Published on March 12th, 2017 | by Edwin Millheim
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands XBox One Review
Summary: A joy in either single player or multi-player
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a game with a lot of pedigree and was developed by Ubisoft Paris, which is enough to get excited about already. For the uninitiated, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the tenth in the Ghost Recon series and on that note, Ubisoft as a whole has over the years, has arguably been one of the best game developers no matter what part of their development teams is working on a game. So it’s easy to see how Ubisoft revealed that Tom Clancy’s: Ghost Recon Wildlands’ beta had netted more than 6.8 million players across the world… so to say folks have been looking forward to the game is an understatement.
Now it’s funny that I actually had some conversations with someone about the game and some of its aspects. Some things from the Beta have been fixed and it’s great that Ubisoft listened to the customers. Now in this conversation the other person wanted me to really hate on several things about the game. However these things got fixed in my opinion, and some of the bad things became weak implementations which is not enough to hate or give a review that seeks to torpedo a game. It’s my opinion and you the player, read our page for our input and opinions from fellow gamers, so here we go…
For me the whole premise seems like it perhaps got inspiration from the book and film “Clear and Present Danger” because part of the plot for that book (and later made to a film) was a special combat recon team which was sent into the jungles of a country to ferret out a drug cartels organizational parts and start dismantling it. In other words blow it to hell! Interestingly enough, for many years I always thought the premise would make a really great video game and now here it is.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands has the design benefits of several spectacular game design choices from different titles over the years and tweaked especially for this game. No matter what anyone says, so many aspects of the game reminded me of one past other game or another in the Ubisoft Catalog. From the recent “The Division,” to the “Far Cry” series to name two, and this is not necessarily a bad thing because those aspects that worked so well in those games have been used exceptionally well for Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It is sort of a wonderful Frankenstein that stands and lives on its own.
However from the first announcement and through the test phases, the game has been surrounded with various levels of excitement with some people loving it, some people hating it and some countries may go to court over it. It seems even though any rational person would know that a fictional story line and what if scenarios in books, movies, TV and games are just that… fictional. Various reports say that Bolivia is none too happy about its countries depiction and other reports say that there is concern of hurting the tourist industry. This is understandable. Even though the game is fiction about some drug cartel growing and being so powerful that they pretty much run everything.
Who knows how that will play out? While travelling anyplace can have some elements of danger (some more than others), one has to only look at travel reports to stay safe in any country they may visit. Personally, I would rather stay away from a country that has travel warnings report of kidnappings. If there are warnings like that, I would say your tourist industry has a few more pressing problems than a fictional video game. Though I digress, there are dangers to tourists where ever you go, just check for tourist warnings before you plan a trip.
NOW, Ghost Recon: Wild Lands, happily has a story line and can be played either single player with three AI characters assisting you or co-op play online with three friends (so four player team) that can drop in and out much like The Division play. Multiplayer can be a blast in this game but it all depends on who you play with. If you get a group of friends together that embrace doing things tactically instead of always rushing in with guns blazing, the experience can be rather rewarding and chock full of smile inducing events. Plus it’s even more of a blast with a group of players that coordinate and play as a real team using tactics. Communication is real key here, especially if you have your team spread out to take an objective.
I enjoyed playing both single player and multiplayer of this game. There is nothing like sharing the glory of taking out enemies in an area and achieving the objectives. By the same token it was still a blast to share in when a mission goes sideways or when being a passenger on a helicopter your team mate is flying and you accidentally release a drone which flies into the helicopter blades and causes it to go into a crash landing (Sorry Max!). So going on missions with team mates and keeping in communication with headsets is a real thrill. It’s a feel good experience being in an action game and sharing the experience with others.
Character movement looks pretty good. You can stand, crouch, or lay down, and even climb obstacles, though it seems there are some small limitations to that. Some small obstacles I figured I could just move up on or over just could not be negotiated. These are oddities but far in between for sure, like walking THROUGH cattle just make you jump out of the moment. Animations of characters are pleasing and seem natural and nothing seems forced which is a good thing. I did at one point get stick between some large boulders and the only way I could get out of it was to fast travel back to a base area. Lucky for me the objective was not too far away so I was able to get back in no time.
From standing tall and running along to cover some ground, to crouching and going all stealthy, then to belly crawling along or surveillance or sniping from that laying position, it all just feels right to me. Some hate that there is no bunny hop options for movement…for me at least, I say thank goodness there is no freaking bunny hopping about. At least the developers have tried to keep things grounded and as grounded as a fictional game world can be. Those that miss that bunny hop from other games, may be thinking multiplayer tactic wise nut in my opinion, the bunny hop just takes me completely out of the game. So no Bunny hop here… move along… move along.
The Ghosts, why are they here? Well…
In this game world, a drug war is going on, and spreading to other countries and the main network is in Bolivia. The plot of the story really gets the player vested into the job of battling the Santa Blanca drug cartel. At every turn, the story shows us these characters are really without feelings for their fellow man and they are ruthless. So you really have no problem taking them out and you start to take it personally when you want to right a wrong. T
For example, this organization takes out an embassy in an attempt to get at an agent and blowing up the embassy put them a terrorist threat list. Though they missed the agent they targeted, they do get him later. All of this gets a special team called in to take on the intricate web of the Cartel in what is called Operation King Slayer. The team includes Nomad (Ghost Lead and Support Specialist), Holt (Team Engineer and Drone Specialist), Weaver (Team Sniper and Weapons Specialist) and Midas (Team Combat Specialist and Vehicle Engineer).
Even with a basic plot, a good story gets you into it. Ghost Recon: Wildlands ratchets up the interest and the players need to go after some of these characters with each new intelligence that is found… the villains. Like any villain of the story they are not always aware they are villains and they are just living and doing what they do for their own interests which makes them even scarier and deplorable. The danger and corruption goes deep and the lands in the game are vast. The game world is beautiful with varied environments, from mountainous terrain, forests, and even salt flats and deserts.
The vistas are beautiful, add the day and night phases with the cars and towns and cities twinkling in the night…beautiful. More than once I would stop to watch as a lightning storm flashed angry lines across the sky. The environments are beautiful and represent exactly the areas they intend to. I especially liked the little things, such as mud splashing all over the vehicle I was driving as I made my way down and through muddy dirt roads.
So ok, since I hit on driving. Let me say that the driving could improve and I feel it has somewhat. Either that or I just got better at handling the vehicles from the Beta and after. I got better… enough to have a couple vehicle chases along treacherous roads with guns a blazing which is intense to say the least. My Flying aircraft or helicopters, not so much. I still love flying the helicopters but I just felt I was fighting it more than I was flying it. It really requires an extremely lite touch. Players will get a thrill with riding motor bikes or even fast boats. Lots of fun to be had which opens things up in either single or multiplayer on insertions or exfiltration. Even with the wonky feel of some vehicles that seems some of the handling is right out of Grand Theft Auto, I am still enjoying the experiences.
The Helicopters are a boon and a blast to fly once you get the hang of it. For me I found that a lighter touch does the trick between lift and forward motion without nose diving into the ground. I loved doing an insertion with my team using a fast boat. We even ex-filled when the mission went sideways and we had to get the heck out of there before we got overrun.
That brings me to the next point. The world map for operations is huge and the player or players can approach things however they want and in almost any sequence they want. I say almost because for the main missions there are clues and things you must find to advance further in the story. Finding major intel on the map and then collecting it unlocks new missions to advance the main story. Also, there are things to collect and supplies to tag for the rebels which in turn give the players points to spend for different upgrades and these things are all over every part of the map. The game designers obviously utilize things this way to encourage exploration, and rewards for doing so. Players can upgrade several key areas of the character or aspects that can assist the character on missions.
Upgradable sections include… Weapon, Drone, Item, Physical, Squad, and Rebel Support. Each section has a few sub categories that can be upgraded with points. Tagging supplies for the rebels and even going on rebel missions helps the rebels become friendlier with the player, upgrades include rebel assistance and motor strikes.
Now, some of these aspects to get points and intel can start to feel like a grind when doing them so many times. Grab a target of interest that has some intel. Interrogate the target to get information and reveal locations on the map for supplies or other things to get more points for the character for upgrades. When done, whack the target in the head with your gun and knock them out. It would have been nice to have some targets be a little more resilient to giving information and then having to ramp up your questioning with more intimidation much like Ubisoft used in Splinter Cell in the past.
Now another design choice is a welcome, well… to some players anyway… with such a large map we also have some fast travel points. These come in handy, especially if you’re playing a session and you have to end game and you want to end at a base. Though it does not really seem necessary to do so but if you’re in the middle of a mission you may lose progress, though when you start the game up again later… you do spawn/start at a friendly location.
Getting around the map can be a chore at first when you look at its scope. Thankfully depending on what section you are in, your Tac Map focuses mainly on the area you are in. Plus the design team have made sure to sprinkle different modes of transport around. If you really have to, you can highjack a vehicle ALA Grand Theft Auto.
You can of course rough it on foot…you will find grabbing a vehicle or a helicopter to get around can be faster. During this time you can choose to try to… not …draw attention to yourself and get from point A to point B without (You Hope) any snags. Either way you can order the team to Assault if things get dicey. This feature is pretty useful. I have used it to great effect in running vehicle chases and air assaults with a helicopter on an enemy compound. Great fun to be had.
That being said for Ghost Recon: Wildlands, one of the key words is RECON. While the game is fairly open and goals can be taken by either going loud, or keeping things silent with minimal to no detection. In reality reconnaissance concentrates on three things… the enemy, terrain and weather. Recon is active looking for obstacles and routes and enemy positions and numbers. Being out and about, this draws attention, so good recon utilizes stealth to avoid detection.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands simulates this pretty well with its multitude and diverse terrain and buildings. Moving into position and using line of site and some other things like the drone to check ahead and map out where enemies are. It can be rather thrilling to take out an area fully on stealth.
Longer range recon can be achieved using either the drone (if you have upgraded the battery and the range), binoculars, or even sniper scope. Once within the danger zone, using cover to keep from being spotted is fairly easy. There is no felling of forcefully STICKING to cover like you get in The Division, so moving to and from cover is fluid and easy plus it’s fun to try to stay undetected.
At this time of release I have had more than four instances where my character is staying hidden and my team is moving about into position and walks in line of site of the enemy and they are not even detected. As soon as I stick myself in the open, THEN I am detected. What the heck? Talk about a game buzz kill and it’s a little hard to ignore that. Since the closed Alpha and closed Beta and then the Open Beta was prominently advertised and such huge numbers of players took part to give feedback. What? No one played Single player and discovered this? Or was this something that cropped up after final release? While not a game killer it is a bummer. I know that from inception to final release games find and get rid of hundreds or more game issues over the course. But this one is just… wrong.
One of the things that was nicely utilized in past titles in the series had been Gun smith. We once again see gun smith here in Ghost Recon: Wildlands. So players can upgrade weapons parts to better the performance of any given gun. Or just show your sense of style in a weapon paint job. Tech heads and gun enthusiasts will like this feature. It is rather interesting to see an exploded view of a weapon and be able to upgrade parts of the weapon. From the magazine, to the scope, to magazine springs, and even the trigger and barrels of some weapons. Weapons parts and new weapons are spread out across the huge game map and can take time to find that coveted part or weapon you oh so want. My team mate Max gleefully mowed down several targets with his newly found MG121.
Parts and weapons spread across such a large map may feel pretty much like a slog fest to try to find what you want. Well not to worry, micro transactions to the rescue. You can make purchases of weapons packs and parts in the in game store. For those that do not want to take the time to hunt for those items on the map. Nothing like instant gratification for that bit of pleasure by spending more money on the game you already purchased.
Some like that fast track. It is nice to have both options though. Out of curiosity I did purchase the scopes pack of different weapons scopes. Which I placed one on my sniper Rifle. The excitement of getting the scope I wanted wore off pretty fast and I felt kind of dirty in due course. Almost as if I paid for sex in a side alley or something. Speaking of weapons parts and weapons, there are a pleasing amount of weapons in the game. From grenades and mines and of course let’s talk about the guns.
There are handguns, Assault Rifles, Light Machine Guns, Sub Machine Guns, Shot Guns and Sniper Rifles. Wish as mentioned different parts that can be upgraded to enhance the effectiveness of the weapon. Sometimes it is a small enhancement, it’s pretty much the individual’s preference at some point because some of the enhancements are so minute.
Weapons in the game look really good, it may be my imagination but I can swear that over time some of the weapons are showing some wear and use and they look absolutely beautiful. The sounds are all pretty cool to and what I expect the sounds and even the look and feel in game of the weapons all seem pretty solid. The recoils and handling just are right in the groove. Depending on what areas you’re in when firing off your weapons, there seems to be some kind of sound differences depending on the environment.
Shooting targets and how the bullets react in flight. There is bullet drop, so for those that love sniping. There is a bit of rudimental skill involved in hitting targets in the game. I don’t know what went into programming the ballistics in game but I am really happy with how it behaves.
For a really long shot I had to practically lob my round to hit my targets. So it begs to question…did the designers actually work in all the basics of Sniping and ballistics or at least the basics of it? Such as Line of Sight, Bullet Path, Line of Departure, Drop, Sectional Density, and Ballistic Coefficient? I don’t know but it sure seems like it. However you cut it, sniping in particular and hitting the target is a very rewarding feeling. Compensation for bullet drop is a real thrill in long range shooting.
Speaking of bullets, I am happy to say that neither YOU nor the enemy are bullet sponges that can take an unworldly amount of rounds before they fall. Even the targets with body armor take only a few hits which is great. So you need to take care because you also can only take a couple hits before meeting your demise which makes for a nice challenge. While Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a departure from what we have seen in the franchise, it does stand on its own, even with its breeding and amalgamation of other game franchises mechanics.
In the end, Ghost Recon: Wildlands does enough to make it an enjoyable experience all around, even with some of the pesky issues that may have slipped past the testing phases. There is a lot to do between story missions and enough stuff to explore and try out to keep your interest up and it is a nice change of pace in this type of game to not have everyone that is on the map as an enemy. Furthermore, it’s a welcome thing to have to worry about civilians in a firefight and not wanting to get any noncombatants injured or killed when the round are going up and down range. There are many hours to be had in Ghost Recon: Wildlands and lots of late nights with you gaming friends as you all take on the cartel… I just wish that the pop up to join a public co-op game would stop freaking pop up in the middle of your game.
Have fun, play games
Edwin Millheim Impulse Gamer
Primary Format – Games – Xbox One
Game Genre – Shooter
Rating – MA15+
Consumer Advice – Strong themes, violence and drug use, online interactivity
Game Developer – Ubisoft Paris
Game Publisher – Ubisoft