The Ghost Recon series is one that's never been known for its open world gameplay, but hey, why not jump on the bandwagon? Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands aims to bring a fully featured open world to the classic military shooter series, one that's touted by Ubisoft as being the largest open world to feature in one of its games ever. While this is certainly a fun world to romp around in, the gameplay is utterly unremarkable, raising concerns as to whether or not it will be able to forge its own identity and make any lasting impression.
As opposed to the futuristic setting of previous games, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands aims to takes things back to a more modern setting. You take control of a squad of Ghosts that are deployed by the US Government to Bolivia, where you must fight back against a drug cartel that has also corrupted the local government. As a result, the weapons and tools at your disposal are more in line with modern technology. So far, so similar, then – but who really plays a game like this for its engaging story?
The meat of the game is found in its new open world, which is – to Ubisoft's credit – extremely large. There are all the biomes you could want, from deserts to jungles to icy mountaintops, and they'll be absolutely packed with things to do. NPC interactions are largely unscripted, and it gives off the illusion of a real, living world. Over 100 story missions will be available, and that's not even counting all of the conquerable outposts and side-missions that will be available at any time.
The problem that seems to be immediately evident, however, is whether or not you will be properly incentivized to actually do everything. Anybody who's played a recent Ubisoft title can attest to how packed the worlds are, but there comes a certain point where it all becomes a chore and the game effectively recycles missions with new skins. Yes, there's lots to do, but when we're given 80+ variants of the same type of mission, things can overstay their welcome fairly quickly. Whether or not the final release of Wildlands will buck this trend remains to be seen, but our experience didn't convince us that it will.
In our demo, we were tasked with kidnapping and extracting intel from a Bolivian drug lord who was hiding out in a compound. Naturally, the mission was tailored to highlight the four-player drop-in/drop-out co-op, which has been a big selling point for the game. After bailing out of a helicopter and taking up positions on a nearby mountain, somebody sent out a flyable drone to mark all enemies and reveal the location of the target. We each picked a target and prepared to fire synchronized sniper shots, but this writer thought it would be more fun if a wrench was thrown into the works, so we fired at an explosive barrel to set off the alarm.
One easy gunfight later, the drug lord escaped in a Jeep and bolted for another compound nearby, so the team all stole nearby vehicles in pursuit. This author was fortunate enough to catch the drug lord as he was stepping out of his vehicle, so we escorted him across the street with the front bumper of our own Jeep. Another gunfight later, we had the intel and made our escape in a helicopter. The gameplay was fun, frantic, and dynamic, though there wasn't anything here that we haven't seen in other shooters or open world games.
Player customization will naturally play a part as well; completing missions and achieving objectives will net you experience points to level up and equip better gear. Loot plays a part as well, with players able to take armour, weapons, and ammo from enemies if they so choose. Actions and relationships made within the world will have consequences on future missions, too, so you'll have to think hard before pulling the trigger and killing the wrong person.
There's nothing wrong, per se, with Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands; it's positively packed with content, and the dynamic gunfights are a real blast when you're in the heat of it. The problem seems to be that it simply feels like the sum of its parts and nothing more. Just about every element of this game has been done before – often in games published by Ubisoft – and it comes off as a painfully generic open world action game that's trying its best to cover all the bases. Hopefully the final release will have some memorable moments and innovative gameplay elements; otherwise, there just doesn't seem to be much about this one that really sticks out.
Are you going wild for Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands, or should this one be left in the Bolivian outback? Roar like Katy Perry in the comments section below.