No question, Tom Clancy games have a distinct style and feel to them which seperates them into a class of their own.
All of them, except Wildlands.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of positives about the game which make it a serviceable and compelling objective based, online team-shooter. But this desert-rider feels quite distant from its militaristic cousins and closer to the standard open world dalliances you’ve come to expect from Ubisoft.
That has a lot to do with the fact that this is the biggest open world game that Ubisoft have ever done. I’m not going to lie, it shows. Wildlands is stuffed to its breeches with content. From all the little side missions to the intel drops, interrogation opportunities, time trials and the story-based missions, let’s just say you’re not going to struggle to find something to do.
And when you’re not doing missions, you’re probably building relationships with the rebels or civilians or trying to stay out of trouble with the law enforcement. Or you’re finding ways to upgrade your weapons, deciding how to spend your skill points, or scouting out the territory ahead to make the most impact during your next mission.
If you’ve gone out and bought this already, I hope you’ve got some spare time to kill. You’re going to need it.
There’s a fairly intricate plot tying it all together as well. Set in futuristic Bolivia, a minor Mexican gun cartel has grown in power, turning the country into a narco-state. The sudden rise to power has caught the attention of the world and the United States Government in particular. And when a bomb targets a US embassy, espionage warfare is declared as America sends in an elite Ghosts unit to bring down the cartel, one by one.
And that’s one of the really interesting aspects of Wildlands. The Cartel is made up of an intricate web of individuals – each ruling individual territories within Bolivia – meaning players can tackle them in any order they see fit. You’ll need to complete several story missions before facing down each member, gathering intel on last-known locations, meeting and extracting journalists with key information, as well as spying ahead and looking for clues.
The game also enables you to tackle missions in various different ways due to the vast array of vehicles at your disposal, as well as the multiple entry points to each mission. You and your team could come in on Helicopter and gun everyone down from on high. You could decide to play it quietly and sneak in through the back door without being spotted.
Or you can go in all guns blazing.
The game plays out from a third-person perspective mostly, but if you aim down your sights with a weapon, you can enter a first person perspective and gun them down old-school. You can also order your units to stay with you at all times, watching your back, or even staying back while you go in solo.
It’s also a vast, expansive open world, which can be traversed with tractors, sports cars, trailers, planes and just about anything else you can imagine. The handling of each, also as effective and responsive as you’d expect, though some of the car physics occasionally feel a bit flimsy and slight bumps can send your vehicle careering out of control.
On Xbox One, I did also notice some frame rate dips and slowdown when cruising the open road. Online lag, unfortunately, can also add to that.
But they’re generally minor issues that don’t affect the balance of play too much. And, in all honesty, a lot of the features in Wildlands outweigh the bad. For instance, tagging enemies with your flying drone ahead of time can really encourage some effective team strategies and regular communication with allies. This is also influenced depending on what time of day it is, as well as the type of weather you have to endure. Thunderstorms, for example, mean you’re less likely to get aerial attacks, and at night you’re probably better off going on a stealth mission.
The game rewards creativity and it opens up the playground so you can be the type of unit you want to be. And depending on how you approach and complete your objectives, actually impacts the wider world and the ongoing narrative.
With the experience system helping you bolster out things like more stamina, better accuracy from the hip, and ranged focus, as well as all the weapons you can unlock, there seems to be a lot to do here.
The thing is, the missions do feel quite repetitive and game’s formula rears its head much more quickly than you’d like or expect. The narrative isn’t distracting enough, and despite the gorgeous looking environments and the diversity of them, Wildlands quickly feels like a point A to B to C game.
Unquestionably, this has been designed, and is intended for, online gaming. Especially if you have a group of mates to play with. Wildlands comes into its own when the squad is together and can go out and run missions together. And that is definitely the direction Ubisoft are taking the game in the months ahead with competitive multiplayer modes, as well as further campaign DLC.
Solo, there’s not enough meat on the bones here to sustain your interest with the limited AI functionality. And frankly, better games came out in March for the lone gamer.
And especially when solo, the game starts to feel like its going through the motions. It follows relatively typical templates we’ve come to know and expect from open-world games – particularly – from Ubisoft, and never really gets out of third gear.
But, it’s the funnest, thrillingest, most epic third gear we’ve played online in a very long time.
+ Nice open world structure
+ Compelling use of a gorgeous environment to develop gameplay and narrative
+ Solid online team-based gameplay
+ Lovely variety of visuals
– Story and gameplay not enough of a distraction from structure
– Sluggishness and slowdown in vast open spaces
– Becomes quite tedious solo with limited AI
– Vehicle physics sometimes flimsy
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
7.5 out of 10
Version Tested: Xbox One