Ghost Recon Wildlands – Review

The first thing I remember when I hear the word “Bolivia” is Disney’s Bolt – an animation movie that stars a white dog. This may sound strange, but it’s true. In Ghost Recon Wildlands, Bolivia is your playground.

The Santa Blanca cartel is the drug organization you will need to take down. Your list of names is huge, and the experience will not be what you expect. Wildlands tries so hard that it stumbles on flaws that pulls it back from its true potential.

Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platform Available: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Price: $59.99
This review is based on a review copy provided by the developers/publisher.

Wildlands is Ubisoft’s newest addition to their Ghost Recon franchise. The game features an interesting open-world setting that sets it apart from its predecessors, but with bad implementation of objectives and a typical drug organization war story. You start off with a group of Special Ops called Ghosts who are deployed in Bolivia to exterminate the Boss of Bosses, El Sueno. The plot is a section of the game I care less about. However, Bolivia is impressively huge – even bigger than Horizon’s sandbox – and dangerous but it’s filled with never-ending loop of missions that makes it dull and forced.

The tacmap – which is also your map – shows borderlines that separate each village and sections of Bolivia that also lists the buchon who oversees the small part of their operations in that sector. With buchon as the lowest title in the organization, the Underbosses are the second targets before you can hit the head of each responsibility – Security, Influence, Production, and Smuggling. How Ubisoft made the mechanic to take out each Underboss is horribly tiresome. You are forced to kill all of the buchons before the arrogant underbosses come out.

I wouldn’t mind if the game requires you to kill every buchon if the missions are not all that repetitive. Mind you, how you approach each mission can vary, it is unique in its own aspect where you get to decide to be aggressive, under the radar, or a mix of both. However, all of them are awfully the same. You are given a mission to destroy drug/cocaine/energy drink stashes, defend a radio broadcast from hordes of enemies, and rescue or kidnap people. Hence, you repeat the same kind of missions in different locations.

Before you can get a new main quest, you are also required to get Major Intel documents that are scattered across Bolivia which makes it dragging and boring. With the huge sandbox that Wildlands offer, you get to wonder why this was even considered to be an important key for getting missions available. Believe me, you will get tired of getting these so-called Major Intel to progress. Along with silly required documents to retrieve, you also have additional key information that will lead you to skill points, weapons cases and parts, and also side missions. Also, the skill tree is nonsense in a way that a simple Frag Grenade is unavailable for use until you upgrade. It feels that Ubisoft Paris didn’t know what they needed to do on how to make the skill tree viable and important.

Talking about weapons and parts, the customization of your guns is emphasized and is highly changeable. Wildlands‘ doesn’t just improve your gun’s statistics like a game, but it does so in a realistic way as possible. For example, your M40A1 sniper rifle starts off with a stock scope that doesn’t offer a longer range distance, you can change the scope to improve its view range, change its barrel to refine its accuracy — given if you have these parts already. You need to go through the hassle of finding these parts from all over Bolivia to unlock and use them which is a bummer.

Combat is an important role especially in Ghost Recon, and that’s what makes Wildlands enjoyable at best. You are given the full freedom of flexibility and adaptability on how you approach your missions. A full head-on charge with your companions and/or friends make the experience fun. Car chases are also exciting especially when you get one of those SUVs with a mini-gun on top. The enemy AI gives it more of a challenge, but it does so in an utterly stupid way. They get to be smart at times, but also dumb when they suddenly decide to rush towards you to their deaths.

Your AI companions, however, are remarkably intelligent — even way more than you expect in terms of making it feel like it’s real. When you mark enemies via drone or binoculars, there are times when your AI companions are able to successfully kill a target even if it was not feasible. Although, they also randomly tell you that they lost view of their target when the enemy AI is either behind a big wall or inside a shelter without windows. I’m not sure if this was a bad game design or not, but it was a bit of an advantage when they do the impossible.

It’s also good to note that Ubisoft made it easier for players to magically put the AI companions inside the vehicles. This has been really convenient, it might feel weird and funny to see it at the start, but I realized that this was not a flaw by design. When I first saw it happening, I was pondering if this was really an unfixable issue, but it wasn’t.

Driving was definitely slightly improved in this final version of the game, the closed beta experience was just horrendous. It was unresponsive, and every vehicle, may it be an SUV or a motorcycle, was difficult to handle. Ubisoft did pay attention to the community’s feedback, and they fixed the problem, however, there are still rooms for improvement.

What I find amusing is the disturbingly perfect way of vehicles landing when it’s on off-road. It doesn’t turn upside down in every way I tried to crash the car. Even when riding dirt bikes, you won’t fall off if you hit a tree or a big rock on full speed. I find the lack of physics an important aspect of the game that Ubisoft Paris purposely ignored. Every open-world game does this, but it seems that Ubisoft Paris didn’t care about the game’s realism.

Graphics seems to be dated compared to other Ubisoft titles like Watch_Dogs 2 and For Honor. The character faces were too plain, it didn’t have much details that I expected it to have for this generation of AAA third-person shooters. You can compare it to The Division’s character models.

The animations when the characters speak is tad horrible and the expressions were lifeless — and these are in-game visuals. Graphical glitches are still present in the game like shadows flickering, and there are low-quality draw distances and details from mountain rocks. However, when the weather strikes in with rain, I do love how the effects are shown especially when the lightning strikes.

In the technical side of things, Wildlands is not too shabby. The frame-rate is mostly stable, but the frame-pacing is inconsistent. Nonetheless, my whole playthrough was smooth, and I didn’t experience any crashes. The online feature is also solid, which is a plus point for playing with friends.

I did have some fun and enjoyable moments. Although, Ghost Recon Wildlands had potential but it didn’t manage to keep up with the standards of open-world games similar to Watch_Dogs 2 and Grand Theft Auto V. It has too many setbacks that prevents the game from reaching its true potential.



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