Wildlands is the latest instalment in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series by Ubisoft. I took part in the open beta and at the time the impressions it gave me didn’t make me want to buy it right away. The game is currently on sale on steam so I decided now would be a good time to buy it and see how it is post release. This is a review of the main game and not the DLC, this may be covered a separate review.
Lets start with the Graphics…
A lot of effort seems to have been put into making this game look good while keeping an acceptable level of performance. Ubisoft appear to have been able to pull this off quite well as the game does look beautiful and performs well for me. On my system I run the graphics settings on High and am able to maintain an average of 40-45 FPS. There isn’t much to fault on the looks of this game but for some reason Ubisoft seem to have forgotten to add vehicle tracks on the ground. Being picky, cars don’t even leave skid marks on the roads… Wildlands does have character customisation. This is very limited and character models lack realism with facial animations leaving the characters looking like they all take Botox injections.
On To the Story
I don’t really have much to say about the story. Bolivia has been taken over by the Santa Blanca Cartel and is being turned into a drug state. You work as part of the CIA in an attempt to destabilise the region and shut down the cartel by systematically taking down key contacts and in the end the head of the cartel himself. I don’t find this story at all engaging and much prefer to just get on with the missions as I find this in itself to be challenging and rewarding. Parts of the backstory can be unlocked by finding documents scattered throughout the world but I don’t find this engaging either and never really find the urge to look at them.
There are 4 factions. Operation Kinglsayer which is the CIA. Rebel Forces – Your allies in Bolivia trying to take back the country. Santa Blanca Cartel – The enemies, this is the faction you are trying to destabilise bit by bit. Unidad – These are the Bolivian army and are used to maintain overall control. They are hostile to you only if you are causing trouble but are also hostile to the cartel if they are causing trouble.
Gameplay and Controls…
One of the good things about Wildlands is the gameplay itself. You can play either in singleplayer or Co-op with up to 3 friends. Having tried both of these I can definitely say that it is far better playing in Co-op. It makes things more fun and helps the world to feel more alive. Main story missions are unlocked by gathering intel and picking up information about the targets you are after before being able to do the actual story mission. Story missions are often challenging and sometimes require a bit of thinking to work out the best tactics. Side missiona are mainly just requests to assist the rebels and gather supplies to aid in Rebel Ops and levelling up.
The Co-Op aspect of Wildlands is one of its highlights. You are in a shared world with your team mates. This means they see their missions and you see your missions and can share the missions together even if you’ve completed them. This is good as it means you can progress each of your own stories together. Comparing this to Dying Light, another game popular for Co-op where you don’t progress your own story or world at all when playing in a friends sessions. The whole of Wildlands can be completed in Co-op without ever needing to be in single player.
Moving on to the driving and flying mechanics, this is one of the things I dislike the most about the game. Driving feels very much like it’s meant for an arcade game. It did take some getting used to. Pretty much every vehicle has super soft suspension. Even the biggest truck can climb the steepest hill, rivalling the best ATVs out there! On the flip side though this does make driving quite entertaining and it allows you to just throw your vehicles down the side of hills whenever you feel like taking a shortcut with not much damage being dealt.
The flying mechanics in this game leave a lot to be desired. Piloting planes and helicopters seems very finicky. Planes for example only yaw when you are on the ground and require very little room to take off and land. I have successfully landed several planes on rooftops as once they touch the ground you can pretty much stop instantly. Helicopters can sometimes be difficult to steer and keep level with you sometimes having to let go of all the controls just to get back some form of control when trying to ascend. Again this took a little bit of time to get used to. It’s no different from the beta and I was disappointed to find this has not been improved.
As for the controls I use a PS4 controller for this game even though I am on a PC. The keyboard controls where too annoying and jumpy, especially when trying to pilot aircraft or drive vehicles. I originally started off using an Xbox One S Controller for Windows. When using this controller via it’s native Bluetooth connection I was constantly having problems where the game would not recognise it correctly. Things would stop working mid combat or buttons would do other things. I switched to using a PS4 controller via USB and this solved my problems straight away. Although I did have to tell the game what controller I was using in the options menu for it to change button prompt Icons. It does not automatically detect this. However this is one of few games that actually supports a PS4 controller.
By far the best aspect of Wildlands is its combat. Situations can be approached however you choose but there is an emphasis on using stealth and tactics. This works really well in Co-Op when you have a team of friends working together. However, this is a bit more challenging in single player as the most you can do with the NPC team members is tell them where to go and carry out sync shots to take out multiple enemies at once. Areas where there are enemies are highlighted on the mini map with an orange cloud-like glow. You can then use either your binoculars or your drone to scout the area and tag enemies that you see. When used correctly you can tag all the enemies in an area and then take them out using your preferred method. I prefer a stealthy approach so would normally tag them all and take as many out as I can with a sniper rifle before moving in and taking out the rest.
The shooting mechanic itself feels good with realistic sound effects and it does feel satisfying when shooting enemies. Some areas allow you to make use of bullet penetration through thin objects such as interior walls and floors and there is also bullet drop to take into consideration when using ranged weapons. Another aspect of combat is also making use of Rebel Ops. These are missions that allow you to unlock various methods of assistance from the local rebels in the game, these include summoning vehicles, having an area scoped out for you, calling in a mortar strike and having some rebel soldiers coming to assist you. There are various levels to this which are unlocked and upgraded by the Rebel Ops missions.
One side to the combat that I find quite frustrating is when you are taken down by an enemy. You have to sit there and wait for a minimum of 50 seconds while your team mates come and revive you. The annoying thing about this is that you have to wait until you have bled out before you can respawn. There is no option to skip straight to respawning in the event your teammates can’t get to you.
Skill system and Weapon Customisation
Skill points are earned by completing missions, levelling up or are found scattered around the world as collectable commendation medals. These are found during missions, exploration or by gathering intel that points you in the right direction. These can then be spent in the various skill trees. These skill trees are Weapons, Drone, Item, Physical and Squad. There is also Rebel Support but this is not unlocked using skill points. Skill points and resources are spent unlocking abilities such as a faster revive speed, more accurate aiming or improvements to your drones.
Weapons are unlocked by completing missions as rewards and are also found in various locations around the maps. You cannot unlock a weapon by simply finding it on an enemy. You have to find weapon cases scattered around the world which contain weapons and weapon parts. This allows you to then customise your weapons. The weapon customisation is one of the things I like about this game. You can see a break down of each individual part and the effects they have on your weapon stats. You also have the option to customise your loadout on the fly without having to return to a base or respawn
So, should you play?
Overall, Wildlands is a good game. It looks great and the combat is really engaging. Combine this with the tactical aspect and Co-Op features, huge open world and you have a really solid game. For me the vehicle mechanics and poor story put me off. When playing alone the world does feel quite empty and lifeless. For some reason it feels like it has been out for a few years. I would recommend giving this game a try. Although I would recommend buying it when it is on sale like I did as I do not feel it is worth the full price.
Have you played Ghost Recon Wildlands? If so I would love to know what you thought of it in the comments section below