Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (41.9 GB)
Release Date: March 9, 2017
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US), €69.99 (EU), £54.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of the Gold Edition of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. This version includes the Huntsman rifle, the Huntsman motorbike, 3 emblems, 3 weapon camos, 3 character customization items, XP booster, and the Season Pass.
PS Nation Review Policy

From an early age, we are taught about good and evil. We root for the nice folk and abhor the bad. Every form of media shows us who to detest and the horrible things they do, whether it’s fiction or the scarier real-life horrors of what we do to each other across the globe.

Many of us are ill-equipped to deal with such people in the real world and probably would not have the stomach for it even if we could.

Therefore, we seek enjoyment in the world of fiction and in this case, an open-world tactical military shooter set in Bolivia. We can play the entire game alone or in co-op with up to three other people.

Gameplay:
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the latest game in an important series that has helped shape the shooter genre for many years. This one is a slight departure from the origins of the popular series, although fans will still see many of the signatures that have made the games so fun and enthralling.

After a couple of cutscenes you are dropped into the massive open world and you’ll instantly have the option to call your friends to seamlessly join you in a co-op game, but first I’ll talk about the single player experience.

You are part of a four-person team sent to take down the Santa Blanca drug cartel that embedded itself into twenty-one provinces of Bolivia. Each area is governed by a high-ranking member of the cartel specializing in an aspect of the cartel business such as production, security, influence, and smuggling.

You are free to tackle the areas in any order. There are no restrictions on where you can go, apart from the occasional SAM site or overwhelming enemy presence that might deter you from venturing into some places, at least until you’ve gained some experience and skills.

Each enemy commendation and medal you find unlocks a skill point that grants you access to abilities dependent on your character level. There’s a large assortment of skills such as the ability to equip a parachute or mine, or more advanced options like medic drone or ADV Suppressor.

… the ridiculously satisfying sync-shot …
The loadout includes up to eighty weapons and a couple shy of one-hundred attachments. I especially like the Gunsmith section which shows you the chosen weapon broken down into selectable parts allowing you to clearly see where each piece goes.

There’s plenty to distract you from the story missions, which appear as you interrogate cartel lieutenants, find documents, and free captives in the province. The vast amount of items to tag, skills to find, and inconsequential enemies to kill means I always end up far away from my original destination.

Every enemy appears as a faint glow on the map. It’s only when you spot them with your gun sights, binoculars, or drone that it turns into a red dot. This marks them for your team and helps you plan your attack.

I feel like a moth to an orange flame as I veer from my current objective when I see an inviting glow from a large enemy placement. It might be an old farm, a small airstrip, or even a village. After reaching the high ground and religiously marking every enemy, dispatching the snipers and stragglers, I then use the ridiculously satisfying sync-shot to kill the rest.

If you have unlocked enough of the sync-shot ability you can highlight up to three targets for your team to dispatch as soon as you either tell them to engage or take a shot on a fourth target yourself. Orchestrating the simultaneous death of a group of bad guys with precision and skill never gets old.

… there is very little here for the squeamish …
After a short time you will begin to unlock rebel support. This means any patrolling rebels will come to your aid if close enough and you can soon call in support. You can also get a vehicle drop or motor strike but then have to wait for the long cool down before asking for their help again.

The helicopter quickly became my preferred mode of transport to explore the gigantic map. For the first time in many open world games, I have begun to utilize the fast-travel option as traversing the gargantuan world eventually becomes mildly tedious, especially when driving. Each new province I encounter dispels the tedium for a good while but it inevitably returns.

In the solo mode, you don’t have to wait around for your computer controlled team to climb aboard as they quickly appear alongside you in any available seats. If you jump on a dirt bike and race off, your team informs you they will catch up. As soon as you dismount, the Ghost Recon team appears nearby.

With the vehicles, the developers clearly wanted you to remain in an upright position as it can be difficult to flip one. Going over the edge of a cliff might seem insane in many games, but this one desperately tries to keep you going. The actual steering is a little loose for my liking but after a short time, it becomes easy to get around.

I will avoid going into detail about the story as I still have a long way to go and would not want to spoil any of it for you. I will mention that some elements will churn your stomach and others will make you smile but there is very little here for the squeamish, as you will see all of the disgusting acts the drug cartels are known for.

… civilians who love to either run past your sights or leisurely stroll through a gunfight …
Visuals:
Aside from the occasional graphical glitches and framerate drops, which could be fixed by the time all the servers are up, I found the landscapes and scenery to be brilliant, especially considering the scale. Admittedly, there isn’t as much going on per square foot as in other open-world games but it does a good job overall.

Seeing the contact of a bullet through telescopic sights is horribly gratifying. The puff of red mist as the unsuspecting enemy is propelled backward into a lifeless heap is both disturbing and fun. Don’t let my shrink hear about that.

Explosions and gunfire look as if they were pulled from a summer blockbuster, although some of the timing can be a little off with the blast shockwave and the movement of the vehicle, for instance. Then we have the annoying civilians who love to either run past your sights or leisurely stroll through a gunfight without a care. Too many innocent people killed means game over for you, so watch out.

Audio:
The music is by far my least favorite part of the game. It just isn’t my cup of tea. The voice acting and audio logs are good but the audio effects win in this section. The thud of a silenced sniper rifle and the twang of a bullet clipping some metal is very good.

The jokes and situational remarks your Ghosts make as you embark on lengthy expeditions help to immerse you in the game but you will hear some repetition, which is inevitable in such an expansive environment.

Online/Multiplayer:
This part of the game is what Ubisoft is shouting about, and with good reason as the game can be played in four-player co-op from start to finish. It features drop-in and out play so you can quickly join your friends and help them out.

You can also join an open game and play with random people although this can be a hindrance if they have no mics or speak a different language. Thankfully, that can be a requirement you set in the menu.

… a wonderfully unique experience when you have a well-oiled squad …
You can still mark targets using the synchronized shot but neatly executing the order requires some communication along with your pull of the trigger, otherwise things go wrong quickly. One annoyance is the complete loss of computer-controlled players making up the numbers. Therefore, it helps to get a full squad of Ghosts together.

The game becomes a wonderfully unique experience when you have a well-oiled squad and masterfully plan and execute an incursion. Having one or two in a vantage point equipped with a high-powered sniper rifle and the rest being guided into a compound, all carefully communicating and sneaking around under the cover of darkness is so much fun.

One point of contention we all had is that we were forced to individually tag each supply crate. It was impossible for one of us to tag them for the rest of the team. I do like that you can fast travel to any other Ghost so there is less chance of being left behind. That being said, you do not spawn in a vehicle but near to the location where you initiated the travel.

Conclusion:
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands might have a few issues but it’s as close to experiencing a tactical military firefight with your friends as you’re going to get. It can be a very methodical co-op shooter and a crazy and over-the-top mayhem filled blast.

Ubisoft has succeeded in delivering what was promised when the game was first announced. You can go anywhere at any time, and you and three of your friends can play the entire game from beginning to end together. The choice as to how you approach your objectives is up to you. The developers have managed to make killing the horrifically bad, so good.

I have enjoyed playing it in both solo and co-op and will happily switch between the two whenever my friends are available. This is not like my usual game habits as I tend to stick with one or the other, but there is something about the game that just works so well.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • purist

    Sounds like there are benefits for either single or co-op. Nice write up, Chazz. I won’t tell your shrink.

    • ChazzH69

      It is a great direction for the franchise and I love playing it regardless of the issues. Well worth your time and money.