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Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review

  • First Released Mar 6, 2017
  • Reviewed Mar 10, 2017
  • PS4
  • XONE
  • PC

Safety in numbers.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a squad based Tom Clancy game that plays by the numbers. It stays true to the series' Rainbow Six-inspired roots, emulating the cold and calculated nature of organized infiltration and coordinated stealth kills. Whether you're syncing shots with friends or an AI companion, there's gratification in taking down targets efficiently. Unfortunately, the adherence to this specific kind of gameplay gets lost and diluted in Wildlands’ vast expanse of Bolivia.

By Tom Clancy standards, Wildlands' story--a revenge tale disguised as a narco-state destabilization operation--is low hanging fruit. Worse yet, the narrative perpetuates the notion that a cartel is only worth taking seriously when one of your own has been tortured to death, ignoring the thousands of locals who've suffered similar fates.

It's easy to tell that Karen Bowman--your CIA field handler--has a personal vendetta against the Santa Blanca, the drug cartel that rules Bolivia. When you ultimately come face to face with El Sueno, the cartel's kingpin, you can spot the payoff a mile away. At the end, there's no poignant message or lesson regarding this latest Tom Clancy episode in American interventionism. El Sueno himself has the privilege of introducing his side of the story right when you launch Wildlands. His introductory monologue and his subsequent speeches justifying his twisted sense of morality sounds like the rationalizations of someone who grew up in a bedroom with posters of Michael Corleone and Walter White.

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The pursuit of a single lead that Karen provides conveniently results in a series of other clues and each one of those tip-offs blossoms into others. Enough successful missions eventually results in confrontations with underbosses and lieutenants who are less than six degrees away from El Sueno. Wildlands is as much about gathering information on your targets as it is about picking what leads to follow down their respective rabbit holes. With a keen eye (and enough luck), you can avoid having to complete every missions related to a given boss and eliminate them ahead of schedule.

As you travel from lead to lead, you're exposed to the various factions that pepper Bolivia. On your side are the rebels, known as the Kataris 26. Enforcing El Sueno's rule are the Unidad, Bolivia's military police. These groups add character to your surroundings and how intrusive they are with your mission goals depends on you. You can curry favor with the rebels and gain their support by completing side missions and marking valuable resources for them. And as long as you're flooring it in a vehicle, any Unidad you drive by will sit tight, rather than follow in pursuit.

Some of your intel will reveal locations of weapons to add to your collection, though amassing a stockpile of firearms is purely optional. Compared to the multitude of games where the acquisition of guns is a major selling point, Wildlands’ selection is serviceable. The problem is that you can easily complete the game with your initial load out. This is because you regularly earn skill upgrades by completing missions, and you gain access to the quintessential stealth weapon--the silenced sniper rifle--early on. There's little incentive to hunt for other weapons unless you're a gun nut or you enjoy the experience of mixing up different weapons.

Along with the obvious discretionary benefits of the aforementioned silenced sniper rifle, the drone--even before you've upgraded its capabilities--is an exceedingly helpful tool. It's the catalyst to Wildlands' mark-and-execute mechanic, the same feature that's been the hallmark of last few Tom Clancy games like Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.

For the fans who've been hooked on Ghost Recon for the advancing technologies--which has been integral with the series' brand--the lack of gadgetry in Wildlands will prove disappointing. The novel appeal of drones--particularly in Tom Clancy games--has long since expired. While you can upgrade it with a handful of offensive and diversionary capabilities, its default function as a target-marking device is all you need.

While the drone marks your targets, it's your squad's responsibility to pull off the kills. The need for coordination underscores the team-based appeal of Wildlands, which can be experienced with AI-controlled teammates or, preferably, with other players. When playing with skilled friends, there’s comfort in knowing that you’ll most likely be on the same page. Playing with AI has it’s own benefits, like being better bullet sponges when they’re out in the open healing you. The one puzzling omission to multiplayer is the ability to form a mixed squad of friends and AI; if you're playing only with one buddy, you're stuck as a pair. Even so, it's wholly amusing that the whole squad's ongoing situational story-driven banter persists even when you're just a duo.

Wildlands' most gratifying moments come from playing the ghost. It means having the patience to spend minutes surveying a stronghold from a distance and arming yourself with that visual information to confidently infiltrate the base. There's a rush in leaving the base quietly with the intel you're assigned to uncover or--even more challenging--the VIP you're sent to rescue. And it doesn't get any better than pulling off these stealthy missions on your first try.

Equally thrilling are the moments where you have little time to adapt to changing circumstances. When the best laid plans go wrong, when you've been spotted and a base is on high alert, you're treated to one of the few instances where your squadmates' moment-to-moment updates are actually useful. When a high value target is fleeing, your team will let you know. Suddenly, a foot pursuit ensues and you're left ignoring all the chaos and gunfire around you. The resulting car chases prolongs the excitement, unless you're lucky enough to grab the target right before he finds a getaway vehicle.

At the outset, its appears that Wildlands' strength is in its diverse mission types. For every assassination, there’s a capture or rescue assignment. Any given sortie might involve hacking, sabotaging, or even stealing a plane. You might even find yourself pulling off the ol' switcheroo with two similar looking trucks. It’s never a dull moment, at least for the first 20 or so hours. By the time you've experienced each of these kinds of objectives a handful of times, boredom starts to set in.

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This encroaching sense of monotony feels more apparent as the poorly written squad chatter starts to repeat itself. When your teammate complains about not being allowed to man the boat, it’s mildly amusing the first time, so you can imagine how annoying it would be hearing the same gripe the twentieth time. Even incorrect situational commentary, say when you’re alerted to a patrol chopper while you’re deep inside a mine stops being funny before long.

Ubisoft's reimaging of Bolivia is tailor made for goal-driven excursions beyond the story. Often times, it's photo realism is eye-catching, like when the sunlight glistens off a watery tire tracks. Other times, seeing nothing but jungle or an endless ridgeline of beige rocks brings out the blandness of some regions.

The mix of dense vegetation and barren mountains echo the environments of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, just less accommodating. Navigating your way down a rocky cliff on foot is as unpredictable as climbing one. Instead, you're left using vehicles as your most reliable means of traversal. Yet for a map that should be more off-road friendly, this interpretation of Bolivia often encourages you to keep to the beaten path, lest you wipeout after a sick cliff jump on a motorcycle.

One unsurprising benefit of the open environment are the myriad avenues for infiltration into any enemy stronghold. No matter how fortified a four-sided base is, there is always a backdoor, whether it's a broken fence and a convenient stack of boxes next to the outer wall. Finding and using these alternate entrances can be as satisfying as any frontal assault.

Despite the country's vastness, it's a mixed blessing that you don't need to visit every region to take down El Sueno. Whether you take the most direct route to the boss or you systematically cross off every underboss and lieutenant first, you'll confront a rogues gallery of diverse personalities, whether that's a social media savvy Santa Blanca evangelist or an American military ex-pat who found purpose in El Sueno's cause.

As only the second open world game in the Clancyverse, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a middlingly safe tactical shooter and a slightly wasted opportunity given the ambitious scope of its seemingly boundless map. While its main strength is its mission diversity, it doesn’t take long to lose the motivation after reaching El Sueno's doorstep. Even with a foursome of highly trained friends, Wildlands eventually reveals its diminishing returns. The feeling of positive immediacy and dopamine hits begin to wane sooner than you expected from a game with such a large and diverse world.

Back To Top
The Good
Superb stealth gameplay
Emergent situations invite stimulating improvisation
Open environments create many infiltration opportunities
The Bad
Missions feel tiresome over time
Story lacks meaning
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Miguel needed 40 hours on the PlayStation 4 version to take down El Sueno while also making time for numerous side quests. The PC and Xbox One versions were played for a couple hours as well. Review codes for all platforms were provided by Ubisoft.
327 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for aspeckman

I don't understand how they can give No Mans Sky a 7 and not give Wildlands a better score than this. My score was an 8.

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide

@aspeckman: i know this may be shocking to hear, games are not scored to be all in competition with eachother.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

@aspeckman: Because No Man's Sky is actually fun for people like me who dislike these ultra realistic and ultra violent modern day shooters with microtransactions or season passes.

Avatar image for IanNottinghamX

Mr Concepcion seems to be one of Gamespots better reviewers. he just clarifies his reasoning a lot better than the others. Once again he hits the nail on the head. The graphics and everything look good to an extent. Bad frame rate and bugs as per Ubisoft game. This game is fun short term but gets sort of boring until you unlock the next mission. The open world isnt a fun open world. This tries GTA like stuff but without the fun and polished controls,interesting layout and ,gameplay mechanics of Gta. Still playing it so I cant give it my rating but. Its a good game to get when this goes on sale or in a bargain bin for great multiplayer action.

Avatar image for theothersider

Bolivia is offended so social justice warrior reviewers have to put those jabs in. I noticed most sites that didn't even mention it rated the game higher. The game is a shinning example of emergent open world co-op game play.

The fun is not in the pre scripted story. the fun comes from things going side was on you.

"Me and and a full team of of ghosts raided a large compound to rescue a hostage after taking the compound like a well oiled machine of bad-assed commandos. me and another friend are standing out side this church while the other two question the hostage for intel. after he is done the guy flees. Only to moments later accidentally run down the ghost standing next to me in a car in his hurried attempt to flee his " The f**k ... I,m down!"

Another example" Same team. steal a heavily armed helio to assault a large compound. in route joking about the game, about guy getting hit by the car some one accidentaly deploys thier drone... that hits the rotors on the helicopter it explodes the rotots fly off and we go crashing down to earth... right in the middle of a large unidad base. We get out of the the downed chopper in hail of bullets. Fighting my way out I pick up a gun part and king slayer document while me and one other ghost fight our way out to safty . Very black hawk down style "

it is the kinda crazy stupid fun that only come from the un predictability of an open world game.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

I'm going to be playing Broforce in a bit, a 2D version of every single Ubisoft blowemupathon ever made, but better(and cheaper).

Avatar image for xenomorphalien

Sale game.

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

Good game !! Really enjoying it .. not surprised it scored well !

Avatar image for thageorgian

@ltjohnnyrico: score is average

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

@thageorgian: thats not how a 0 to 10 scale works .. scores are only really for kids but 7 out of 10 is good .. theres even the word good written underneath for those who cant figure the score out.

Avatar image for illegal_peanut

Like what I said about the call of duty games. Ubisoft needs to give themselves more time on these game projects.

Like, they will try to make the biggest most epic games in about a season. And they don't really give themselves the time to; fully reach their potential, expand on ideas, or make sure their games run smooth enough.

I swear, if they would just give themselves the time. To make some truly monumental projects. let's say about 4 to 5 maybe 6 years. they could be one of, if not the best devs in the world. but alas they give glitchy, rushed, and above all unimaginative and uninteresting video-games that fall so short. On everyone's marks, and even their owns.

Avatar image for manu_pt

Yet another reskinned ubisoft port garbage on PC. That´s all pc is getting lately AAA wise. Screw the 4k and the 144fps if we spend all the time on strategy and Moba games.

Avatar image for proceeder

I loved your UPlay avatar, Boss.

Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL

@Hicks_1: I think his point is that the game is centered around the rather silly premise that simply sending a few US soldiers in to assassinate the leader will solve the problem.

Since there's a story element to the game, I think it's fair to review the story as well as other gameplay features.

Avatar image for stevekeogh

@Hicks_1: I agree that Latin America can solve the drug war. Legalise the cultivation, production and transport of drugs into the largest market: the United States.

The US can do what it likes after that, and Latin American countries can avoid all of the negative consequences of miserable gringos trying to get their fix.

Avatar image for stevekeogh

@Hicks_1: I think it's super cute that you find the time for victimhood about a supposed racial slur while telling latinos they are lazy.

Hailing from a nation with superior educational outcomes per capita than the United States, I can empathise with your sense of cultural superiority towards others.

I also think it's just adorable that you believe corruption to be an overwhelmingly Latin American problem, in a nation where the President approves a pipeline project he has part ownership over. Just so cute. Have you any more logical inconsistencies to share from your boundless well of wisdom?

As an ex-Bolivian resident and the only person you have ever interacted with who ever opened a book or read an article about the nation, it is my privilege to inform you that over the past decade, they have had the fastest economic growth in all of the Americas (source below), their cocaine production is several times lower than the period when the CIA were involved in the Bolivian drug trade financing black ops that congress had denied funding, and since kicking out the DEA (source below), and they have slashed inequality in a time the United States has been producing poor people for fun (source below).

Don't worry, us more educated nations have watched with amusement as your nation descends into a phenomena of alternative facts ("Global Warming is a socialist conspiracy of tens of thousands of scientists spanning two centuries!"), so nobody expects you to respond to nor provide any verifiable evidence. You haven't ever opened up a book on Latin America, have you? Such strong opinions though. So plucky.

South American nations have also never sprayed Agent Orange all over large swathes of other countries, leading to millions of cancers and birth defects to this very day (source below).

Think I prefer Bolivia, but that's probably because I was never brought up in a country that required me to swear allegiance to a flag when I was barely out of nappies.



Avatar image for stevekeogh

@Hicks_1: "agent orange that had unintended side effects" Unintended side-effects? Is that like Collateral-Damage except instead of being dismembered by an American drone at a Pakistani wedding you are born with three extra fingers and mental retardation in present day Vietnam?

I thought you said Americans were clever? A pre-teen might have told them that a chemical designed to destroy vegetation and stop it from regrowing might be deleterious to human health. As for it being "black ops propaganda" - it is a matter of public record in your own congress, you silly little man.

As for the Bolivian government siphoning most of what Bolivians earn into their own pocket - this is another one of what you Americans call alternative facts. In the real world, Bolivia has vastly improved the standard of living for it's citizens over the past decade. I posted the links for you but as I alluded to in the previous comment, but you prefer to make up little fantasies that make you feel better.

Bolivia is not, by the way, nor ever has been, a communist nation. It is a social-democracy, a largely capitalist society that (shock horror) provides benefits like free healthcare. It is about as communist as Denmark. Don't worry, we in the better educated nations empathise with the ignorance you have been programmed with in your underfunded American schools.

I have no idea what pre-hispanic politics has to do with American interventions in Latin America. America once had a civil war, does that mean I can now invade you? Do they not teach logic in American schools?

The United States was not invited into Chile when they helped a military dictator overthrow the democratically elected government. That dictator, General Pinochet, disappeared and murdered people in their tens of thousands in the subsequent decade. I don't remember President Allende, the elected leader, asking them to do this.

Are all Americans so cowardly about the destruction they have caused in other nations or is it just you?

By the way, I didn't grow up in South America. I did live in the United States for several years, there is no poverty in Bolivia like the poverty on the streets of San Francisco, or the utter misery of the conditions I saw on the Navajo reservation I went to.

I do love how after crying about being called a Gringo, you now use transgender as a slur. Transgender is a condition you are born with, its nothing to be ashamed of.

So cute, what a little under-educated darling you are. I could just wrap you up and read you a book containing real-world facts.

Avatar image for Karmazyn

Wait the inferior Division got 8/10, and better version of it got 7/10. This game should get 11/10 for not including bullet sponges enemies. just saying.

Avatar image for Terrorantula

The game sucks, 7.....

I have an ad blocker, does Ubisoft have ad space on Gamespot?

Avatar image for thespicychiken

You can tell by the reviewer's voice he had a blast with this game....

Avatar image for deactivated-59aca989c9399

It's a sequel to the Division, which was a big disappointment, and seems to be suffering the same issues. Repetitive missions, Filed with bugs/lag and a piece of trash excuse of a campaign. Gonna pass hard on this one.

Avatar image for alexbartle

splitscreen coop?

Avatar image for thetab1988

Although reviews are mostly subjective, I feel this score is most appropriate for this game. A lot of reviews are giving this game 8s and 9s, just because co-op is there to make up for the horrendous shortcomings of single player.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller

@thetab1988: It's the most common argument for bad and disappointing games: "But it's fun if you play it with friends." Yeah, anything is.

Avatar image for infaredj

The Division: Wildlands

Avatar image for Blashbuck

@infaredj: never heard that comparison before.

very original. you've really caught us up to 2015.

Avatar image for Mengsk

I ended up not buying the game as I felt I had seen everything and was already getting bored after just a few hours of beta access. I didn't even make it to a boss. The gameplay is very bland. It's a nice game, just not worth $60++ at all. Release price should've been $40 IMO. If I buy it at all, it will be at $14.99 or less.

Avatar image for onionblaster

@Mengsk: yes, you can play Just Cause and get the same experience essentially. pass.

Avatar image for Karmazyn

@onionblaster: nah man Just Cause is set in Mediterranean and Wildlands in Bolivia. If you want this Clear and Present Danger, Chavez feel u need to get Wildlands.

Avatar image for Terrorantula

**** stick

Avatar image for mattcake

The biggest problem with Ubisoft is they're so scared of making a BAD game, they're too afraid to take the risks to make a truly GREAT game. All their games have huge effort and love put into them, but the end result is vanilla, grey, the same gameplay in a different skin... jack of all trades, master of none. Pick a lane and commit to excellence, instead of trying to keep everyone happy.

Avatar image for razor_rj

@mattcake: you are telling me this isnt a big risk game ? LOL.

Avatar image for cytheh

@mattcake: Totally agree. their maps and environment are gorgeous, clearly they put a lot of effort in the art. (assassin's creed, far cry, etc). The games look so well, but in the end they can all be summarize to : capture small fort to gain territory and capture "radio towers" to reveal map.

Avatar image for JEF8484

@mattcake: Very true. They really havent done anything innovative or new since, the first Assassins Creed? They were at their best with AC2 and Farcry 3. Its been a while.

Avatar image for phili878

Every Ubisoft game feels like it was made in a factory...

Avatar image for holenjd

Sounds like the same problems The Division had when it launched.

Avatar image for Gamer_4_Fun

I played the beta and closed beta, i couldn't stand it playing more than a few missions. This game is an insult to the franchise. I personally think it is no more than a 6/10.

Avatar image for muzza93

@Gamer_4_Fun: why is it an insult to the franchise?

Avatar image for thetab1988

@muzza93: because it's not a proper tactical shooter like previous GR games. Not to mention they put a lot of focus on SP/co-op only to have the AI be terrible. Wildlands is to Ghost Recon as Hardline is to Battlefield.

Avatar image for Smosh150

Though I agree with portions of your review. I would say try it with no HUD or very limited HUD on. It changes the way the game plays entirely.

I mean it isn't like the first few entries, but it still makes the game more challenging and more fun imo.

Avatar image for SkytheWiz1

@Smosh150: I really enjoyed no HUD until I was trying to figure out what item I was using (mine, grenade, C4, etc.). Beyond that, it was fantastic.

Avatar image for Smosh150

@SkytheWiz1: Yea, me too. I need to play more and test it again. But I could never get sync shot to work with markers off. It is a bit bothersome, but it hasn't ruined the experience for me.

Avatar image for Jacanuk

Hmm, 7 a lot nicer than i would have been.

And he did not even mention the awesome ghost cows or ghost powerlines.

I do not get how Ubisoft can miss the boat with so many games, Watch Dogs, The Division, Wildlands Assassins Creed.

Im almost hoping that Vivendi buys them because it can´t get any worse.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands More Info

  • First Released Mar 6, 2017
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Facing an almighty enemy in a massive and hostile environment, the Ghosts will need to make critical moral choices and engage in tough battles to complete their mission – their grittiest and most dangerous operation to date.
    Average Rating232 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft
    Published by:
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs