Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is massive open world game that focuses on co-op with up to 3 other players. The game is set in Bolivia, and the sheer size of the world makes a lasting first impression. The story takes you on a hunt for El Sueno, the leader of the Santa Blanca Cartel, for torturing and murdering a DEA agent named Ricardo Sandoval.
The core combat design of Wildlands has plenty of redeeming qualities and can result in many chaotic encounters. Every mission can be approached in a variety of ways and shooting everyone is indeed a viable option. You can even approach the objective from either land, air or sea and almost all vehicles including jeeps, choppers, bikes and boats are readily available. If you want to accomplish the objective without being seen, you can use your drone to tag enemies and order your allies to pull off a Sync Shot, which eliminates all tagged enemies at the same time. Enemies are scattered throughout the establishment and you need to be wary of snipers and turrets, thus making sure you are always aware of your surroundings. To help you deal with different situations, weapons are fully customizable and modifications such as grenade launchers can be quickly swapped in and out.
Collecting resources such as fuel or medical supplies adds them to an individual pool. This is the currency needed to purchase skill points that belong to several different categories. Physical attributes such as stamina, better weapon handling or drone capabilities can be upgraded using these resources as long as you have the necessary skill points.
Players can call upon rebel allies to provide mortar support, drop vehicles or cause a distraction, among other abilities, based on how many side missions they have completed. This is on a global cooldown and doing side missions belonging to a particular category will unlock a better version of the same ability.
The shooting itself feels fine and pulling off headshots and Sync Shots is extremely satisfying. The movement controls can be a little clunky though and we did encounter multiple clipping issues, especially during interrogation sequences.
For a game designed around co-op, its incredibly simple to drop in a game and complete missions at random. The world is majestic and seamless with plenty of main and side objectives. You can fast travel to your allies at any time and the loading times are surprisingly short considering the size of the game world.
The systems, while nothing inventive, are already in place and Wildlands should be a blast to play with friends or even on your own. When things don’t go according to plan, it can lead to thrilling chase sequences across mountains and valleys. Unfortunately, the open world nature does its best to seemingly prevent you from going on missions and the overall structure of the game makes everything feel like a slog.
El Sueno is your primary target and all roads will eventually lead to him. In order to take out the leader or the cartel, your squad must complete missions in several provinces and take down the main target for that region. Completing multiple regions belonging to one of his closest associates unlocks the story mission that will let you hunt for someone higher in the chain of command. Rinse and repeat until you have neutralized every one of El Sueno’s closest subordinates. A handy web like chart shows how these leaders are connected, giving you some sort of direction in your quest of conquering provinces.
There are slightly less than two dozen regions in the game and most include 5-6 missions that all end up belonging to one of the standard categories. You might be required to hack a terminal, interrogate a target for more information or destroy piles of drugs. Even if the context given in each mission is different, your actions remain the same.
Each one of these missions takes somewhere between 5-15 minutes so in theory, it should be easy to get into a rhythm of finishing missions and clearing provinces with your buddies. But to its detriment, the game is massive and it takes a really long time to go from place to place. In addition, the world is filled with mountains, cliff sides and narrow roads that keep changing directions; so its not like there is a clear path between you and your destination. Fast travel points are too far apart and the driving controls are atrocious, resulting in an unpleasant experience any time you are between missions.
Lets say one evening you decide to clear a province. You will spend more time going from location to location, especially if you have not unlocked fast travel points for that region, than the time it will take to complete the missions. It’s incredibly frustrating to see your next mission marker 2-3 kms away; knowing that upon reaching your destination your task may be as simple as holding a button for a few seconds.
When you first enter a region, missions will not available from the beginning. For every province, you will be tasked with collecting 3-4 pieces of information that will unlock 1 mission each. This results in a situation exactly as I described above – travelling large distances for something that takes seconds and then travelling large distances again for a mission that takes 10 minutes to complete. Thankfully, navigating with a chopper is easier and you are able to bypass the bizarre world design altogether. Naturally, just driving or flying around for a majority of the game is incredibly dull and boring; but its repetitive nature and the inconveniences mentioned make it so much worse.
There is fun to be had in Ghost Recon Wildlands provided you can ignore its issues. You basically travel long distances, for 10 minute long missions and repeat this until that particular zone is cleared. This coupled with the fact that the map is astronomically difficult to navigate, results in a lot of frustration for a few of minutes of slightly engaging gameplay. This is one of those games where your enjoyment completely depends upon how tolerant your party is to its many annoyances.
Sneaking around and pulling off Sync shots
Gathering resources and completing side missions feels rewarding
Chaotic situations can lead to tense yet hilarious outcomes
Mission structure makes you do the same things over and over
The map is an absolute pain to navigate
For a game with bad driving controls, you will spend most of your time going from place to place
Forced stealth missions