaged in battle.
With almost five years’ work given to Wildlands however, there are a frustrating amount of bugs and glitches. Some trees and rocks can be driven straight through, while those who hit a llama with their car can expect to crash into them as if they were made of concrete. The llama will survive, spit at the car and walk off rather than becoming roadkill. It’s all very odd and really takes away from the substance the team behind the game would be hoping to build.
There were also times that I thought I was being incredibly stealthy, only to be spotted through a wall by an enemy NPC. It’s balanced out however, as your NPC teammates would often whisper tips into your ear, such as to watch out for the ‘Two Tangos located on the upper level’ – behind concrete walls and remaining quiet. I often wondered what intel my teammates had and why they were waiting so late into the day to let me know about it… Using your own binoculars and drone, you’re able to recon an area before attacking, marking any visible enemies so that tactical decisions can be made as to how to take them out. There’s now also a tactical sync shot that can be utilised – better for solo play – which means a player and three NPC teammates can take out up to four enemies within a second. There’s not a chance for any reaction, as a whole section of the enemy’s lines has been wiped out quickly and efficiently. Great for swift attacks, once you’ve got the hang of it.
Character customisation is very effective, allowing you to create your own unique character to take through the Wildlands. Weapons are also able to be modified in a variety of different ways – you could use a suppressor to try and get through missions silently, or take them off and alert enemies around you, but deal more damage while doing so.
Pay close attention to your skill tree. Almost all of the skills ensure your experience gets a little easier, as weapons become more powerful, you’re given the chance to jump out of helicopters with a parachute and much more. Nothing feels too substantial in changing the entire game, but keeping up-to-date with skills at least feels essential.
So when all is said and done, is Wildlands worth your time? If you’re a fan of those that have come before in the series, it’s definitely something you should pick up. Almost everything has been improved upon (though I did prefer the movement from cover to cover used in The Division to the attempts at stealth in this title). The story is addictive and before you’ve spent much time in the Wildlands, you’ll be itching to tick off another target on your Cartel hit list.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.