There’s some big trouble down in not so little Bolivia and it isn’t because of anything caused by those guys from Top Gear. It’s the kind of trouble only the Ghosts, a fictional special forces team, can take care of. After our preview of the beta way back in February 2017, I’ve finally sat down with the full game and really like what I see.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a first for Ubisoft’s long running franchise with its dynamic open world that allows many missions to be tackled however the player sees fit. Previous games had discrete levels for each mission which by design they were intentionally linear however you’ll see none of that here. Anyone familiar with the “open battlefield” approach of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain will be right at home.
The story in the game goes that a Mexican drug cartel has got its hooks into Bolivia and is trying to turn the country into its own little territory. The Ghosts are called in to assist the local rebels in overthrowing the cartel and its leader El Sueño. Along the way you’re given plenty of other targets of opportunity to cause additional havoc as part of the overall goal.
The opening missions give you a good grounding in the gameplay basics of ordering your team around and using drones for scoping out the immediate area. Whether you are playing solo (with AI team mates) or in co-op with your friends there’s always going to be someone there to back you up and if needed to revive you when you are down. It’s nice work by the developers to make that single/multi player experience feel consistent.
The drones you get introduced to at the start will play a major part in how you take on missions and so it’s worth spending time getting used to them. Being able to identify and mark targets quickly can help make your battles short ones and reduce the chances of support being called in. Don’t think it’s all going your way though as some locations (usually the bigger bases) have drone jammers deployed which you’ll need to disable first meaning you’ll need to practise your stealth skills occasionally.
Completing missions and finding hidden medals will earns you various points that will get you on your way into upgrading yourself, your tools and your team. Improving your drone’s capabilities should be one to focus on. Another to upgrade is the synchronised shot skill that allows you to time attacks on selected targets. Fully upgraded it allows your whole team to fire at once… perfect for taking out snipers in all the towers of a base. If you’re playing solo, watching your AI team mates position themselves for the kill shots is really neat and is helpful if you aren’t carrying a sniper rifle to take the shot yourself.
Completing side missions will let you gain access to rebels as a resource too. They can provide vehicles and support including soldiers on the ground. The quality of the support can be improved further as you complete more of these missions. When you’re in a tight spot being able to call in for help is a useful ability to have.
Being a military shooter, it all boils down to how well that aspect plays out and thankfully the gunplay is highly satisfying. When you’re caught in the midst of a battle you can feel pretty confident in being able to shoot straight and well. There’s just enough aim assist to let you enjoy taking on a whole country without feeling too overpowered. The default weapons (an assault rifle and sub machine gun) are perfectly adequate for almost everything you’ll deal with which makes finding additional parts or weapons more a bonus than a necessity. For me, the first sniper rifle I found in the game has been my mainstay ever since.
With the size of the map you’re not going to get far without a vehicle and they’re in abundance with everything from motorbikes to planes. The aircraft controls will probably take the most getting used to – trying to use an armed helicopter to take down supply convoys (for upgrades) requires a lot of practise to be effective and avoid destroying your target. A nice touch is if you steal a faction vehicle you can often pass by checkpoints without raising suspicions which might be all you need to get inside a base quietly.
The open world can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s great in that you’re not restricted to certain tools when attempting missions – if you want to jump out of a plane over your target just go steal one from an airfield. With the variety of terrain you’ll see there’s no shortage of screenshot fodder either. However this big world can also create a lot of distractions too. A high value convoy might pass by or you just need to stop at an enemy base to get a weapon part… the temptation can be too great and you might find you’ve barely played any of the story missions!
Visually the game does a great job of giving you spectacular (and varied) scenery coupled with impressive draw distances. I’ve been playing it for many hours now and can’t think of any times where there’s been any objects pop in which considering the amount of detail present is great work. No complaints here running it on an Xbox One X,
In addition the the single player / co-operative campaign there’s a 4v4 multiplayer mode and also “Ghost Mode” which takes the campaign but adds permadeath into the mix. For players wanting to increase the difficulty further in the game they will be rewarded with additional gear too. Multiplayer in world like this opens up whole new levels of creative nonsense too; in our most recent session we found out how not to park a car, that it’s way too easy to become accidental road kill from your team mates and that launching an explosive drone from your helicopter mid flight is not a successful idea.
For players who get caught up in the world of Ghost Recon Wildlands they’re going to find themselves playing for a long time. The amount of content in the base game will keep you occupied for hours and that’s without even going into the DLC released since it launched. Highly recommended!
The game is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.