Tom Clancy games have a tremendous pedigree reaching back over the past two decades. From Splinter Cell to Rainbow Six, the games have run the gamut on what a military style shooter should be with some games being critical successes and others never really making it to the upper echelons of gaming’s collective memory. Ghost Recon has always been my personal favorite with Advanced Warfighter from last generation being the best in my eyes. With the release of another Ghost Recon game, we thought it was high time to jump back into the boots of a special ops soldier as we fought for truth, justice, and the Tom Clancy way – taking out lots and lots of terrorists.
If you are new to the Ghost Recon games, they can be compared against the others as being more open to run and gun play. You can do stealth, you can play with neat gadgets, or you can run in guns blazing and hope everything turns out alright. That’s why these games were always my favorite, because I’m absolutely horrible at forced stealth. Wildlands begins with a covert ops sending you (a player created character) to Bolivia with 3 other squad mates after a drug cartel that bombed and took an American agent hostage. Your main target is El Sueno, the leader of the Santa Blanca cartel who is as ruthless as he is tattooed. Setting boots on the ground, you’ll be briefed on the current makeup of Bolivia and then sent on your way to tackle missions in whatever manner you wish. Each area is controlled by a lieutenant of the cartel and in order to bring their operation down, you’ll need to complete Intel gathering missions and operations that hinder their operations in order to learn of where they are stationed. The missions you’ll undertake range from breaking into a high security base and interrogating the leader, finding notes or documents left around the map, or disrupting the drug cartel in more destructive ways like blowing up their product. The missions range and you have some choices in how you want to tackle them depending on how you spec your character and arm him/her.
Choice is where this game really stands out. With multiple upgrade paths that cater to multiple play styles, two players could have wildly different stats that would allow for some truly unique gameplay. My favorite path to take was the silent approach leading up to a base. I would then launch my drone to tag enemies from a distance. With this tagging feature, I could set up incredibly satisfying shots where me and my computer controlled buddies would take out a couple enemies at the same time, ensuring no alarms were set off. Through upgrades you can decrease the cool down time of this skill and increase the battery and range of the drone, all stats I highly recommend. Another option I went with was making sure my gun arm was strong, so I constantly upgraded my gun abilities. You’ll unlock these skills as you level and as you explore through the Bolivian countryside and complete main and side missions, and there are quite a few to keep you occupied. These choices will also benefit the co-op gamer who has some buddies to play with. With each person boosting a certain skill, you could create nice combinations of skill sets that would compliment each other’s playstyle and pay dividends in game.
A game can be made or broken by the world in which it resides. Luckily for Wildlands, the world is beautiful and incredibly varied. In Wildlands, you’ll be doing a lot of traveling. Whether it be through the streets in a vehicle or in the air with a helicopter, the landscape and scenery of Bolivia is constantly alive and beautiful. Walking through a Bolivian town, you’ll see people living out their daily lives, praying to shrines, bartering with others, all while you complete your missions and do your best to not disturb their way of life. But this is a drug cartel controlled country and their lives are constantly being disturbed with gun fights breaking out when cartel members are alerted to your presence. On multiple occasions I got the message that I had mistakenly killed a civilian in a gunfight and legitimately felt bad about it. I was brought into the world and really felt like I was participating in a drug war in a far away land.
Most of what you read so far has been very positive with the game. I think this is a great game that will click with a lot of people, but there is one caveat. This game was made to be played in co-op. I can’t really stress that enough. Depending on what type of player you are and your gaming circle of friends, this could be the best news you’ve read or the worst. You are given 3 computer controlled partners to play the game with, but after a couple hours you’ll start to fall into a routine. You’ll have your ways to break into a structure and you’ll follow through each and every time. When you set up shots with your AI partners, they will never miss and will always do what you tell them to. They won’t set off guards unintentionally (although you will) and everything will be very by the books. If that is your thing, then you’ll do just fine here. But the story and solo gameplay aren’t enough in single player to warrant the level of dedication and play this game should receive. Instead, if you have two or three friends with headsets that can hop into this world with you, I feel like this game could be something truly special that you sink hours and hours into as you travel across Bolivia causing havoc and defeating the drug cartel. Human partners are, well, human. They make mistakes. The turmoil that erupts from those mistakes and how you combat them would undoubtedly provide some of the most gun gameplay available in Wildlands. If you have a chance to co-op with friends or even hop into the multiplayer with strangers, I highly recommend you do that as this game was made for that type of play.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is a tough game to review with a number. Too much depends on how you are going to play and whether you are going to hop into the world with friends or strangers. Instead of giving a review score, I’ll give recommendations based upon three options. First, if you are playing solo and never plan to play co-op with anyone, I would recommend watching gameplay videos and maybe renting if it’s an option. There is a chance you’ll love playing solo, but you’ll be missing out on the major draw to this game and I think most would find the solo style game to be lacking after a couple hours. Second, if you’re playing solo but don’t have friends that play, you can hop online and have some good fun, but that is always a mixed bag. I would recommend it with an asterisks at the end warning that your online gaming fun will vary depending on who you get on your team. This game requires tactical play and if you get a Clint Eastwood type who runs off to take down stuff on his own, you might not have the most fun. Finally, if you have a couple friends who could play this with you and you all have headsets, I can’t recommend this game enough. That’s how this game was made to be played and that is where this game will shine. So, find some friends, pick up your headsets, and take back Bolivia from the Santa Blanca cartel. You’ll have a blast doing so.