[Editor’s note: This is the final review from Kyle Durant for Pure PlayStation. Kyle has been with us for quite a while now and we’re all sad to see him go, but that’s just how things are. Life goes on, and Pure PlayStation will continue as normal with full coverage and just as many reviews. Hopefully…]
Surprisingly, as a shooter fan, I haven’t played many Ghost Recon titles. I’ve dabbled in a few betas over the years, but never pulled the trigger on a full game. The satisfaction of Battlefield and other third-party shooters were enough for me. In typical fashion I did get into the Wildlands closed beta and thoroughly enjoyed myself. You can read my impressions here. However, I did mention the worry about things being repetitive. That fear came through in bunches and when presented to an enormous open-world, it just didn’t come together.
Ghost Recon Wildlands follows the titular elite squad as they’re directed to Boliva and the drug gang running it. The Santa Blanca Cartel slowly became a major power in the underground narcotic world and developed into (more or less) a terrorist group. Governments looked the other way, journalists were silence (read: killed), and police were put on their payroll. They were put on the United State’s radar when an undercover CIA agent was the target of a brutal bombing, torture session, and murder. Naturally, the Ghosts are called in to dismantle Santa Blanca piece by piece in order to prevent anymore bloodshed. Their goal is to help the local resistance movement and take down key members that are apart of the evil organization.
It’s pretty straight forward and the plot never tries to be anything it’s not, but that doesn’t excuse the fact things can get real boring real quick. I’ll explain how so more in the gameplay aspect of the review, but I just didn’t care or feel connected to the main characters and their mission. There was no drama or motivations to take down this cartel other than they do bad things off-screen. Not seeing most of their atrocities first-hand really was a factor here. More often than not, I was just following orders and taking out people because the screen told me to.
The gameplay is a mix between third and first-person shooting. As you’re moving you look over your character’s shoulder and when aiming, it will automatically take you to a first person perspective. You can force the third person view back while shooting, but it’s not as effective. Overall, the gunplay is very smooth and taking out enemies with bullets is enjoyable. You’ll find the traditional set of arms including assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, and the typical accessories for a game that involves shooting. The stealth option is here as well thanks to the way certain areas are designed in tandem with silencers, crouching, laying down, and melee grapples. Yes, it does work and often will be your preferred solution to taking out bad guys unless you just don’t care.
Situations utilizing these options range from approaching a compound or area, infiltrating it, and retrieving/putting down what you need and that’s it. Yup, not lying. The same general situation will play out again and again with only a difference in environment. Sure the buildings might be different or you may even go underground, but the mechanics stay the same. You might be thinking that there’s other activities to make up for repetitive missions, but you’d be wrong. The collectibles, although smartly implemented as I mentioned in the beta impressions, they don’t offer enough substance to make up for the game’s mission structure. Literally, after the first two story missions I found myself growing bored (with or without friends) and just jumped into a group of four to do whatever they were doing.
Which brings up another concern. Ghost Recon Wildlands is meant to be played with friends or other actual people. Some missions alone will be incredibly tough and/or broken, such as convoy objectives. Here you have stop and tag a moving convey (few cars and the target truck). Only problem is the way this quest is designed. Blocking the road will have no effect, tires almost never get shot properly the first few times, and you’d be lucky to shoot the driver of the truck. Doing this with only A.I. is near impossible and doing it alone requires chance and many helicopter flights. It certainly doesn’t help that this can be a story mission as well. So make sure you team up with friends or randoms, but expect to deal with their chosen missions and objectives. To make things worse, a few times I played in someone else’s world and I didn’t get credit for completing the tasks over there. When it came down to it, the most fun I had came when I was screwing around with a group of three other friends.
The skills, weapons, and abilities menus are nicely designed though. Everything was easy to navigate and access. Part of which was the upgrade screen. This allowed you to make your character and buddies stronger (obviously) and introduced some otherwise neat aspects in the mundane gameplay. Things like more drone usage battery, steady aim, increased revive speed, added sync shots, and more to grow your techniques. The customization on weapons and characters were also acceptable, but hardly make up for the repetitive motions.
Being an open-world game, Wildlands does have some nice diversity in its landscape and brought to life by pretty good graphics. Sadly, the atmosphere and world building ends there. The voice acting could use a lot of work and I cringed every time the Ghosts’ bantered with each other. There was also something I just couldn’t pin down on the de facto radio host, but that might be a positive to some. For what it’s worth, when loading into other people’s lobbies or fast traveling across this land, there were no rendering or matchmaking problems to speak of. Things in that regard were handled well. No typical Ubisoft connection errors. The vehicles (especially the helicopters) still handle horribly. So you can look forward to that.
The main problem is Ghost Recon Wildlands plays like a tight, linear shooter in a giant open world. There is some gameplay to enjoy, but things will get very repetitive really fast in order to fit the open world mold. There's no usual Ubisoft online connection problems and the gameplay can be fun, but only if you're with other people. Even then you'll find yourself getting bored with your mission, objectives, and repetitive gameplay mechanics after an hour. Don't get me wrong, the shooting itself is solid. Just everything around it isn't.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a physical version of the game bought at retail at the expense of the reviewer. It was reviewed with the latest patch available and was played on a base PS4.