Drugs, religion and corruption are all things connected to the fictional hands Mexican Santa Blanca cartel and its glorious leader El Sueño. No stranger to death, destruction and all things in-between El Sueño basically runs the country of Bolivia. Naturally the government of Bolivia isn’t overly pleased about this and after their previous attempts at solving the situation have failed who else could they turn to other than the US special forces. Enter you, the player, to save the day and dismantle the ruling cartel.
In a similar way to Just Cause titles, there are hundreds of points around the colossal map, varying in size, for players to interact with. Small points include things such as manned checkpoints and convoys patrolling the highways. Medium points can be buildings within settlements or farming buildings in the countryside. Large points take a lot more planning than the rest. These range all the way up to full on military style bases, equipped with Surface-To-Air Missile sites and plenty of gun placements to avoid or neutralize. These are a great way to kill a few hours at a time plotting a course from one to the next.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is extremely fun to play on your own, with the content easily scalable by raising or lowering the difficulty levels. This being said, the enjoyment players can get out of the game is almost exponentially increased as players team up and take on the game cooperatively. The squad AI is more than acceptable to play the game with but the fun that you can get out of Wildlands by working together with friends is on a completely new level. Marking out targets, droning to see if routes are clear and synchronizing shots on multiple targets are all better when you can communicate either in-game or on Skype to friends. On top of this, making decisions together to progress through regions can result in completely differing gameplay experiences, which only goes on to advance the replayability of the game.
Visually Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is nothing short of stunning. Driving across the landscapes going from the snowy mountains, to thick jungles ever where has been expertly designed. The biome are all extremely distinct without leaving the player thinking this isn’t a plausible locations. Multiple times playing I have come to a standstill to watch the virtual sunrise or sunset the map is just the pretty to look at. The landscapes are only enhanced by the weather effects that elevate the visual experience to the next level. The atmosphere that the day night cycle creates, for instance, is only topped by the inclusion of rain and thunderstorms. The lightening cracking, lighting up the environments and the rain leaving them wet and dripping. Everything feels more on edge, and that you are up against it, when the heavens open.
Across the huge map there are plenty of biomes to explore. The environment changes from large open swamps to thick jungle to desert and finally to glorious salt plains. Each of the biomes offer unique gameplay challenges. Weapons that are brilliant in the closer quarter combat in one region become less useful in another, and vice versa. Also, the way players can easily traverse the landscape change as mountains or vast lakes start popping up. On top of this, the difficulty levels, which change from region to region, allows players to further choose how much of a challenge they wish to face early on; before unlocking better gear and gaining skill points to spend.
As with many open world titles, which feature changing biomes, the edges of these areas are noticeable. When in the air, piloting a helicopter or an aeroplane, it is slightly jarring simply as you can sometimes see multiple biomes at once. The transition that comes to mind is from a thick mountainous jungle biome into a desert biome with a deep gorge, almost a ravine, cutting through it. In the air, you can see the desert coming from far away. Conversely, when driving along the roads the transition is much more gradual so your method of transport, due to the traveling speed, will massively determine whether the biome to biome changes feel natural or more forced to fit all the environments together in one open map. Overall Ubisoft has done a great job in smoothing the transition between some rather distinctive biomes.
A few things which I feel are needed for the game to have a continued draw factor is small content updates. These could include new guns to find or unlock or the inclusion of some vehicles which I’m surprised are not already in the game. Quad bikes are a prime example of this. With vehicles such as tractors and bulldozers drive-able and the fact bikes are a great way to zip around the map, I’m surprised quad bikes didn’t make the cut.
In terms of new guns, as well as increasing the range of the arsenal on offer, it would give players other items to aim to collect. Once players have all the guns in the game, or at least the ones they want to use, the amount of time players will get out of the weapon part missions will diminish rather quickly. Past the storyline this is the content that can keep players enjoying the game, having that next thing to unlock no matter how big or small it is.
The variety of the game in terms of biomes, bases to attack, arsenal to choose from all pale in comparison to the sheer number of ways missions can be completed. In extreme cases you can actually complete the same objective in a different play-through and only at the very end realize it was the same one. This happened to me while trying to obtain a new weapon. The first time through I charged up the hill all guns blazing, in broad daylight, I called in a mortar strike and rebel soldiers with causing quite a distraction.
The second time I approached the weapons container, and the small encampment it was located in, from the opposite angle. This time in the pitch black, I sneaked down the mountain, instead of up it. Utilizing NVGs, I stealthily downed targets as I swept the buildings one by one. I got in and out with no alarm being raised. A completely different experience simply because I choose to approach the situation in a different manner. These are just two ways this mission could have been done. I could have parachuted in, flown a helicopter with miniguns around the encampment or even by watching the guard movements got in and out undetected. Some of these will be stories you share with friends or colleagues starting with “you’ll never believe what I managed to do…”. Replayability is there, ready for you to take and run with, allowing you to create different experiences, if you’re willing to try.
Controls wise playing with mouse and keyboard is preferable, until you enter a vehicle. This is when you will find having a controller handy is more than welcome. The driving does feel very loose and sharp turns are quite awkward to make without a joystick. It is something you have to get used to but I’m more than happy to, as with games such as GTA V, switch input method while my in-game character clambers into or out of a vehicle.
The guns all feel relatively powerful but none seem overly unbalanced. Playing on the hardest difficulty you will find pretty much two stray bullets will down or kill you. This seems a fair trade off as the sniper rifles rather effectively one shot enemies, unless they are heavily armored. The arsenal range is there for players to unlock, as they work their way around the map. Players will almost certainly head to the section of the map where they can find their favorite guns early on. However, be warned some weapons are hidden behind some tough enemies and it might be worth getting some much needed character upgrades before you take on half the cartels army.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that there is has been no innovation made in the development of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. The game does has strong resemblances to The Division, Just Cause and the tactical recon side of Rainbow Six Siege but none of this is bad. The game draws on what makes those titles awesome and finds a place in the middle for itself. It is more serious and tactical like Rainbow Six Siege than Just Cause but features a fully open world to explore. It has a loot system like The Division but annoyances such as the cover system have been left out. It doesn’t bring much new to the table in terms of mechanics but what it does do is bring a load of epic mechanics and content together.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands will provide the average gamer hours and hours of content, whether they play solo or cooperatively. The game looks incredible and many of those hours will be spent simply exploring, enjoying new biomes and seeing new vistas. The number of ways this game can be played is phenomenal. Thus, players will complete the entire game having unique, almost personalized, gameplay experiences. Due to that alone I have to recommend that you check the game out as it is not an experience you should miss out on!
[Editor’s Note: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands was reviewed on Windows PC via Uplay (Specs: GTX 1080 & i7-6700K). The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review,