Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands (2017, PC)

By Exploratory / March 14, 2017

The new Ghost Recon plays like trash.

That was me like a month ago on Ghost Recon Wildlands. I played the closed beta and didn't really enjoy it. I had a few moments that made me think "there's something here" but ultimately I had decided against buying it.
   Then the open beta came and I ended up having a ton more fun with a group of friends. Some of the issues I had had been fixed, and some remained. Despite the fun I had in the beta, I still wasn't sure though.
   So now it's a while after release and I'm ready to admit I was wrong. I got caught up in how GAF felt about the game and my initial impressions betrayed me. Now let's be honest here for a second. It's on Ubisoft to convince me to like the game right away. The poor marketing combined with the poor beta is on them. But ultimately the game is far better than I ever thought it would or could be.
   So here are the three things that make me want to log on and play every night.

* The best open world variety I've experienced in quite some time. I've played Witcher 3, Skyrim, every Assassin's Creed, GTA4 and 5, etc. etc. This one tops them all. That doesn't mean Wildlands has a better open world than those games. A lot of the value in something like GTA5 comes from the people, the visuals, and the auditory aspect. The attention to detail in that is insane. But where Wildlands excels is in the variety of each zone.
   Each zone has a purpose and feels different from the zone before and after. This zone is filled with cocaine labs, this zone is flat white desert, this one is a jungle filled with corrupt military police. That changes how you approach things and isn't immediately obvious because it's so natural. In a flat desert when you're trying to stop a convoy there's almost no cover and you have to plan accordingly. In a zone filled with high-up long twisting mud roads, we had a completely different approach to the exact same side mission.

* The game is a vehicle for cooperation. I'll be 100% clear, if you're going to play this solo I can't recommend it. I literally haven't played a minute of this game solo and I intend to keep it that way. Now beyond that as a cooperative experience, it's fantastic. Like Metal Gear Solid V the world is a sandbox and as you can imagine that is just infinitely more fun with friends. You can invade a base from two different directions to split apart the enemy forces. You can have a friend cover you with a sniper rifle as you clear small structures while looking for an enemy lieutenant. Basically, the game gives you the tools to execute whatever plan you want. Just the other day after failing multiple times to penetrate the defense of a particularly difficult stronghold, I flew up above the clouds in a helicopter. When we reached the highest point my friends parachuted down full speed right into the enemy base. I followed them and the copter landed in their base too! We all died but the fun factor there is undeniable. You can basically recreate whatever ridiculous action sequence you saw in last summer's blockbuster.
   I know what some of you are thinking and it's a legitimate thought because I make the same criticism. Whenever someone tells me a game is fun with friends I scoff because... so is pretty much anything. When I was a kid and shoveled snow with friends we had a good time, that doesn't make shoveling snow my second favorite pastime. Wildlands is special in that it gives you every opportunity to have as much fun as possible. If you don't have friends and you don't have any imagination ("let's go in, snipe everyone from away, and leave", rinse and repeat) you probably won't have much fun.

* I underestimated the story and its characters. So in the open beta, you go after these two fuckheads, yes I just said fuckheads, La Yuri and El Polito. These two are the most vapid, uninteresting, boring, you get the point. They're trash characters. When I finally killed them I felt nothing because they were nothing. Those two as the boss of the first zone gave me the impression that every boss would be largely uninteresting and poorly written. Flash forward to the Stewmaker...
   I won't spoil anything. Frankly, Wildlands isn't about the story but whew this guy was fucking sick. In more ways than one. Not every boss is going to be The End or Sniper Wolf or The Boss don't get me wrong. But they are at least serviceable and at most actually compelling characters. I actually want to kill El Sueno, the game's big bad. That in itself is tough for a game to do these days. To make me care about killing the guy I'm supposed to want to kill.

   Wildlands still has a lot to dislike. The gunplay pales in comparison to MGS5 and a few other third-person shooters. It's serviceable but doesn't stand out. I constantly wish the game was made by Kojima because it'd be so much more interesting [Wait 10 to 15 years and Kojima and the rest of Japan will get around to copying the free-roaming co-op design that Ubisoft and the rest of the West are pioneering now. -Ed]. There aren't a ton of different side missions and it's possible 20 hours after my first 20 I'll get bored. The unlock system is exactly what you'd expect from a Ubisoft open world title. I've already unlocked everything I want and don't care about collectables as much.
   But I was wrong about the game. I thought it was bad and it really isn't. I think it's a solid 5/5. I see this idea on GAF that this is some ho-hum bro shooter. That's just not giving the credit it deserves. No game lets you do what Wildlands does. There are no other games out cut from the same cloth as Ghost Recon Wildlands, so yeah maybe step outside of your bubble and give it a shot. At the very least don't be so close-minded about it.
   TL;DR: I was wrong. You're probably wrong too. It's got a fantastic massive open world. It's probably top 5 co-op games of all time. It's unique in its variety of locale and moment to moment action. Despite the initial impressions the gunplay isn't even bad, it's just about average. So yeah it's really good. Just do not play it solo and if you're a hardcore Ghost Recon fan temper your expectations because it's totally different.
   P.S. I played the game on max difficulty at all times too. Not that hard and makes the game more deadly. YMMV.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands is Insomnia's current 2017 Game of the Year. Join The Cult today and play Wildlands the way it should be played!