Ubisoft has finally brought back the Ghost Recon series in the form of an expansive open-world game. Find out what we thought in our Ghost Recon Wildlands Review!
It’s a safe thing to say that the Ghost Recon franchise has always been a bit of an afterthought for Ubisoft. It’s been 5 whole years since the last main entry in the series and I actually wondered if we would ever see it again. That wasn’t the case as Ubisoft really took their time to make the best Ghost Recon game possible while taking the series back to its roots. The question is, was the 5-year wait worth it? Let’s find out!
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a massive game. This is one of the biggest maps I’ve seen in a video game besides MMOs. The game includes over 20 provinces packed with missions, side activities, weapons, attachments, skill points, resources, fast travel points, enemies to interrogate, medals, and a Santa Blanca Cartel boss to take down. There’s no shortage of stuff to do in Wildlands and it can easily seem overwhelming at first glance.
The in-game map of Bolivia is beautiful and diverse. That’s part of the fun of Wildlands. There are so many different types of areas that you have to adapt your playstyle to be successful on your missions. Sure, it’s easy to attack from the shadows when you’re in a dense forest area, but what about when there’s no cover in a desert area? Now you have to bring out your ranged weapons. Mountains provide a distinct advantage as far as height, but you do need to watch out for helicopters and snipers scoping out the area. There are even island bases that you have to swim, fly, or use a boat to get to. The way you complete a mission is up to you from how you get there to how you execute it. It’s that freedom that is Wildlands’ biggest strength
There are a lot of choices on how to get around the map in Wildlands. One of the easiest ways is a fast travel point, but if you don’t have one unlocked nearby, you’ll need a vehicle. Yes, the vehicles are a bit difficult to drive. Cars and bikes slide around far too easily for my liking and I’ve seen some really good drivers randomly crash into posts because the vehicle just didn’t quite maneuver as it should. Helicopters have an equally steep learning curve, as they take a minute to get up to speed. Planes handle the best in my experience, but they’re also the most difficult types of vehicles to find. You’ll generally only use them when you’re stealing them for resources. I still had a lot of fun with the vehicles, but they take a lot of getting used to.
Now that you have a way to these missions, how do they stack up? Well, it’s exciting at first, but it feels repetitious after you’ve cleared out a few provinces. The premise behind each province is that you’re going after a boss in the Santa Blanca Cartel. This cartel has taken over Bolivia and killed an American operative. It’s now your job as ghosts to shut them down. To learn who the boss is in an area and where they’re hiding, you need to go through 2-6 missions. It’s not a huge task and usually involves stealing intel, clearing an area, destroying something, or protecting someone. You can complete most things without being seen if you so desire (unless it’s a protection scenario).
You’ll also have side missions to complete to gain rebel support. These missions consist of defending a radio box, hacking a computer, tagging supplies that were dropped out of planes, turning on antennas, and intimidating Sicarios. The perks you get for completing these missions are incredibly valuable and include mortar strikes, vehicle drops, diversions, spotting, and guns for hire. Need a helicopter? They have your back. Need a group of reinforcements? Call them in. These green dots on the map will help you immensely. The more of these missions you complete, the more of them seem to drive around on the map. They’re your allies and you’ll need them if you have any hope of going up against the two enemy factions in the game.
The enemies in the game are either from the Santa Blanca Cartel or Unidad. Santa Blanca are guerilla fighters and generally aren’t that difficult to deal with. This changes a bit as the game goes on with little additions here and there like alarms that call helicopters, surface to air missile batteries, mortar installations, miniguns, generators, and drone jammers, but the enemies themselves are largely the same. There are snipers, regular enemies, and heavily armoured enemies. All enemies are easily taken out with a well-places headshot so my strategy didn’t change much with each type. It’s the Unidad that poses a real issue. These guys are soldiers and they will take you out in a flash if you’re not careful. They can have multiple helicopters chasing you, 8-wheel tanks, speedy-dune buggies, and dozens of soldiers.
It’s the Unidad that poses a real issue. These guys are soldiers that turn a blind eye to the cartel and they will take you out in a flash if you’re not careful. They can have multiple helicopters chasing you, 8-wheel tanks, speedy-dune buggies, and dozens of soldiers. They will attack Santa Blanca if provoke. Sometimes you’ll see the rebels, Santa Blanca, and Unidad all fighting a massive battle. They have one of 4 patrol levels. If you get to 4, you’re almost certainly dead, especially in single-player.
Any repetitiveness you may feel in Ghost Recon Wildlands is mitigated by the fact that there is so much to collect, upgrade, and customize. My character had a Guillea Suit just because I felt like it was more stealthy. Cosmetic appearance is just the tip of the iceberg, though. You can also upgrade parts on certain guns and find new guns. Guns you get from defeating a cartel boss aren’t upgradeable, but also tend to be more powerful. There’s even a skill tree that allows you to upgrade anything from grenade ammo to how efficient your AI ghosts are at killing. There isn’t anything mind-blowing here as it’s all meant to be mostly realistic. The nice thing is that you really feel your character getting stronger as you upgrade different aspects on the skill tree. There are even medals to find that give an extra boost to certain skills.
In single-player, your ghosts are fairly useless if you get into a big battle. They don’t really protect you and don’t kill very efficiently. There have been numerous times where I got flanked and my 3 ghosts just sat there watching me take bullets. It also seems as though enemies only attack you and don’t worry about your ghosts very much. It’s like they’re invisible. Your ghosts don’t even get you sighted like I thought they might. Your ghosts can revive you which is nice. I’ve never encountered a situation where they didn’t succeed in doing so. They can even tag enemies through walls that you can’t see. Unrealistic, yes. Helpful, very. They’re not the greatest teammates, but they enable you to do what you have to do a bit more effectively than you would completely alone.
My favourite reason to play single-player is using Sync Shot. Your ghosts can take out up to 3 enemies at once. I’ve taken out a base of 25 people doing this over and over again. Sometimes it can get you into trouble if the target is too close to a living enemy. This can be used online as well, but it’s really nothing more than everyone shooting their target at the same time.
Playing with people online is where this game absolutely shines. It’s fun in single-player, but the online element brings it to a whole new level. The online co-op is drop in/drop out, so you don’t have to wait forever for a game to fill up. There have been the odd sessions where I’ve had only 2 other ghosts with me. The beauty of this mode is that your progress is your own. If you’ve already played a mission, you can still earn XP from it and your map will still show all the missions that you have to complete, not one you’ve already completed. It’s a great system and it makes it really easy to jump in whenever you get bored with single-player.
I’ve seen it all online from fighting a whole Unidad force on the ground with 3 random people and getting slaughtered to hopping from side mission to side mission and beefing up my rebels. It’s the unpredictability of the people you play with that makes it so much fun. I had a guy take us all up in a plane only to nosedive it into the ground. Another time, we tried to make a daring helicopter escape only to crash upon take-off. In a hilarious moment, we were trying to protect a radio and one of our teammates shot a helicopter out of the sky…it proceeded to crash land right into the radio. When you find a good team, the game is just plain fun. I’ve had teams who could walk into a base and kill 20 people in a matter of seconds without being detected. I’ve also had teams who died as soon as we went near a base.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is one of the most enjoyable tactical shooters I’ve ever played. Sure, the missions can become repetitious and the vehicles are difficult to get used to, but the fun you can have in this game can’t be matched. There’s nothing like 4 guys walking in and taking out an army without them even seeing it coming. This is a game that will keep you coming back long after you’ve completed the main story arc for the sheer amount of things there are to collect and the amazing diversity of the humongous map. I’d recommend Ghost Recon Wildlands to everyone, but especially to those who love online co-op games. It’s a can’t miss!