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Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

by on March 9, 2017
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In our last VGP Radio podcast, we discussed modern shooters and their appeal. During the episode (which you check out right here), we talked a lot about tactical shooters, and how they have a more niche appeal generally, since gamers want something simpler. However, the tactical aspect appeals to plenty of gamers as well, and my colleague Luciano argued that it makes for a more complex and immersive (if less forgiving) experience. With Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Ubisoft appears willing to tackle that dilemma. They ask: Can we make a modern tactical third-person-shooter that has mainstream appeal but still caters to fans of tactical gameplay? Let’s find out if they succeeded.

To begin with, it’s fairly clear that Ubisoft is leaning more towards the mainstream audience with this one, so fans of the purer tactical experience might not be 100% on board with it. However, I can say that they’ve managed to really balance things out and create a shooter that forces you to use your wits. Let’s call it a mainstream shooter with tactical leanings. Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes you on a perilous journey into the Bolivian wilderness, where you take on the vicious Santa Blanca drug cartel. Now, when I say ‘into the Bolivian wilderness’, I mean the entire Bolivian wilderness. The game’s map is simply massive, and I found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the scale of it. Bolivia is a beautiful country by the looks of it, and Ubisoft has done a great job bringing it to life. The only problem is you need to get places every so often, and it can feel a little *too* big.

Of course, there are tons of ways to get around, so you’ve got your usual transport options. And you’ll need them, because Santa Blanca has been busy, and there’s no shortage of targets to take out. Ubisoft has invested a ton of energy into the lore behind the Santa Blanca, and they’ve drawn on a number of influences to create some truly disturbing villains. It’s no secret that the South American drug trade attracts some very dangerous people, and Ubisoft has taken pains to depict some ruthless bad guys. More interestingly however, Santa Blanca isn’t just a cartel – it’s a cult. The members of the cartel have varying levels of involvement in the religious aspect, but the game is rife with imagery from Mexican folk religion, especially relating to Santa Muerte.

The infamous ‘Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte’ guides the cartel members in their endeavors and they seem to have an almost fanatical devotion to her in some instances. This gives the game an added element of danger, as you get the impression you’re fighting total nutjobs.

Your missions typically involve surveillance, recon and of course ultimately elimination of said nutjobs. Of course, there are the typical escort and extract variants, but your main gig is to sneak into cartel strongholds and shoot some dudes while stopping some other dudes from being shot.

While the PC version of Ghost Recon Wildlands will support NVIDIA Ansel, ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratios, and no framerate cap, the console versions of the game is still decent. This digital rendering of Bolivia’s different environments is stunning on consoles, peaking performance on the PlayStation 4. As expected with most games of this era, Ghost Recon: Wildlands sadly suffers occasional frame rate drops and your usual screen tear that is becoming all too normal nowadays on consoles. While it won’t really ruin your experience, and I expect a patch to stabilize these things, it’s nothing that will hinder your experience. On Xbox One (and Xbox One S) the game alters in the 25 to 30 frames per second, while the normal PlayStation 4 will reach 29 to 30 FPS, which can be annoying when driving fast through the land or even when there’s a lot of shooting action.

Resolution wise, you’ll get the usual native 1080p on the PlayStation 4 while the Xbox One will reach the 900p, but overall edges are well presented, and the environment looks crisp unless you focus hard on the background in the far end of the map. The PlayStation 4 Pro on the other hand is a more stable experience, with a perfectly locked 30 FPS, up to 1440p which will get you this boost in pixel count, add refined details to precise edges like tall grass looking more real, but you’ll need a true HDR 4K monitor or TV to truly experience that. In any case, if you own both consoles’ newest versions, and while the Xbox One S will support the HDR and 4K upscaling for the game, Ghost Recon Wildlands is best played on a PlayStation 4 Pro, which will give you a much more defined technical experience.

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The massive open-world design definitely switches things up in terms of tactical opportunities and stealth, because you’re able to approach your targets from a variety of angles and try to take them out. Speaking of variety, Ubisoft’s traditional smorgasbord of stealth mechanics makes an appearance here, and you have a variety of tools that allow you to quickly and quietly get up in someone’s place and start shooting. To keep the player focused, however, the game has various limits on the skill uses and several skills on cooldown. It goes without saying that as the game goes on you unlock new skills and get shorter cooldowns for your existing ones as well as enhanced effects, but for the most part the game does a good job in keeping you from just spamming abilities and getting through on easy mode.

Considering the game is a tactical shooter, it wouldn’t be complete without squad mechanics, and in Ghost Recon you’ll find you need to do your best to work with your buddies if you wanna get things done. Of course, you could just skip past that and get actual buddies to help you, and this is where Ghost Recon shines. While Ghost Recon: Wildlands is totally playable in single-player, it’s immensely more fun in online co-op. The game really forces you and your teammates to communicate quickly and efficiently, and it’s a very immersive experience. I had a ton of fun with the game’s online co-op, and I totally encourage you

Ghost Recon Wildlands was reviewed using an Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC downloadable code of the game provided by Ubisoft Middle East. The main review and PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM, while the console versions were tested by Nazih Fares and Luciano Rahal. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.

What we liked

• A skilful blend of stealth and action
• A beautiful natural landscape to explore
• Extensive lore about Mexican folk religion
• Challenging tactical mechanics
• Incredibly fun for online multiplayer

What is not fun

• Combat system can be unfair in some instances
• Driving mechanics feel clunky
• Some story clichés

Editor Rating
 
Concept
8.5

 
Graphics
8.7

 
Sound
8.5

 
Playability
9.0

 
Entertainment
8.7

 
Replay Value
8.0

Final Score
8.6


Our final verdict
 

While it’s tough to mix complex tactics with mainstream shooter mechanics, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands manages to offer up a tactical shooter that can appeal to a broad audience and still have something for the tactics aficionados. There’s a ton to see and do in their dystopian version of Bolivia, and it’s probably a good idea to bring a friend if you want to enjoy the game’s terrific online co-op.

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