The alternate title was shooty-mcshootface LMIV.
Wildlands is the newest installment of the Ghost Recon series by Tom Clancy. These games are known for being tough, fun, and giving players a lot of options. Wildlands delivers in a lot of key areas, but there are some limitations as well. This review will not contain any spoilers.
Set in 2019, we travel with the Ghosts to Bolivia where they are assigned to dismantle Santa Blanca cartel piece by piece. An undercover DEA agent was recently found out by the cartel and assassinated, and this is where we come in.
The story is genre, but it is also pretty well written. A lot of hints are dropped at potential twists and turns in the future, and overall, the criminal organization feels real. The narrative is crafted with care, and I appreciate all of the information we can obtain about these people as we go. Further, the team of Ghosts is great. Some of your men will crack terrible jokes (and they aren’t often repeated), others will philosophize about the situation as a whole. Good characters throughout. Hats off to the voice actors. I think they are an underappreciated segment of the game world, and here they completely knock it out of the park.
However, and this is not to knock the writers in any way, what people care about in a Tom Clancy game is the gameplay. The game is in third person, but you can switch to first when aiming. Some people prefer first person all the time, but I like the mix. (Though it is easy to “cheat” with the third person view behind cover).
The game is tough, but fun. The shooting is tight, and there are enough weapons to make any enthusiast happy. You can carry two primary weapons, one pistol, grenades, a drone, mines, C4, lures, and other stuff. Your options increase as the game progresses, which is a lot of fun. I personally love the drone, and upgraded that almost exclusively for the first chunk of the game. You can put a bomb on the thing and blow people up. (While this is a lot of fun, I don’t suggest it, as it alerts the whole base).
I played the game online with a friend, and that made it to where we were the only two Ghosts on the map. I have mixed feelings about this, a bot or two might have helped, but it could have also screwed things up. I think a third person would make this game even better. Playing alone is okay, and your team isn’t bad, but nothing replaces another human.
The game allows you to stealth or go in guns blazing in just about every level. The world is open and massive. We snuck into one of the hardest areas to find better weapons early in the game, and have been enjoying the fruits of those labors since. You can approach the variety of missions in any way, and from almost any direction. However, while the game suggests you may do stealth or guns blazing, stealth is certainly the better option. Particularly in the harder areas where reinforcements come fast. Often, our missions started as stealth and ended in a full-bore firefight (not a complaint). One thing I love about this game is that I never knew which two weapons to take into a mission. Instead of most games where I pick one or two and stick with that, this time there were too many good options.
The game is not without its problems, though, and some of them do drag down the experience. As of writing this review, one major patch came through, and I think it made the game worse in some areas. After the patch, the enemy spawn points seem odd, and often way too close to be realistic. In one level, we had a truck full of reinforcements constantly respawning right in front of us. A couple of times I have had a truck manifest on top of me (killing me instantly). These minor blips by themselves are not game breaking, but they do pull away the immersion of the game a bit. I believe these specific issues will be patched out eventually, but for now, there is always a bit of hesitation in where I can approach a base safely from phantom enemies.
The larger problems are more hurtful to the game. The driving sucks. There is no nice way to put that. Compared to other games of the same type, driving in Wildlands is a chore. To complicate things more, you will drive an incredibly distance in this game. A saving grace of the issue with cars is that your enemies drive as poorly as you, often wrapping themselves around a tree when you are pursuing them. At least the bad driving is balanced here. For aircraft, though, you are on your own. More than once, we have had helicopters decided to just fly backwards for no reason, or flip upside down (which is hilarious to see), and this almost always results in a crash.
The world is huge, which on the one hand is great, but on the other, you have to drive there, and this sucks. Sometimes you will be in transit for a mission longer than the actual mission. Note: you can usually bypass this by hitting every objective (even the optional ones) on a path or fast-travelling, but sometimes you just have to drive for ten minutes.
The worst problem of the game is the relative monotony of the missions. Sure, there are some differences, but it is usually go here and shoot people. Okay, next we’re going to go here and shoot some people, after that, let’s go here and defend this position, and shoot some people. In some ways, this game suffers from the same problems as Mafia III, but not to the same extent. At least here you can approach each situation a little differently.
For anyone thinking of buying the game, I suggest forcing mission diversity as you play. What we did was on one mission we would try only pistols, or go loud from the jump, or both only using sniper rifles. Doing these little things will make the game a lot more fun. Further, try to not use the drone for a whole mission, or parachute into the base (that one usually doesn’t go well).
Despite the flaws, the game is just a lot of fun. Sure, things can get frustrating, but overall this is a solid game. If the shooting is too hard for you, you can turn down the difficulty. I suggest not doing this, as the brutality of the fights makes them all exciting and tense affairs. (I do wish there was an easy difficulty for the driving, though). For people who were always curious about the Ghost Recon games but hesitant due to the difficulty, this is a perfect entry point. I recommend this game for about anyone, but if you have some friends to jam on it with, it will be even better. 7.5/10