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Review

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Review

  • First Released Mar 6, 2017
    released
  • 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.

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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
7
Good
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 fanirama
fanirama

How does a game like Zelda which is the same rinse repeat with breakable weapons and laundry list of issues in the review get 10/10 while this gets a 7/10 despite being stated to be better than the score?

GS just reeks of fanboy bias in its reviews.

Avatar image for snaketus
snaketus

@fanirama: Exactly! Nintendo gets a free pass. https://donotpreorder.blog/2017/03/10/why-nintendo-gets-a-free-pass/

This game at least is technically impressive, on PC.

Avatar image for soarlozer
Soarlozer

@fanirama: I watched someone stream zelda for 20 mins and it looks like at least worth a 8+.

I have played this game and watched people stream for a few hours and I think its like a 5-7.

Avatar image for istep2step
iStep2Step

@soarlozer: PLease **** you...

Avatar image for xolivierx
xolivierx

@fanirama: You compare a braindead, boring, open world shooter to Zelda?

right...

Avatar image for naiko
Naiko

@fanirama: Still mad about the BOTW score review? Jesus christ.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

@fanirama: LOL. Same rinse and repeat yet this is the first Zelda with breakable weapons, dungeons and shrines you can tackle in any order, horses that can die, and enemies that can one shot you. But how many different ways can you make a game about a group of four or five cookie cutter badasses with "modern day guns" shooting at the same soldier clone bullet sponges?

Avatar image for pwgameverse12
pwgameverse12

@fanirama: You can't specify "a laundry list of issues" and not say what they are.

Avatar image for Milknweed
Milknweed

@fanirama: Na man I've seen Breath Of The Wilds gameplay and Wildlands is nowhere near its level.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

I have such an innate fear of Ubisoft that I actually don't trust them to do a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil any justice.

Avatar image for hansond_jaysond_lee
Hansond_Jaysond_Lee

So basically...
a good game, if you never/rarely play any action open world game.
a decent game, if you already familiar with the genre.
a bad game, it you loathe Ubisoft.

Avatar image for Zenwork21
Zenwork21

Well.. I will give it a try anyway,,

Avatar image for stevegongos77_
SteveGongos77_

Ubisoft = tired, retreaded rubbish

Avatar image for GT_APE
GT_APE

Hate to say this but I'm a little glad this isn't as 'realistic' as Rainbow Six (per the comments here at least). I was tired of getting gibbed every time I lifted a finger in that game. LOL

This looks pretty good to me. I plan on getting it.

Avatar image for snaketus
snaketus

@GT_APE: Yup, it being less realistic makes it more fun actually. But it realistic enough to make some interesting scenarios and of course it looks gorgeous on PC.

Avatar image for icing
ICING

This basically confirms what I figured when I first saw gameplay. Not outright terrible and probably ok to play with friends but nothing new and certainty nothing that made the older games fun. I really hope they do a back to roots reboot, even if it's not quite as punishing as it was it will still be an improvement.

Avatar image for jagdedge124
jagdedge124

Well, i'm sure Ubisoft will laugh that one right to the bank. Half my friends list is playing this.

You gave Sniper Elite 4 an 8, and this a 7???? LMAO !!

There goes that review.

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

This game has one thing going for it: great co-op. If there were more co-op games on PS4 with this kind of freedom of exploration and gameplay, this probably wouldn't stand out. But as it is, this is a fun game to play with other players. Far more than pretty much any other I've played on PS4.

Avatar image for jdc6305
jdc6305

Get the suckers to buy it before the reviews come out. Delayed reviews should be a warning sign from now on.

Avatar image for silversix_
silversix_

If you want to be bored and torture your soul, get this game. If you want to have fun get Nioh, Adromeda, Nier, Horizon, BotW.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800
gamingdevil800

@silversix_: Well remains to be seen if Andromeda is good or not the facial animations at the moment look like everyone is shocked, bored or on drugs.

Avatar image for SunriseAngel
SunriseAngel

@gamingdevil800: So true. Can't believe they're actually releasing the game like that...

Avatar image for valduramma
Valduramma

@gamingdevil800: lol

Avatar image for RabbiSchmuley
RabbiSchmuley

they really had to give this review an incubation period. Go away Ubisoft.

Avatar image for sonypony4eva
SonyPony4eva

@RabbiSchmuley: For Honor's multiplayer is awesome, Ubisoft sucks outside of that though lol.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

Every drug lord procedural.

Avatar image for Fartman7998
Fartman7998

Play with two or three of your buddies and it's a blast. Just enjoy the gameplay for what it is and clear the map, and enjoy it.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup
uninspiredcup

"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"

WHAATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!

Avatar image for Richardthe3rd
Richardthe3rd

@uninspiredcup: my thoughts exactly. That quote you listed is a complete mess, and absolute heresy when taken in light of what Ghost Recon began as; a hyper realistic tactical squad warfare game.

If the phrase "bullet sponge" or "healing" is used in the review of said game and those are accurate descriptors, it isn't ghost recon or rainbow six on any level except name.

If they were true to their roots, getting shot = you're dead. No healing, no sponging bullets. You screwed up, planned wrong, and you pay the price.

Ubisoft ruined these franchises and continues to shit mercilessly all over them. As they do with practically everything they touch.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup
uninspiredcup

@Richardthe3rd: Remember that time in Rainbow 6 when you hopped on a mini-gun and bloweded up a convoy of bad guys while rock and roll music played?

Remember how rather than a 1-shot-1 hit kill game with tight corridors and planning, it was actually Just Cause 3?

Remember how, rather than a a set of realistically depicted units across the globe taking on realistic situations, it was actually a bunch of bad ass cool dude Americans with pink Mohawks and shades going after a movie villain?

Remember that time in Rainbow 6 (maybe it was Rogue Spear) when you could look at bad guys for 3 seconds and then see them all through walls?

Pwettty awsome!

Avatar image for artfull47
ArtFull47

@uninspiredcup: did you just described Desert siege here? I think I remember the special unit guy with withe jeans and ski goggles ..oh maybe it was a cowboy hat? And every mission insertions use to be jumping of a chopper and let him go crashing? Wildlands is so much like what Tom Clancy's title use too be !!!

Avatar image for sonypony4eva
SonyPony4eva

This is a generous score.. It's not a bad game, but it isn't anything refreshing either. Everyone else gave it 3/5 stars, 50-60 something percent ratings, etc, so you can't get mad at Gamespot for this one. I still can't believe Rambo the rail shooter got a 6 lol.

Avatar image for deactivated-5a26032528a9b

@sonypony4eva: He's a man, not a god!

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands More Info

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  • First Released Mar 6, 2017
    released
    • 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.
    7.8
    Average Rating232 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genre(s):
    Adventure, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs