Hold onto Your Hat – Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands Review

All open-world games are similar in one thing: you eventually develop a sincere disgust towards any of them. That’s just how they are designed, so that you can immerse yourself in them until you’re sick of it. Until the last drop of pleasure, so to speak.

But the reasons for this disgust are always different, and they perfectly reflect the quality of the product. A good sandbox game only tires you when there is absolutely nothing left to do in it. I hate, for example, Saints Row: The Third, but only because I have played it at least three times with different groups, completed all the side missions, and ran through the entire city naked. It made me see every inch of it, so it’s a good sandbox game.

With Ghost Recon Wildlands, it’s different. The cooperative tale about fighting Bolivian drug barons is intriguing at the beginning, but halfway through, it forces you to cut off all possible virtual corners and nervously fidget in place, waiting for the ending. You don’t want to see every nook and cranny in it, so it’s a bad sandbox game.

A bike ride in the wildlands

First and foremost, however, it is worth emphasizing the word “cooperative”. Or even two. COOPERATIVE. The existence of single-player in the new Ghost Recon is not justified at all. On the contrary, a huge cross was deliberately placed on it, the name of which is the absence of a coherent storyline.

There is a plot here, but it boils down to one sentence: a brave special forces secretly sabotages the largest criminal cartel in the country. Everything in between is deep monologues, papers with biographies, diaries, and other trinkets – distractions. This is a static conflict with free quotes from the criminal history of Latin America, in which the characters, actions, and ultimately the number of sticks inserted are known in advance.

The presentation is surprising, perhaps only by the inappropriate combination of dark realism with playful parody. It is impossible to immerse yourself in the role of a member of an elite special unit when your leadership jokes about “Forchan”, commenting on briefing slides that resemble a visual designer’s graduation project. It looks stylish and lively, but Ubisoft once again sacrifices persuasiveness for effectiveness.

Tactical briefing in the field

The organization we are fighting against consists of several branches, and before reaching the person with the squarest face in Bolivia, it is necessary to deprive him of his impressive army of henchmen. In other words, to play a game inflated to incredible proportions. Mafia III, searching for data folders, chasing informants, and blowing up cocaine laboratories. The territorial structure, the philosophy of “do it your way,” and the routine at the core of the gameplay – all of this was in New Bordeaux, and now it’s also in Wildlands.

However, in “Mafia,” for faithfully serving the sandbox, the player received a solid chunk of the story and a couple of tough missions to keep their spirits up. Ghost Recon, on the other hand, relies entirely on your ingenuity even in key narrative episodes. So, there’s a checkpoint, a fortress, a prison, or something else – go ahead, create your dream mission.

AI team at your service

When playing alone, you get tired of this approach in a matter of minutes. Despite having a whole squad behind you, the pinnacle of interaction with them is simultaneously eliminating multiple targets on command. Computer teammates can only follow, shoot extremely accurately, and miraculously avoid detection in open areas, so the promised tactical freedom is narrowed down to a couple of basic methods. Everything else is the realm of cooperative mode.

When another player (or better yet, three) joins the game, Wildlands starts working properly. Infiltrations from different points, spontaneous shootouts, sniper ambushes, prolonged chases, fierce assaults, and well-planned stealth with discreet evacuation – the abundance of possibilities can make your head spin. Each icon on the map can turn into a tactical experiment or a series of random events woven into an engaging story of your adventures.

Even a simple clearing of an object, with due diligence, becomes a coordinated and beautiful operation. Yes, you can just shoot everyone from a hill, but it’s much better to crawl through the bushes, allowing your comrade to clear the way, and disable the jammer that was interfering with the reconnaissance drone, so that it can mark all the enemies in the vicinity and plan the shooter’s actions. The main pleasure of the game lies in the distribution of responsibilities and the search for ways to solve problems as a team, and it is not worth neglecting it.

Navigating through waterways

But the more time you spend in Wildlands, the more clearly you understand how superficial its mechanics are. If at first the aforementioned sandbox satisfies all needs, later its depths simply aren’t enough to create full-fledged missions that would compare to staged counterparts.

From a solid sandbox, Ghost Recon turns into a parade of “why”. Why isn’t there a detailed injury system? We are constantly given tasks to capture VIP targets alive, but to do this without provoking a tiresome drive halfway across the country is practically impossible. The ability, for example, to shoot a fugitive in the leg with a precise shot from a pistol would be very useful here.

Why does character customization not affect the gameplay at all? After all, weapons can be functionally personalized (and in great detail) – so why not go further? Make it so that a huge backpack on the back expands the ammunition at the expense of mobility, and Kevlar plates withstand more hits. But no, even changing camouflage has purely cosmetic significance: the chances of being detected among the foliage are the same in both forest gear and a brightly red shirt tucked into white pants.

Precision sniping mission
Interrogation of an enemy

Why does the game have a day and night cycle that the artificial intelligence of the opponents follows, but there is no possibility to wait for a certain period of time? Far Cry You can sleep in shelters, save in GTA by “rewinding” time, but here, in order to fulfill your dark intentions, you simply have to kill time until sunset. Considering that no campaign mission is tied to a timer, there was no reason to restrict the player in this way.

Why is it possible to infiltrate bases in the corresponding faction’s transport, but enemies still raise an alarm? And even if so, why can’t you hide in a truck driven by a familiar face to the guards?

Why, in the end, can’t you drag corpses? No, not like that. Why do corpses disappear before everyone’s eyes? You live under the same label as Splinter Cell, sigh…

Fast and furious car chase

The physics of cars may seem somewhat unattractive, but it only adds to the spectacle.

In general, everything is in this spirit. It is a quite fun, but not well thought out game. With a couple of not too difficult strokes, it could have been made much more complex and interesting, especially since there are plenty of examples to imitate around. The most obvious one – Metal Gear Solid, part five Ubisoft could have taken a couple of successful ideas from Snake, and no one would have been disappointed.

In its current state, the new Ghost Recon lacks any motivation to continue playing after about twenty hours, which is extremely weak for a sandbox game. By this point, the generator of cool situations runs dry, the story continues to indulge in silly jokes, and the sense of progress is limited to silly perks like “live longer, run farther, and blow up enemy helicopters with a buttstock strike.” It’s deadly boring.

And, apparently, to alleviate the boredom, Wildlands periodically explodes with bugs. Bugs, bugs, bugs! Rebel pickups fall from the sky, the protagonist gets stuck in grenade throwing animations, drones don’t explode, players’ worlds become unsynchronized, patrols forget to show up for missions, if the mission even activates on the first try, and other wonderful things happen almost within the same assignment.

The best part is when enemies don’t have time to load before the player arrives. There’s nothing better than a dozen deadly bastards materializing behind you during a plane hijacking or while reading documents. Although, if you hustle, it actually helps save precious time during sandbox routines.

A glitch in the operation

But overall, while criticizing “Ghost Recon,” it’s easy to get carried away and completely forget about the positive aspects of the game. Meanwhile, Ubisoft has created such a casual version of Arma 3, where you don’t need to spend two weeks learning the controls and can immediately enjoy the pleasures of teamwork. Ghost Recon may not excel in precision and intelligence anymore, but it is competent enough in both shooter and tactical aspects to not be considered a complete failure. Not to mention that there have been very few solid and full-fledged AAA cooperative games released recently.

But yes, this is a game that will make you sick of it long before it ends. What did you want to become, silly Wildlands? «Zelda» for fans of “Narco”? Well, with such an entertainment program, you didn’t succeed.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Action, Co-op
Ubisoft Paris
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



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