Game: "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands"
Release Date: March 7
My ghillie suit-clad character laid in the tall grass outside an enemy outpost. I pulled out my binoculars and marked who I could see in the immediate vicinity. I then pulled out my drone and threw it into the air to get a better vantage point and mark anyone I missed. As I put my drone away, one of my AI squad mates called out and highlighted an enemy that I had not seen. I aimed my sniper rifle and shot. Immediately following my silenced gunshot, my three squad mates hit their targets and we moved in closer into the compound. On another mission, I blew my cover and went in guns blazing. A Unidad (Bolivian Police) helicopter was on us in no time. I pulled out my sniper rifle, held it until the helicopter was facing directly my way and shot the pilot. I quickly moved into a nearby building and watched as the helicopter crashed directly where I just was moments ago.
“Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands” is full of memorable moments like these. As I have moved from mission to mission, I still have not tired of the exciting feeling of commanding a squad and silently taking out targets any way I want to. Unfortunately, the reality is that that is just about all you will do in this game. I should be transparent and say that I’m only about 10 hours into “Ghost Recon,” but essentially, think about a game centered around the outposts from “Far Cry” and you get “Wildlands.” Still, I’m far from bored of scouting areas, trying different ways of raiding Santa Blanca camps, stealing information and capturing resources for the Bolivian rebels; however, if nothing changes soon, I know that I will have to move on to something else.
“Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell” is one of my favorite series of all time, and I also really enjoyed the previous “Ghost Recon” game “Future Soldier.” In contrast, despite my excitement for “The Division,” I was very disappointed in the design of the game and how much it took from Bungie’s much better MMO, “Destiny.” When I first saw “Wildlands” at E3 a couple years ago, I was cautiously optimistic. I didn’t like the open-world idea, but was excited at the prospect of going back to a methodical shooter. Thankfully “Wildlands” is what I wanted “The Division” to truly be. “Wildlands" does not feature the bullet-sponging enemies or intense XP grinding of “The Division,” but it does maintain the open world along with the RPG upgrades and bountiful amounts of customization for appearance and loadouts.
The open-world nature of “Ghost Recon: Wildlands” begs the player to try out any number of ways to complete objectives. Several games offer the choices of stealth or action, but not many allow the uniqueness of skydiving onto a rooftop and sniping enemies or bulldozing the front gate with a combat jeep. It’s awe-inspiring to think of the scenarios that could play out if you came in the enemy camp from a different position or even just had a different loadout. Don’t take the comparison too far, but it almost feels like “Dishonored” with the endless possibilities angle. That being said, there comes a point where you will probably tire of raiding camps regardless of the freedom of choice.
I’m not far enough into “Wildlands” to comment on the overarching story, but I think it’s safe to say that it will not be a narrative masterpiece. The Ghosts are brought to Bolivia in hopes of providing more resistance to the drug lord El Sueno and his inferiors. The story of the game is all about working your way up by taking down lower-level cartel bosses before finally getting the chance to find El Sueno and stop his cocaine operation once and for all. Like most Tom Clancy games, “Wildlands” is full of politics- and military-based vocabulary and knowledge that is there primarily to provide some sort of plot and progression.
The thing I was surprised with in "Wildlands" is how pretty the setting is. Now, it doesn’t reach anywhere near the pinnacle of “Uncharted 4,” but Tom Clancy games don’t generally look very good, so I was pleased with realistic clothing and beautiful vistas. With the game having to run an incredibly large open-world, I was preparing myself for some muddy graphics but, for the most part, the game looks good and runs well. Similarly, I found myself enjoying the dialogue as I drove from mission to mission. If the AI recognizes that you are heading for a waypoint that is a fair distance away, one of the Ghosts will tell a story or joke. I don’t feel close to these people by any means, but it does give a bit of humanity to a very political and distant game. Even my character’s comments during combat don’t sound unnatural. If anything, it is the writing to blame (does anyone really say “sh*tballs”?).
I really like “Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands” even with the minor annoyances and monotonous tasks assigned to me. The sheer amount of ways you can undertake a mission makes everything seem a little different each time even if it is just your actions, not the directive, that is changing. If you like tactical shooters and are looking for something after “Rainbow Six: Siege” or “The Division,” I think that you will be pleased with what you find here. I’ll continue to work my way to El Sueno, and when I get there, I’ll have many more stories to tell about my Ghost squad.