Title: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
Format: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
ESRB Rating: M (Mature 17+)
Release Date: March 7, 2017
The Grade: B+
GRW Haiku Review
Take down nasty drug cartel
Open world shooter
What is it? Bolivia is overrun by leaders of the ruthless Santa Blanca drug cartel. The organization has turned the country into a narco-state, leading to lawlessness and residents who live in fear. The Ghosts, an elite US Special forces unit, is inserted into the country to destabilize the cartel and destroy their grip on a corrupt Bolivian government.
The Good: With “Ghost Recon Wildlands” Ubisoft has created something truly rare - an open world shooter. Most games of this genre are linear but “Wildlands” lets players roam free right from the start. Your character, which you can customize to your hearts content, can fly, drive and use boats to go wherever you want to take on missions whenever you want in any order you want. It’s liberating to be able to do that in a shooter.
Its sandbox style and causal nature make “Wildlands” a place for plenty of hi-jinx. You can play this title seriously but if you want to get nutty and fly a helicopter into a base, drive your motorcycle off a cliff and tumble like a rag doll downhill or parachute like a boss into a sea of enemies you can do that too. Assisting with the levity is some of the dialogue spoken by NPC’s. The local radio station, clearly in Santa Blanca’s pocket, tells you how great it is to be under their thumb and says some pretty outlandish things. Your three squad mates, who you can give simple commands to, also bring some humor. They’ll talk about sports, curse, give each other a hard time and tell lame jokes, just like real teammates would.
Where “Wildlands” really shines is in co-op. Conquering bases, picking up hard to find weapons and taking on more challenging opponents is just more fun with friends. With players working together, the online feel is more collegial and not so competitive.
The Bad: While there’s plenty of customization for your character the same doesn’t apply for the soldiers under your command. Allowing players to decide what AI teammates should look like and what weapons they carry would make them more useful. It’s also disappointing that I can’t command my men to do more specific actions. Of course, this only applies if you play this “Wildlands” in single player.
The story in “Wildlands” has potential but it never really gets fleshed out. There’s certainly some interesting characters, but Ubisoft is counting on players to get lost in the exploration of its beautiful world, not in the minutiae of its story, which is more Michael Bay than Tom Clancy.
The game suffers from some other issues that are surprising for a shooter. Switching targeting shoulders feels clumsy and there’s some minor glitching. At times the game wouldn't let me use my drone or binoculars for no apparent reason. And sometimes when I respawned in co-op, I’d be kilometers away from my team even though I requested a closer location. “Wildlands” can feel a bit unpolished.
The Grade: A lot of gamers are going to compare “Wildlands” to another recent Ubisoft shooter, “The Division.” While they have some similarities, that would be a mistake. A wide open world with plenty of vehicles to help you explore and a great co-op mode make this a superior title. “Ghost Recon Wildlands” is one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played so far this year.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.