Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

This may be a controversial take for some people, and I will admit that the game I’m about to talk about is not without some questionable, problematic themes. But if I were to take stock of Ubisoft’s stable of games, for my money, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is one of their best titles. It manages to deliver a gorgeous, incredibly vast and diverse open-world representation of Bolivia. It offers solid, grounded gunplay, and also decent A.I.-controlled squad mechanics. And should one play via co-op with other players, it pretty much excels at that as well.

Is it the best Tom Clancy game, or even the best Ghost Recon game? Perhaps, perhaps not. But those qualifiers — although important to some — matter very little to me. In fact, I personally believe that by burdening Wildlands with both monikers, Ubisoft really did the game a disservice. If this game was simply called Narco Disruption or even just Wildlands, I think it would have been looked upon far more favorably. I mean, by eschewing the more hardcore military veneer that previous Ghost Recon games had (although it’s debatable how realistic some of those ever were), it was going to catch a boatload of ire from the more dedicated, longer-term fanbase.

Now, this is purely speculation here, but it was almost as if by slathering Mr. Clancy’s name on this game — and by extension the Ghost Recon branding — Ubisoft seemed to be pulling a bit of a trojan horse, perhaps uncertain if the game would be able to stand on its own as a new IP. This may just be the conspiracy theorist in me, though.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

But honestly, I think not only does Wildlands stand on its own merits; honest to goodness, it’s also a really solid stealth action open-world shooter unlike most others on the market, especially other Ubisoft games of the same ilk.

When Ubisoft announced The Division, another open-world shooter, I was pretty stoked. The original gameplay trailers looked awesome, set in a winter-entrenched semi-post-apocalyptic New York, where dedicated patriots were called into service to help restore order and topple the warring factions vying for control of the city.

But when I actually played the game, what I got was far from what I had hoped for. The biggest gripe I had was the bullet-sponge enemies. Although The Division could mostly be played solo, my preferred method of play, the bullet-sponge nature of the enemy NPCs made it darn near impossible at times. And also, the fact that you could pump a handful of shotgun slugs into a guy’s face, only to have him shrug it off and kill you with a baseball bat? Well, let’s just say it was less than realistic.

The player character was also pretty impervious to bullets, and depending on the level of difficulty, could just as easily succumb to lead-itis with one or two well-placed enemy shots.

But with Wildlands, if you shoot a guy in the chest — or really, anywhere above the stomach — you could drop them. This wasn’t an entirely realistic system (shoulder kills, really?), but it’s far better than The Division.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

Now, there was some well-deserved controversy regarding the story and setting of Wildlands. Bolivia was none too happy to serve as the setting of a game in which a Mexican cartel takes over the country, which must be liberated by a pseudo-rogue group of American mercs. However, the representatives of Bolivia’s biggest complaint seemed to be focused on the depiction of their country as a drug-filled narco state. Which… fair. But also — not to quibble or split hairs by quibbling and splitting hairs — it was the Mexican drug cartel in the game, Santa Blanca, that flooded their country with drugs; the game wasn’t depicting Bolivia as a drug paradise by default. If anything, Bolivians should have been more irate at the idea that their country and its governing body could be simply overtaken by a foreign drug cartel.

But yes, there are issues at play here, especially considering the shadowy nature of the CIA and DEA joint task force, often meeting in dark shacks and working without apparent oversight, free to really kill anyone they want in pursuit of their goals. It doesn’t look good for any of the countries involved, especially considering the United States’ real-world attempts to overthrow South American governments, probably while meeting in dark shacks and working without apparent oversight, free to really kill anyone they want in pursuit of their goals. So yeah, this aspect probably should’ve been workshopped — or at least maybe showed to some consultants beforehand.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

However, if we are talking purely about gameplay — what any game should be critiqued for, I think — Wildlands has the goods and then some. Sure, it is a little bloated in map size, and a lot of the busywork is mostly just that — busywork. Considering you can probably finish the game with just a handgun and several thousand well-placed shots, offering the player a wellspring of weapons (and various attachments to mod said guns with) can feel like collecting for collecting’s sake. But on the other hand, this is an Ubisoft game; collecting for collecting sake is pretty much par for the course. And since it’s all purely optional and doesn’t hinder your progress (if you are good at shooting and stealthing), it can be easily avoided if you can stand a map full of uncollected collectibles screaming to be collected.

There is something so satisfying about playing an open-world stealth action game where you can approach your objective from any angle, either from the front door with guns blazing, the back door with guns less blazing, or perched a few meters away silently picking off NPCs before slinking your way in through the side door, doing the thing, and leaving before anyone is the least bit wiser. And if things go sideways, you can just run away, run out the clock, and simply try again.

And did I mention Bolivia is friggin’ gorgeous in this game? Because Bolivia is friggin’ gorgeous in this game. You can almost feel the sweltering heat during the day and the cold desert air at night. And you can see for what feels like forever; the draw distance is pretty remarkable. And you can take it all in while tooling around in a minivan, riding on a motorbike, or patrolling the skies in a helicopter. Wildlands really succeeds as a sandbox open world — even more so than a lot of other games that dabble with the formula.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

So yeah, I really like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. It really is, in my opinion, one of Ubisoft’s best titles. And I recently got it for dirt cheap on Steam and have had the pleasure of enjoying it anew on my Steam Deck, where it performs admirably and controls and runs buttery smooth. And now that Wildlands has been added to the Xbox Game Pass (and is rumored to be coming to PS Plus), it’s as good time as any to revisit this game — or play it for the first time.

Of course, it seems like the multiplayer servers have been experiencing some issues as of late, which Ubisoft is having difficulty completely ironing out, so maybe keep that unfortunate development in mind before jumping in whole hog.

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1 year ago

I’m with you on this. It’s one of the few recent Ubisoft games I’ve actually liked. I will say though that Bolivia is a narco state so they didn’t really get that part wrong.

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