Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review
I think even Ubisoft has acknowledged that Ghost Recon: Wildlands, is really a game best enjoyed if you play it co-operatively. It is a game that can infuriate you if even one of your human teammates feels slightly mischievous. If however, you’re all on the same page, it results in one of the most satisfying co-op experiences that current generation gaming has to offer. Ubisoft has been racking up a lot of success lately, with Rainbow Six: Siege proving to be a fantastic first person shooter for eSports, and now with the launch of GR: Wildlands, they have developed an equally as impressive campaign experience.
When I spent countless hours enjoying the beta, I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the map. I then found out that the beta only catered for a small part of the map, as it was restricted to only one province. Ubisoft has redefined what the term open world means. With over 20 provinces in the game, you have to rely on helicopters to get from one corner to the other, and even then it takes a while to reach there. These provinces aren’t just empty lands either. They are packed with enemy bases and Cartel bosses. In each province, there is a huge amount to cover, and it will take you an unimaginable amount of time to complete the game fully. Luckily, you do have the ability to fast travel, although I never used this when playing co-operatively as part of the experience was to travel by car or chopper and most likely digress to another attraction.
This is a game that needs to be played co-operatively. If you play it on your own, it becomes very repetitive. The map is also very intimidating, considering that every corner is exposed to you right from the beginning. I’m not sure if any game has been set in Bolivia before, but Ubisoft makes it look absolutely stunning. It’s incredible how much attention to detail Ubisoft has given to every aspect of the map. Foliage is not just there for the sake of it. You can use your environments to sneak past enemies or scare them before interrogation. In some parts of the map, there is no cover, but instead just miles of desert that you have to race across or fight your way out using long-ranged weapons.
GR: Wildlands never forces you to play a specific way, and that’s perhaps its unique selling point. The game is linear enough to tell you what your objectives are, but how you complete them is entirely up to you. Part of the fun is discussing strategies with your co-op buddies and then executing them to perfection. Road vehicles are often a pain to drive, but I believe that’s partly down to the fact that you’re always driving on uneven surfaces and probably putting pedal to the metal. I personally found it enjoyable to experience a friend drift off a cliff, especially if I had anticipated it early enough to jump out. Choppers require some skill, and can actually be shot down easily. Once you master the skill, even they become a joy to ride. You will need to become well skilled at the art of vehicle handling since enemies often escape in vehicles and you need to catch them as they are the main targets. I think this probably happens a little too often, which can be annoying.
GR: Wildlands’ biggest issue is that is lacks enough variety. It starts off extremely strongly, but unless you’re playing with friends, the missions become repetitive, even if they are in different locations. I don’t want to constantly infiltrate a base to gather intel by capturing a high-value target. I don’t want to constantly get sucked into a car chase. Every province starts off with a search for the main boss of that area. I have to complete a series of missions to get to that boss. Once the province is conquered, I move on to the next and do it all again. It’s an endless cycle that is made enjoyable only because of the co-op, and not because of the actual missions.
Although this may be more realistic, the enemies aren’t varied either. You have enemy snipers, regular soldiers and then ones with more armour. Ubisoft doesn’t make the enemies more challenging as you progress through the provinces, which is a missed opportunity since your character will inevitable have new skills unlocked. Enemies do occasionally have tech that will prevent you from using your drone, but you can easily circumvent this problem by doing some manual recon.
GR: Wildlands is therefore most enjoyable when you are simply doing whatever you want. The missions are great, but the open world is actually what makes the game most enjoyable. You can create your own mini games such as races, drive each other off cliffs whilst a fourth player is in a chopper trying to shoot you down – the possibilities are endless. Sure, it is not as diverse as GTA’s online mode, but to carry out such antics in GR: Wildlands has its own appeal.
The game also will remind you that your tactics are not as good as you think they are. I think it’s safe to say that many gamers probably want to play this game with complete strategy, almost putting themselves in the shoes of the Ghosts. Gamers probably think that it’s easy to do recon and take out enemies without getting caught, even if they take their time. The truth is that you probably have missed one or two enemies in the process, and when they appear to catch you off guard, your entire plans are ruined. Instead of a stealth mission, you often end up in survival mode. It doesn’t mean that there’s an issue with the game. It simply means that your recon skills were not as good as you thought they were!
Boss battles are an exception to the repetitive norm. They don’t have memorable personalities, but they are still twisted and sadistic, with one of them even having the brain of a child who carries a stuffed toy, but dissolves bodies in acid. Another pair of bosses is into freaky Fifty Shades nonsense. It makes taking them down even more enjoyable. They aren’t particularly difficult to capture or kill, but I think that’s tapping into the realism of the game again. Just because they are bosses, doesn’t mean that they should take 1000 bullets to be defeated! The point is that they are difficult to get to, and if you can get through their minions, they are left defenseless. Every boss also carries a special weapon that you can take. They have some amazing stats, but the guns cannot be modded.
GR: Wildlands tries to keep things fresh by giving you a skill tree and new weapons. As you play the game, you will unlock better abilities, better weapons and more skills to help you get your drone further, or create distraction grenades etc. Nothing will turn you into a tank; they are all upgrades that are believable in the context of the game. For those who wanted to unlock a minigun, you’re out of luck. Ghosts don’t carry them unfortunately.
Every weapon has its benefits, and it’s entirely down to you. When playing in a group, I personally preferred playing the assault role. There are no classes, but you can essentially make them up. I would be the person who would sneak up on enemies and try to engage with them more aggressively. At the same time, I had one friend who acted as the medic – he first unlocked skills that would revive teammates quicker. Another friend was more of the technician, who would unlock drone capabilities and other gadgets first, whilst the final teammate focused on picking enemies off from the back and scouting them with the sniper rifle. We felt that the combination worked quite well, when we were all in the mood to play seriously!
There is no doubt that playing with the AI instead of actual humans is easier. When you decide to engage in enemies simultaneously through sync shot, the AI teammates will know where to position themselves, and will never miss the shot. With humans, you need to manually position yourselves, target the enemies and then do the countdown yourselves. There’s no doubt that it’s better to go down the latter route, even if it’s a much harder experience. Your AI teammates will also automatically tag enemies that you didn’t even know existed! They will just randomly tell you that an enemy is nearby and before you know it, they are tagged. Your AI friends also sponge an insane amount of shots compared to human allies. Playing alone isn’t always a benefit however. As an example, if you’re on a mission to escort a convoy, when playing alone, you all need to be on the road. However when playing with real people, you can do what you want. Therefore if someone wants to provide air support in a chopper, you can do that. It completely changes how the game is played.
At the time of writing this review, there is no multiplayer PvP mode. However, Ubisoft has finally confirmed that there will be an update that introduces a proper 4v4 mode. I’m intrigued to know how this will pan out, but the idea of a 4v4 team-based multiplayer experience sounds brilliant to me. Unfortunately, since this wasn’t part of the launch title, it is likely that gamers will complete the single player well before the update is out, and due to that, the 4v4 may not gain the traction it needs for the game to be adopted by the eSports community. Despite all of that, I certainly cannot wait for this to arrive!
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the ultimate co-op experience. I’ve mentioned this before, but I strongly feel that this is the type of game where publishers should be incentivizing somehow for groups of friends and families who play together, to purchase bundles of their games at a discounted price. This is a game that is best enjoyed when played with three others. If somehow Ubisoft found a way to let a group of four people buy the game at the same time at a discounted rate, it would a) encourage more groups of people to play the game the way it should be and b) incentivize people to buy it in the first place due to the discount. Nonetheless, if you can look past the repetitive nature of some of the missions, you’ll be blessed with a campaign mode that is extremely lengthy, enjoyable when played co-operatively, and one that spans across a map so large, that you’ll never be able to cover every corner of it.