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Ghost Recon Wildlands Review

May 31st, 2017 by

grwlogoReleased in March of this year Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest release from the Tom Clancy tactical squad based franchise. At face value, it’s a 3rd person tactical shooter that marks the latest entry into the “massive open world” genre of games that seems to be the trend for AAA franchises. As a result, it attracts immediate comparisons to Ubisoft’s own The Division, and Hideo Kojima’s bonkers yet masterful Metal Gear Solid V – more on those later.

Set in a fictionalised Bolivia, you are one of four “Ghosts” tasked with taking down “El Sueno” – the large and tattooed leader of the Santa Blanca drug cartel. Fictionalised is right, so whilst there is a rudimentary gesture towards a civilian population the bulk of the sandbox is full of members from the warring factions – Santa Blanca goons, the corrupt army force Unidad, and rebel allies. Enemies offer varying levels of challenge throughout the region and rebels chip in frequently with lightweight assistance.

All that said, despite large alerts popping on screen saying an interchangeable version of “Santa Blanca are attacking the Rebels”, it rarely feels like a living world. The scars of previous conflicts wash away quickly and I got a sense that without the four ghosts the situation in the country would be in complete stasis – only effected when you rock up and take charge.

The world itself though, is great fun to explore. The diversity between the regions, by turns mountainous, arid, lake-filled and forested, is striking and beautiful. Rarely have I taken as much time to marvel at a game’s scenery and admire the draw distance and clarity (I reviewed Wildlands on a standard PS4 at 1080p, I’m sure running on 4K and a PS4 Pro, or a high-end PC would lead to even better vistas).

Getting around is a slightly bland affair and whilst the vehicles on offer are diverse, the handling is not very weighty and feels arcadey rather than involved. The vehicles do bring distinct tactical opportunities to bear however – and selecting from the choice of parachuting from a plane, approaching by water or stealing a faction’s jeep to gain a less subtle entrance has a profound effect on how a mission plays out – keeping the (impressively long) campaign fresh throughout.

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Speaking of the campaign – it’s a right lark. Taking the cartel bosses down (in any order) is reminiscent of the nemesis system from Shadow of Mordor. Deal with the sub-bosses to weaken the main boss does start to breed a sense that you’re dismantling the cartel, and the narrative developments as cartel leaders start to panic and otherwise react to your activity are satisfying to watch unfold. Watching El Sueno and his harem gradually lose grip on the situation is enough of an incentive not to skip to the end rather than achieving the more completionist ending.

The story, and the missions themselves, are nicely developed over the course of the game’s length with variation that matches the surrounding landscape. Where the game really excels however, is in the tightness of the gunplay that sees you through those missions. The controls are as tight as I am before January pay-day, and the satisfaction of lining up shots with your three squad-mates (or co-op partners) never goes away. Stealth is recommended for the more difficult missions but when all hell breaks loose there are plenty of methods of destruction at your disposal. The arsenal, though typical, is varied and each weapon feels different – encouraging exploration to find more guns and experimentation with different loadouts.

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The multiplayer takes the already satisfying gunplay of the single player, and adds the mayhem of co-op. It exists in the exact same world, missions and all. Whilst matchmaking is a little shonky, finding a team and venturing out to co-ordinate and execute missions is fantastic fun, for my money, significantly better than efforts like The Division. Where The Division’s bullet sponge enemies would often frustrate, in Wildlands your enemies are as squishy as they are dangerous meaning that the stealth takedowns and all-out warfare is fun throughout.

Talking about stealth – it plays a significant role in planning out your strategies. The binoculars and drone let you tag enemies, power supplies, alarms, anti-air and turret emplacements; allowing you to prepare to dismantle a stronghold. When it goes to plan, each mission becomes a mini representation of how your surgical strikes are dismantling the cartel itself, and are immensely satisfying. There are also louder ways of proceeding such as utilising rebel mortars, rocket launchers and setting prisoners free to cause havoc. These add depth, but are nowhere near as reliable as the sneakier option – so whilst the comparison to Metal Gear Solid V I made earlier doesn’t destroy Wildlands, there is a sense that Wildlands lacks the greater depth and creativity of cardboard boxes and rocket arms.

Wildlands compares much more favourably to MGSV in the way the missions are structured. Once you’re in the world – that’s it. All the missions are dynamic to enter and exit using the map so there are no complicated menus to navigate or tedious load screens. Find intel, interrogate lieutenants and explore to open up missions and collectibles (eugh, I won’t dwell on collectibles, but if you love them you’ll be at home in this fictional Bolivia).

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Bugs that were reported at launch seem to have been broadly ironed out with patches that arrived before our review copy, that said the seams are visible from time to time. These glitches are amplified in the multiplayer, especially when you’re fighting enemies your teammates can’t see, or watching enemies walk casually through a firefight before they die from invisible bullets.

All in all, I enjoyed my time in Wildlands. Whether this is because I’m currently watching Narcos so every reference to sicarios and cocoa has added interest I’m not sure. What I know is that the tight gunplay makes up for the lack of depth, and the seamless rolling countryside has plenty to offer. So whilst Wildlands isn’t adding anything revolutionary to the open world action genre – it takes many of the best pieces from other titles and adds up to something undeniably fun. If you’re a lone wolf or a squad of four waiting for Destiny 2 – I can seriously recommend it.

Midlife Gamer Rating: 7.5/10     Format:  PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Steam                 Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided with a review copy of Ghost Recon Wildlands for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of seven days on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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