Reviewed on PS4, copy supplied by publisher.
It’s been some time since we last saw the Ghosts in action. More action-focused than Rainbow, but still very tactical, the Ghost Recon games have changed with each release, and this latest outing is no different. It ditches the future warfighter setting of the previous entries in favour of a more contemporary setting, and gone are the separate level-based missions, and in their place is an wide open world map replete with missions, side missions and all sorts of other activities. Yes, Ubisoft’s goal of turning each game in its franchise catalogue into an open world adventure continues, and Ghost Recon has fallen into the rank and file.
As soon as you get into the game it becomes instantly apparent that this is a Ubisoft title, it’s all just so damn familiar. The open world is filled with the exact same kinds of missions and tasks as you’d see in the likes of Far Cry or WatchDogs, and any other increasingly samey titles from the publisher, and the world, which looks fantastic by the way, is populated with various factions and enemy facilities that you need to take over in order to reach your goals of taking down the different enemy leaders and taking back the country, piece by piece.
In many ways, despite the cookie-cutter Ubisoft feel, with all of same mechanics and design every other Ubisoft open world game boasts, I was also reminded of the recent Mafia III. Your goals are almost identical – taking down a large-scale drug empire by dealing with the command structure, causing havoc to force the big wigs to come out of hiding so you can take them down, only this time you’re part of a quartet of highly-trained covert operatives operating in Bolivia.
It’s here where Ghost Recon holds most of its unique appeal, and stands out as much as it can from other open world Ubi games. Wildlands attempts to keep the tactical roots of the series alive whilst embracing Ubi’s love of all things open and worldy. It does this by putting you in command of a team of soldiers who fight alongside you. You can issue various simple orders to them, such as moving to a location, holding position, or changing their firing orders, and you can also use the sync shot system. This allows you to tag a target for your allies (beginning at one a time and increasing in number as you level up skills) so that they’ll pick off the target either at your command, or when you also take out another foe. It’s a very nice feature, and one that works well, and makes silently taking out enemy guards and clearing facilities a little more unique than in similar games. There’s a definite feel of being part of an elite team here, rather than a lone wolf as in so many other open world games, and there’s a greater emphasis on stealth and tactical approach.
The problem here is the allied AI and the way the game handles them when in combat or being stealthy. Aside from being able to tell them all to hold position or move to a point (you can’t order one at a time), you have little control over their actual movements. So, if you’re trying to silently clear a base, you’ll often have to do it yourself as your allies can sometimes blindly walk right out into the open. This can lead to one of two outcomes, either the enemy is alerted, or, in many instances, the immersion is smashed as your allies, much like Ellie in The Last of Us, can seemingly wander right in front of an enemy without so much as the guard raising an eyebrow. Some sort of cloaking device maybe? It’s a shame you weren’t’ given one too.
In the latter instance, your allies may not alert the guards, but you can mistake them for an enemy as their names aren’t always in place, or they’ll open fire on a foe that’s seen you, not giving you chance to hide and restore your stealthy status. It can be a bit of a pain to say the least.
This issue is alleviated, of course, if you play the game co-op with friends, and this is really the way the game was meant to be tackled, with other people. If you’re running with a four man team Wildlands quickly becomes a much better experience, and this is really how the game should be approached. You can properly set up plans of attack, or execute covert infiltrations, and it’s a blast to exercise your tactical skills.
This is all good, and although I may be giving off a feeling of negativity so far, I have to say I do like Wildlands, even when playing solely in single player. The visuals are superb, the combat is well implemented, with both third and first person aiming modes, and the world the game takes place is is enormous. There’s a ton to do, and when you tackle the higher difficulties, you really do have to be tactical and make the most use out of your allies, weapons and other gear at your disposal.
It really is a rock solid, open world shooter, and if this is your bag, Wildlands is great. The tactical additions do help set it apart to some degree from most other similar titles, and the obvious fun to be had with online co-op is very evident. The problem I have, though, it just the lack of any originality outside of the light tactical elements. Everything just feels so committee-driven, as it the developers were just ticking-off generic Ubisoft feature boxes. Open world. Check. Segmented map you have to take over. Check. Tons of collectibles and, god forbid, radio towers. Check.
You get the idea, it’s a game that’s slotted into the increasingly generic Ubisoft open world framework, and in my opinion it suffers because of it.
It a real shame, as despite this, Wildlands is a good game, it really is, it just suffers from too much over-familiarity (and yes, it has a bloody season pass- groan), and the tactical features aren’t fleshed out and important enough to set it apart. When online, though, it’s a much more impressive experience.