Ubisoft: A name that is just about as polarizing as, well, Tom Clancy. Mix them together and sit back, pop some popcorn and watch as both nerds and geeks alike will rage, debate and hate each other over the virtues and failings associated with each. Here we have, Ubisoft Presents… Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Oy; a title that seemed like it could be doomed from the start: A Triple A franchise known for churning out half-finished games with an Intellectual Property that hasn’t really been relevant or delivered on the current generation of consoles. Would GR:W be any different? Would the development team at Ubisoft buck the trend of, at best, getting a slightly passing grade on the final product from the majority of fans? The answer to all these questions and many, many more is the same: “Well… Sorta”.
I loved The Division. I was so damn rock hard for that game (even bought the Deluxe Gold STFU-and-Take-All-My-Money version), that I had to have soiled myself at least a dozen times. Then–quit after the first expansion. The constant rebalancing and endgame content was so poorly thought out and executed, that around 70% of its playerbase ditched the game, as I did. I vowed to never give Ubisoft a fucking cent of my money as long as I lived, unless of course they ripped out a 5-Bible Assassin’s Creed game. I wasn’t going to get Wildlands. Yet, one free access code to the Closed Beta and I was hooked; it quickly came to me that GR:W was not going to be The Division, and it had plenty of promise in being a game that those of the frustrated could really sink their teeth into.
Bottom line: Ghost Recon: Wildlands is awesome. Sorta. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found great pleasure in mowing down narcos, usually with my sniper rifle and paying homage to “The Legend”, Chris Kyle (American Sniper). The beauty in Wildlands lies in that; if that’s not your thing, you aren’t pigeonholed into one style of play. If you want to be Rambo and just go in guns blazing, the sky’s the limit. Speaking of the sky– want to jump out of a plane and land wherever the hell you want to coordinate your attack? Go for it. There’s really no limit to what you can do in this game–an advertisement that’s actually accurate for once. Sorta.
There’s one feature from the early hype machine that this game created that did not make it into the game. The supposed “complete missions differently to experience different outcomes” doesn’t exist. Sure, players can complete the missions pretty much any way they’d like, so long as certain criteria are met. Some targets must be extracted, and with others, players are essentially ordered to plant evidence against one underboss to provoke a conflict with a different boss. It was initially conveyed that this feature was to be left to the player’s choice; instead, the objective is always linear. How you get there though is entirely up to the player.
Thus far, Wildlands‘ narrative has been beaten down quite a bit by critics. It’s standard, surely cookie cutter. I can see the plot twists on the horizon a mile away as if I had taken my chopper as high as it could go and then jumped out, just to take in the very impressive vistas this game has to offer. At 40-50% done with the campaign proper, the repetition even gets to someone like this “Disciple” who actually doesn’t mind it. There’s zero shortage of fun activities and different locations for you and your fireteam to blow dozens upon dozens upon dozens of hours into, and have a great time doing it. The map is huge. And just for perspective, it’s roughly 3x the size of GTA V‘s map, and all of the regions feel unique, with their own personalities and perils.
GR:W truly shines in co-op, as laying alongside like-minded individuals is where this game goes to the next level. As someone who takes their tactical shooters pretty seriously (it’s bad), having my squad on and using all the lingo gives the experience one that is super tense. Hell, life depends on these moment-to-moment choices with pals; if only more of you assholes were playing this sorta great game. Despite it’s prime flaws, Wildlands is exactly what I’ve wanted out of a sandbox shooter. It’s 13 Hours, Sicario, American Sniper, and GTA all rolled into one. It’s as if Far Cry and Mercenaries had a love child.
Is it great? Sorta. Is it super annoying at points? Oh, yeah. The much ballyhooed driving mechanics take a ton of getting used to. It’s as if they spent so much time and effort with player/loadout/gun/environment detail and customization, that when it came to vehicles they had about $50 left on the budget and said, “this’ll do”. It breaks immersion when you can barely operate the vehicles, thats not to say you can’t learn how to control them and actually fare quite well in them, it’s just quite the learning curve. There seems to be quite a bit of DLC on the horizon, including 4v4 tactical multiplayer, and three separate add-on campaigns.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands lives up to the hype. Sorta. Objectively, it’s a gorgeous with nice design, customization, and gunplay that all works very well — just missing the mark of being excellent. In a year that’s already hovering around 3 or 4 GOTY candidates, GR:W is frustratingly good-not-great, with a simple and predictable story, some minor control issues, and micro transactions to boost everything from weapon unlocks to XP. While the environments are very detailed and lush, you’ll find that there’s really only, like, 5 different type of buildings in the entire nation of Bolivia — just with the slightest of layout differences.
In short, I love it; but you may not.