In the latest posthumously released Tom Clancy title you play as a group of heavily armed American military personal trying to stem the flow of opiates into the US by invading the corrupt drug ridden slums of Bolivia. He might be dead but the spirit of the flag waving, jingoistic Clancy is alive and well it seems. But like the best Clancy products you just sort of go with it, enjoying the many highs and lows of blasting away foreigners and poor people. But most importantly with Ghost Recon: Wildlands is the gameplay, and luckily that is fantastic. The gunplay is wonderful and I’ve not had so much fun in a co-op game for a very long time. Read on to see some of my observations from the first few hours in the game.
5. The story and dialogue are pure pro-American Military cheese.
The narrative in Ghost Recon : Wildlands often wanders so far into the grimmest end of Tom Clancy fiction that you’ll be convinced that it’s all an elaborate self parody. Despite this though Wildlands is a hell of a lot of fun and the overblown story is perfectly fitting in a Peter Berg/Lone Survivor sort of way. And by the end of the two betas and the first portion of the real game I was even enjoying the over-the-top dialogue (by The Power of the Dog author Don Winslow and Armageddon screenwriter Shane Salerno). Sure it’s occasionally dumb (I can only hear my character saying “shit balls” when shot at so many times) and it’s so pro-US military it would make Michael Bay blush, but in a weird way it all works. If you stop to think about all of the poor slums you end up shooting your way through sure, things get questionable. But if you continue to do the tried and tested reaction to Tom Clancy products and not take it all too seriously then there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in Winslow and Salerno’s script.
4. The game looks gorgeous.
Maybe it’s because I’m just a lowly console gamer but one of the first things I noticed in Wildlands was just how nice it looks. The draw distances are some of the best I’ve ever seen on console and the lack of loading screens as you traverse the immense world (one of the biggest in video game history) and diverse locations is much appreciated. The character models aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, and they have a tendency to look oddly shiny, but the wealth of customisation options for your own character more than makes up for it. I’ve spent the game so far as cigar chomping, jeans and shirt wearing Rick Grimes look-a-like but if you wanted to go for a more classic Tom Clancy spec-ops looking character, covered in patches and useless belts and scarves and headsets, then you’ve got the option for that too. Little details stand out to me too, like how if you prone in the mud your character will get get muddy. Another interesting touch is how night time actually looks like night time. Everything is pitch black and you’ll have to use night vision if you want to try any midnight infiltrations.
3. You can approach the missions however you want.
Wildlands isn’t the fist game to make the bold claim that you can do everything in your own wacky and inventive ways but it’s the first where I’ve actually felt you could. The main choice you have when approaching a mission is whether you opt for a stealth approach or the louder guns out approach. And unlike a lot of games both options are just as viable. With gadgets like mines, C4, and the extremely useful drone there are multiple ways a mission could go down. For example, playing it with two other players as I did meant we had a few different options for conquering a mountain side drug den. We opted for the stealth approach but with the right equipment to back us up if we had to go loud. I found a convenient rocky perch higher up the mountain, just behind the stronghold, and got into position with a rifle. One of the others in my team took this opportunity to carefully tag as many enemies as possible with the drone. The last member of our team was delayed getting to the outpost so as this was all happening he was parachuting in from the skies above. Unfortunately, before our perfect plan could be silently executed, one member of our team fired at an enemy, forgetting he hadn’t yet attached his suppressor. All hell broke loose and we had to fight our way through the base with a combination of human shields and grenades. Maybe next time.
2. The gameplay is brilliant.
This blanket statement isn’t 100% true to be honest as the helicopters still control with all the accuracy of a dead pigeon. But the rest of the game makes up for the quirks like these, even when its arguably not very good. Take the cars for example. You’d be hard pressed to say they drive ‘well’ but with a handbrake that turns every corner into The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift I’d also be hard pressed to say it wasn’t incredibly fun either. The gunplay in the game is legitimately great though. Unlike the previous co-op Tom Clancy shooter, The Division, the enemies here die pretty realistically. Whereas The Division had it’s enemies as bullet sponges that could soak up huge amounts of damage, most enemies in Wildlands go down with just a single pull of the trigger. The controls are fluid too and you can switch between ADS over the shoulder and first person ADS with just a push of the right stick.
1. It’s the best co-op game I’ve played in a long time.
For all the little problems the game suffers from nearly all are forgotten when you get in to co-op. I’m usually the sort of gamer who needs a game to succeed on the strength of it’s single player modes alone or, if it has got co-op, contain the increasingly rare addition of split screen. I don’t usually like the idea that to get the most out of this game you’ll be paying up to £160 for 4 players. Hell, me and my 2 co-op partners have spent £120 between us just to play this game. But after playing both the closed and open beta in co-op I was sold and had to order the full game. Even from the limited options presented in the betas I realised I hadn’t played a game this fun in co-op in a long time. And it’s not even like the game is jam packed full of co-op specific options. Apart from having someone to revive you or to get in your car’s turret there really isn’t that many gameplay options specifically for co-op play. But something happens when you get some friends together, all individually customised and kitted out, and take on the enemy. No other game has simulated being stuck behind enemy lines in quite the same way. You could be tearing your way through the hostile Bolivian forces and being sometimes massively outnumbered or just blowing your team mate up with C4; it’s all a ton of fun.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a strange game. On paper it’s not great; repetative missions, questionable dialogue, occasionally dodgy controls. But put it in co-op and all the problems just wash away. It’s some of the most crazy fun I’ve ever had and it’s one of the highlights of this console generation. There’s nothing better than pulling off a tricky stealth mission with 3 buddies but some of the best moments I’ve had on the game is when our team completely f*cks up. I might not be able to whole-heartedly endorse a single player purchase of the game but if you have at least one good friend willing to team up then it’s a definite must buy.
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Buy Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (PS4) on Amazon UK: