Game Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Release date: 2017
Version played: Xbox One in 2017

The tenth release in the Ghost Recon series of Ubisoft video games, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is a 2017 third/first person tactical shooter. Players take control of codename Nomad, an American Ghost tasked with leading a small, four-man squad into near-future Bolivia to take down the deadly Santa Blanca drug cartel headed by the elusive but infamous El Seuno. Players will be able to fully customise both Nomad’s look and loadout, from a range of weapons and secondary items to tackle the game’s sprawling and varied environments.

[Please note: The majority of this review was actually written much closer to the game’s release. Some issues, such as helicopter controls, have been patched since, but I will note these instances in the review itself.

Similarly, the time it took me to complete this massive game has made me rethink my game review policy: from now on, I’ll put a review up when I feel I actually have played enough to have an opinion on it. If there is an in-game percentage statistic, I’ll note that when appropriate.]

+ first off, and most importantly, there is just something about Ubisoft games’ handling of guns that really clicks for me. Choosing the correct loadout for a mission (I went with an ACR assault rifle and an MCR sniper rifle, with a custom pistol and explosive drone) and then utilising your loadout to its fullest was one of the most engaging experiences I’ve had in a long time. Compared to Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, the weapons here feel like they should, with enemies never being the omnipotent killing machines they were in SGW3
+ much like Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, however, this game was lots of fun once the (often repetitive) missions went sideways. Chasing a fleeing target, along wet and winding roads, as your squad takes shots at following enemies are fantastic moments, and really helps keep things fresh
+ the “Tier 1” mode, added in a later patch, is fantastic. Players are tasked with earning points to rank downwards, from Rank 50 to Rank 1 with the lower rank corresponding to a harder difficulty. I got down to about level 14 before the game was so difficult (and so much fun) that every open skirmish was requiring proper tactics, and attempting to infiltrate an enemy base without scouting first was essentially a suicide mission
+ the varied environments were always enjoyable. Dense jungles, snowy peaks and seemingly endless salt flats constantly required different strategies. The different areas required different vehicles to traverse (no way you’ll get through a jungle in a sports car, for example) and perhaps even different weapons – no point using a sniper rifle when you are climbing up a mountain

ghostreconwildlands_2.png
My custom Nomad went through various different looks (including some Día de Muertos facepaint at one point) before I settled on a simple tactical outfit.

– much like Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, missions soon become very repetitive, devolving entirely into scout>take out snipers>stealth. As I said on the review for that game, the missions are mostly limited by the player’s own imagination, but the choice between “finish the missions” or “have fun playing the mission but making it so difficult for yourself” is often not a difficult decision
– the vehicle controls are all over the place. Before a recent patch, the helicopters/planes were unacceptably unwieldy, especially when attempting to aim the guns on the front of the helicopters. The new controls make them handle like the helicopters in Just Cause, but that is so unrealistic compared to everything else in the game. Neither option is particularly good for me, which made me mostly just avoid using the helicopters altogether
– there are various colour coded enemies with no option to change them, which was especially frustrating after The Division had multiple colour blind modes. I can’t even count how many times I unloaded a mortar onto my rebel allies (yellow) instead of the enemies (an orange/red colour).

Should you play this game: I really, really enjoyed this game. The harder difficulties made for more engaging gameplay, but spending an hour or so just clearing out enemy bases on easy was just as enjoyable. The story was average, but it was presented in such a way that it never felt mandatory to go from mission to mission, which gave me lots of time to explore the incredible open world.

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