Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands revitalises the established third-person tactical shooter series, Ghost Recon. Its previously linear level design has been replaced by a large open world and as a member of an elite special operations unit, otherwise known as Ghosts, you must tackle a sprawling network of drug dealers. With a web of criminals to confront across the luscious landscapes of Bolivia, your mission is to break down the cartel’s four divisions; production, smuggling, security, and influence.
Built to support online co-op with up to three players, Ghost Recon’s story campaign can also be played offline alongside some surprisingly efficient, computer controlled aides. Bolivia’s varied terrain offers a mixture of gameplay opportunities and with the ability to control a wide array of vehicles, missions can be approached from literally any angle.
I spent most of my playtime online, coordinating attacks with the help of a friend whilst we attempted to be stealthy. Though our efforts didn’t always go according to plan, it was fun to retry missions with a different strategy each time.
Since Wildlands has been created by Ubisoft (a publisher with extensive open world knowledge) it’s easy to see similarities to other titles in their repertoire. Much like Far Cry or Tom Clancy’s The Division, Bolivia’s map is filled with an insurmountable set of tasks and collectibles. Whether you’re hunting down a hidden skill point to customise your character, or are seeking out a hidden weapon cache to unlock more items in your arsenal, Ubisoft’s signature style of packing games with a routine set of addictive objectives is clear to see. It’s a trend which works well in filling up large areas with a constant level of activity, but at the same time it is close to growing stale. First and foremost a video game’s gameplay should be built around an engaging narrative.
Despite its ambition I can’t say this new vision of Ghost Recon has met my expectations. Although it’s a brilliant concept that presents slick co-op action across a world without boundaries, some serious technical issues are present. These include ‘floaty’ vehicle controls and a lacklustre narrative, woven across occasionally frustrating level design. It’s often very hard to keep players engaged across a huge in-game map and unfortunately Bolivia’s drug-fuelled story failed to excite me. It doesn’t help that its missions tend to get a bit repetitive.
After spending time with Nintendo’s new Legend of Zelda, I realised that developers could learn a lot from its design. For instance, unlike The Legend of Zelda wherein Link can simply walk up to a wall and instantly start climbing it, Wildlands forces players to find a workaround – running across a mountainside until you find an opening to walk up isn’t fun. I understand that the new Zelda game is built on a much lower scale, technically, but if your core gameplay suffers due its sheer size and scope then maybe it’s time to reign it in a bit? For the time being its future seems brighter due to a constant slew of patches, however more work is required before it reaches its full potential.