I’ve had my hands on Ghost Recon: Wildlands for a few days now and I haven’t completed it, but here are my first impressions. A general summary of my thoughts would be that Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the same game Ubisoft has been making for the past decade, but with worse writing. When I saw the initial trailers for the game I thought this may have been the case but the beta received some positive buzz and some of the gameplay footage I saw made it look like it may have been more than that so I jumped in with an open mind. Unfortunately, the first ten minutes of the game made very clear that my initial observations were accurate. The opening cutscene prominently features the worst written and performed character in a game full of terrible writing and performances, Karen Bowman. With such mind-numbing lines as “Is it difficult being someone that doesn’t officially exist?” she gives you the rundown on your mission of taking down a Bolivian drug cartel from the shadows.
The gameplay consists of the same thing you’ve done in half a dozen other Ubisoft open world games. Follow a line on a minimap to some mission. Get out and perform one of three tasks that are endlessly recycled. Rinse. Repeat for fifty hours or more. You can drive around and collect weapons, attachments, and medals which give you passive ability upgrades. You can also gather supplies for the rebels which you will have to have to level up your skills, which give you other passive bonuses.
The main gameplay is essentially the stealth gameplay of Far Cry 4 but with a little bit of expansion. The main addition is that you have a drone now that you can use to fly around and mark enemies. The sync shot from Ghost Recon: Future Soldier also makes a return. This time around, it doesn’t seem as though your AI partners actually position themselves to make the shot however so it’s mostly just a “kill X number of enemies for free” button. Your AI comrades will also spot enemies for you and it seems like that’s based on some kind of dice roll too because they will frequently spot enemies that are almost certainly out of their line of sight.
Another new feature is that you can switch between third-person and first-person aiming by simply clicking the right stick which is a welcome feature that adds some much-needed variety. I found it convenient to be able to go into first-person to line up some long-range shots that I needed to be able to make stealthily and then switch back to third-person for more close quarters combat. On other positives the bullet impacts are great. Every object has a realistic impact look and sound and bullets slamming into concrete and metal is really satisfying. The sound design related to suppressors is good too. The larger caliber the rifle the louder it will be and enemies who are close will notice the sound of a large caliber suppressed sniper rifle firing. These aren’t Hollywood suppressors that can be fired two feet away from someone and are whisper quiet, and I thought that was cool.
There are some problems with the focus on stealth, as it’s too easy to just shoot your way out of just about any situation and too difficult to lose enemies once you’ve been spotted. Even playing on the “Advanced” difficulty, I was able to brute force my way through most missions after my cover had been blown. Once you are spotted every enemy within what seems like a 600-meter radius knows exactly where you are and will make a beeline for your position. It’s nearly impossible to relocate and hide when somewhere around twenty guys are running right for your position, so it’s probably better to just stay put and gun them down. For me, this meant most missions boiled down to me sneaking around until I got spotted for the first time and then just mowing down all the enemies in the area and completing the mission in peace. It makes the stealth gameplay that much more boring and repetitive in a game that’s already wrapped up in the most boring and repetitive open-world formula around.
I have yet to complete the game, but my ultimate conclusion as of now is this: Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a bad version of a game you’ve already played half a dozen times.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is being reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code provided by the publisher.