The latest installment in the Tom Clancy universe of games, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, is about safely navigating a cartel-filled Bolivia while trying to take down a drug lord. Unfortunately, it seems like the studio behind the game opted to safely navigate their way through the development of the game, as Wildlands plays it way too safe and doesn’t amount to much besides a by the numbers Tom Clancy game.
The first thing you’ll notice when you’re thrust into the world of Wildlands is the story – you’re tasked with taking down a region of Bolivia that has become more or less run by El Sueno, the leader of the Santa Blanco cartel -and just how bland it is. Where most Tom Clancy games shine, Wildlands seems to fall flat. Instead of an intriguing and intricate story with a sharp message of some sort, we’re instead given a boilerplate story that has an even more predictable twist towards the end.
Worse yet, the story leads to very repetitive missions, often consistent of your CIA field handler Karen feeding you places to go to fight another cartel henchmen. The game essentially becomes mission after mission of fighting cartel bosses until you’re done, which seems very out of place for a Tom Clancy game. Thankfully, while the missions themselves may boil down to nothing of note, the ways in which you can complete them are where Wildlands shines.
Allowing players to attack by land, air, or sea, the game has a wealth of options for players to infiltrate various locations in order to not only beat missions, but also take down camps, locate intel, and further level up. Some players might choose to go in guns blazing, while others might take advantage of the most gratifying way of playing: full stealth. There’s nothing quite like being patient enough to stake out a stronghold, understanding where everything is and then silently infiltrating a base. The best moments in Wildlands by far have come at the hands of making it out of a base quietly, intel in tow, knowing you were in and out with no enemies knowing you were there.
The world that the game drops you into, a vibrant and sometimes stunning Bolivia, is teeming with life, and it’s clear that the developers put forth a great amount of effort into making the area feel alive. Players will have a ton of opportunities to see some great landmarks as they explore, and traveling throughout the various locales of the game made for some great moments, but that same level of care was not given to the locals of the world, who might as well be cardboard cutouts. Rarely did any civilian NPC react to the presence of my character, and even when moments of chaos broke out, it was as if nothing was happening in their world.
Wildlands, much like Tom Clancy’s The Division, can certainly be played by yourself but is much more enjoyable with friends. The solo aspects of Wildlands are decent enough, leaving players free to chase after gun blueprints, level your skills up by completing side missions or just beating the game alone. However, the three AI squad members the game give you might as well not be there thanks to how utterly incompetent they can be at times, whether it be doing the bare minimum in gun fights to repeating the same ten words of dialogue when you’re out and about.
Where the real fun of the game comes, though, is when you can finally squad up with a team of actual players. Once you play with a full group of people, it seems like a no-brainer that this is the only acceptable way of playing. Everything in the game is more fun with a real squad of players, including stalking in a base. Even large scale gunfights, normally a slow and slogging affair in single player action, is filled with a sense of chaos as you try to keep your teammates alive while also fending off anyone that may be after you.
When all is said and done, Wildlands isn’t exactly a bad game. It’s just…okay. The game doesn’t really try to do anything ambitious or even new, and instead feels a lot like The Division, just set in a different location. As the second open world game to have the Tom Clancy moniker, it’s sad to see that Ubisoft went for a very safe, by the numbers tactical shooter instead of trying for something a bit more ambitious. Although the game is fun for a bit, eventually that wears off and all that’s left is a feeling of wasted opportunity.
This review is based on a digital copy of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands for the PlayStation 4 provided by Ubisoft.