Ghost Recon Wildlands Is Ubisoft’s Most Ambitious Game Yet

This is no surprise since open-world games appear to be most of publisher Ubisoft’s output this generation, ranging from the virus-ridden streets of New York in The Division, to the Alps in winter sports-themed Steep. In the case of Ghost Recon Wildlands, Bolivia is your playground for destruction and you’re part of an elite unit of soldiers tasked with cleaning up this now narco-state.

It’s here that you and upto three other friends (or friendly AI), are pitted against the Santa Blanca — a drug cartel that for all practical purposes runs Bolivia. As a part of an elite group of soldiers, its up to you to dismantle it and put an end to its boss, El Sueno.

The overall structure of Ghost Recon Wildlands has you tasked with killing the heads of four sections of the Santa Blanca — Security, Production, Influence, and Smuggling. Before you can get to them, you have to deal with bosses. Each of them run a specific province in Bolivia.
When you’re done with all of the bosses that belong to a single division, you can tackle the head of that specific department. You can go about it systematically, say carving out the Security arm of Santa Blanca, before moving on to another, or simply have a go at random. When you’ve put an end to two of the four units, you can take on El Sueno, if you so choose.

The opening few Ghost Recon Wildlands missions aren’t too dissimilar to the beta. You’ll make contact with the Kataris 26 — a local rebel outfit waging guerrilla warfare against the Santa Blanca and put an end to the horrifically well-realised duo of La Yuri and El Polito — a nurse and doctor couple that tortures enemies of El Sueno. There’s a bit of tedium involved at this juncture since its here that the game tutorialises certain aspects such as how to approach main missions, do side-quests, and the like.

One mission had us infiltrating the palatial mansion of a local drug lord. The first time around, we sabotaged every means of transport from helicopters to cars that were on the premises, found his location in a basement with the use of a drone, and quickly ended him. This was a rather pragmatic, systematic method to a solution .
The second time around we found a more explosive way — we called in a mortar strike on the swimming pool which was in the middle of the estate. This explosive diversion saw all the guards converge to the centre, letting us get to the target with ease. A motorcycle chase ensued through a dark tunnel, ending up at a village where a prolonged gunfight saw the end of our foe.

This is further helped by driving that has been tremendously improved since the Ghost Recon Wildlands beta, as has its gunplay. Every action feels responsive and there’s no clunkiness to contend with. So much so that bringing a minivan to a gunfight and crashing it into your enemies is a valid strategy.
Along the way you’ll unlock a number of skills. From being able to carry more ammo to extending the battery life of your drone, there’s a lot of them to earn. You get skill points for completing missions, but you’ll also need supplies — which you can find by completing side-quests or by tagging specific items in the environment such as gas cylinders for the rebels to collect.

In terms of narrative, there’s a lot of it, if you’re so inclined. Each boss has a fantastic backstory that rewards exploration. Be it audiologs or videos that explain the origins of an emotionally underdeveloped disposer of human corpses to the twisted mindset of a one-time beauty queen now cartel chief, they’re well done. They offset the lack of player character story, so if you were expecting a detailed, elaborate explanation of who you play as, you won’t get much of that here. All of the focus is on who you’re up against. Not that big of a problem since most of it is solid.
And that’s an apt summary of Ghost Recon Wildlands as well – it’s a solid effort from Ubisoft. There’s something for everyone and while it rarely excels at all of them, it manages to be a surprisingly engaging game. The overarching structure is overwrought and its fiction is one-sided but that means little when you’re crashing helicopters into unsuspecting cartel outposts while your friends detonate copious amounts of explosives.