Open world games are as common now as the 3D platformer was in the late 90’s. It’s become almost the standard model with certain titles setting the benchmark on how to achieve success within your sandbox surroundings. And for the first time, Ubisoft have brought the Ghost Recon series in to possibly one of the most vast, open spaces you can currently experience. But creating a free roaming area does not automatically mean a game will be a success. It’s the story, tools you are equipped with and opportunities that present themselves which ultimately pave the way for a standout title.
The last title in the Ghost Recon series launched back in 2012 with Future Solider, but the setting couldn’t be further apart. The year is 2019, and you’ve been sent with your team to Bolivia. Your mission? Take down the fearsome Santa Blanca Cartel. Led by El Sueno, a clichéd tattooed, bald headed drug baron, who has ultimately gained control of the entire country through pay offs. Allowing what can only be described as a mass operation of drug creation, dealership and crime. The ghosts are only sent to get involved however, after the murder of Ricardo Sandoval; an agent of the US Embassy. With so much corruption and innocent people suffering, it wasn’t until this murder of Sandoval that the US decided to do something.
Before you jump into the game you’re given options to create your own character. It’s not a comprehensive creation tool by any means. Yes, you can choose your sex, a handful of stock faces and hairstyles ect. But that’s about as far as it goes. Wildlands isn’t about a full-on customisation experience though. They needn’t have added it at all but it’s a nice subtle touch that gives the player a more personalised experience.
You’re let loose in Bolivia from the start. With the country set into specific regions, a quick check of the map will show you just how vast the wilderness of this game world is. And one of the first things you’ll notice is just how beautifully crafted the world is. Whilst there are a few rough edges close up, the splendour of mountain views, ripples in the river currents and the shimmer of the moonlights gaze demonstrates that Wildlands is up there with the best in terms of graphics. You could just go exploring straight away, but to progress, the story missions stick within each region, which ultimately ease you into the game and its environment.
Being a squad based tactical shooter, you need to plan and use the tools at your disposal wisely to succeed. Go running in, all guns blazing to an enemy camp will no doubt end in your demise. Stealth is the key to success. You may even find yourself spending minutes waiting for the right moment to pounce. But luckily, this never feels like a chore. You can order your team to go on in and open up fire, hold ground or with the use of technology in form of a drone, pick out targets to sync with your team and order them to take them out.
Progression through the story will see you take down various aspects of the Santa Blanca Cartel in stages. Key members are ultimately reached in a specific region once you’ve completed all other missions for that area in your quest to locate and eliminate El Sueno. You can opt to do this alone, or possibly where Wildlands shines best, in co-op mode with a group of friends. There’s a satisfying feeling to taking down your foes when working with others as to how is best to approach a situation. Without planning and more importantly, communicating, you’ll struggle to succeed.
Missions themselves vary, but can become somewhat repetitive. This isn’t unusual for a game of this magnitude. But to counteract the feeling of doing a similar job, it’s the tools you’ve got at your disposal to plan and execute each mission that lead to a fulfilling feeling of accomplishment when you successfully take down the next big target. There are plenty of side missions to get stuck into as well – offering you skill points and currency toward certain upgrades in the form of experience. You’re never short of something to do. Teaming up with rebel fighters will also help you along the way. You can call them in for back-up, or help them out in their struggles.
Almost every aspect of your equipment and character can be upgraded along your journey. From stamina to swapping out sights on your weapon. It’s a user friendly but comprehensive system that we have come to expect from sandbox games. You have a decent range of weaponry to choose from once you’ve spent a few hours with the game. Though you can almost use a sniper from the start, which proves vital in certain situations.
What lets down Wildlands is ultimately one of its greatest aspects. Its environment. Whilst you have one of the largest game worlds to explore, it become far too similar. Whereas other open world titles give you cities to explore, the Bolivian wild is about as much as you will see. Yes, there are settlements, small towns and lots to do. But equally, it’s sparse offering you little in return in terms of discovering something different. This can’t be blamed on the game. The photo-realistic setting of Bolivia was always going to tie this down. Yet you can’t help but feel something more could be added to mix things up.
Tom Clancy’s Wildlands is a great step forward for the Ghost Recon series. Whilst borrowing many aspects from The Division, it stands out tall enough to be a completely different beast in its nature. Ubisoft have taken the sandbox setting and given you a vast world to explore. It doesn’t leave its mark as the best by any means, but like those 3D platformers in the late 90’s, it demonstrates that it doesn’t have to match the best, to offer you an experience you don’t want to miss.
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Wildlands makes you think, plan and attack in a strategical manner. It offers satisfying results in a vast open world that expands the length and breadth of Bolivia. Whilst not without its flaws of repetitiveness and familiarity, what is on offer is the best squad based shooter of this generation.