Drug cartels have brutally taken over the South American nation of Bolivia like ripe corn being reaped by a soulless harvester. Lives are in ruins, and drugs flow like muddy water from a burst dam into the ravaged veins of the world populace. All manner of criminal activities get cultivated, grow and flourish unchecked. And Bolivia and it’s poor neighbors slip further into a whole new definition of anarchy.
Relax fam, this is not a newsflash! Or a drugged-out nightmare you might soon wake up to. Or from. It’s rather the plot to Ubisoft’s new first-person shooter, Ghost Recon Wildlands. Sure we have heard the premise numerous times before and read similar things in a variety of books and magazines. Hell, even the late Tom Clancy himself scared us with something very similar in his prescient novel Clear and Present Danger. And we -or rather I- are yet to stop shitting ourselves in fear ever since.
Now, however, Ubisoft has ordered for some pretty new clothes and dressed it up as their newest game in the Ghost Recon series. It’s a sexy, arrogantly hip-swaying beauty that ensures that you stay busy for hours on end taking down bad guys and putting things right with the world a bullet at a time. The game is squad-based, and there is more than enough trouble to get them all in. Your teammates get chosen by you and can be either actual flesh and blood people or AI characters.
Each has its own advantages. And disadvantages. Example, your AI squad mates will always have your back, and you can always count on them to race over to you and administer vital first aid should you have the misfortune of quarreling with an incoming bullet or mortar round. They also have the capability of withstanding an outstanding amount of damage. Which enables you to use them as an unadvertised human shield. On the other hand, choosing your friends and fam as your squad members promise to drastically rocket up the fun to be had by all. But then, they might be too busy gaping at the lush locale or just goofing off to provide much of help as you clean up drugs and crime-ravaged Bolivia.
Talking of locales, Ghost Recon Wildlands has some of the best ever we have yet to see. It’s so eye-poppingly realistic, varied and simply magnificent that it would be eminently easy to believe it was all a movie rather than an excellently designed video game. On the graphics front alone Ubisoft has a sure winner. If you don’t feel the same why I will go out to the backyard and cheerfully butter and eat a grenade.
This shooting game is an open world with a map that seemingly stretches to infinity packing different environments ranging from deserts, plains, jungles, salt plains and more. There is thus lots to see and explore. Lots of missions are available, but after a while, they can quickly get monotonous if you do not experiment and actively vary your routine mission to mission.
Game characters range from your CIA handler Karen Bowman to the head of the drug cartel El Sueno. Despite his bad boy status as the chief of the Santa Blanca cartel El Sueno is a quite likable if the amoral guy with a predilection for sounding off and presumably raised on a diet of an inordinate amount of Mafia home videos. Apparently, you have been clandestinely ordered to present his pretty head on a woven platter to the current occupant of the White House and thus help restore Bolivia back to the land of peace and prosperity it presumably was before those damn druggies came and ruined everything.
Your assigned task is brutally simple: to rid the country of bad guys up to no good in any manner you deem appropriate. The ravishing Karen Bowman initially gives you just a single lead. It’s then up to you to parlay this into the next lead and the next ad infinitum by interrogating and otherwise uncovering other leads. Till you ultimately reach Senor El Sueno himself and boot him off to the great beyond.
Others characters you should be aware of include the Unidad’s who are Bolivia’s Military Police and solidly in the pocket of El Sueno. If you do meet them run like you mean it or prepare for the Bolivia of all battles. Your allies are the rebels called the Kataris 26 whom you can do side missions for. They will repay the favor in spades by leaving you vehicles and firing off mortars on your opponents. Asides other equally helpful things that serve to make your gaming experience pleasant.
For combat, you are outfitted with some properly suitable weaponry. With more being unlocked anytime you complete missions and perform suitably heroic deeds. Lots of weapons are available and are very customizable. But the ultimate must be the silenced sniper rifle that enables you to kill at a distance and leave like you were never there like a proper ghost. This you gain access to early in the game. So, there really is no need to wander around collecting weaponry stashed everywhere like some nutty squirrel in winter. That is unless you enjoy shooting things up with very different guns for different occasions.
You also get a drone. Which comes in handy by marking targets for you to take down. As well as all manner of surveillance operations. The drone too is upgradeable with super things like an exploding payload, EMP emitter, and an audio lure. If you were expecting some other serious gizmo that leaves you drooling like a bulldog at a well-cooked steak, then you are out of luck. The drone is all the tech you get. And really all you need anyway. But, with near every FPS game now made packing drones and the like it presently feels somewhat blase.
With a very large map, the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands would be hard going anywhere just by hoofing it. Thankfully you and your squad can hijack all manner of vehicles and get to fly around in helicopters. A word of warning though: vehicles are occasionally difficult to control for reasons unexplainable. And you can easily crash choppers you find yourself piloting through no obvious fault of yours. Apart from their being quite a chore to fly.
Also, if you are using AI squadmates in the game expect them to achieve the impossible every day. Things like firing bullets that magically go around corners to hit opponents manfully covering there. Or having their bullets pierce thick concrete structures to speedily remove baddies from the land of the living are all a day in the park for them. That makes for amusing gameplay, but the novelty quickly wears off after a while. At least you get to mark targets with a variety of items ranging from your rifle scope to the drone for your teammates to kill off on command. Giving you the power of life and death you long have been craving for ever since your mom got you a water pistol on your third birthday.
Overall the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands does really impress with its excellent graphics and a wide range of places to explore. Apart from enabling suitably inventive ways to kill off baddies. However, considering its lineage, it feels at worst a step backward. And at best shows a lack of incentive to really innovate, take risks and deliver something that makes the heart wildly pound a throbbing and unforgettable drumbeat. The graphics and extensive map are the only things to recommend it. Without them, it might well be virtually any game in any store played by anyone.
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