There’s a lot broken inside Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Even after the game’s day one update, in which a host of glitches were thankfully fixed, some of the problems identified in previews and betas remain: vehicles are weightless and defy physics, whilst enemy encounters themselves can escalate to ridiculous levels almost instantly.
The aforementioned day one patch seems to have stabilised things. In the six hours of we’ve played since launch, we’re no longer experiencing missions that drop into fail states without rhyme or reason. Nor have we continued to see NPCs that can randomly develop superpowers, taking to self-powered flight when escaping an area. Vehicles are still out of whack, so never fully trust them — I landed a helicopter near another only to have it zoom across the dirt as I was climbing out, link with another and then jettison the mess five kilometres down the road. I died amongst the wreckage.
While it’s great to see things looking up — even though I disapprove of Ubisoft practically releasing the game in an unfinished state — it’s still a bit disheartening. Wildlands is a a ton of fun when things go right.
Set in Bolivia, you can go solo or in a group against the Santa Blanca Cartel, a narco-terrorist superpower that’s essentially running the small Spanish country. With epic cutscenes promising tension-packed, Blacklist-level action, this quickly falls away to reveal a stealth simulator where your primary objective is to take smartphone pictures of pieces of paper. A sprawling open world with much to do, Wildlands has a continual identity crisis. It’s humourless one minute and wholly tongue-in-cheek the next. Well placed headshots are realistic and gritty, and then you climb into an SUV to watch it dart across a mountainside like a balloon.
The Ghosts are dumped into a large, sprawling map with very little direction. While that’s fine for some, I struggled, especially considering this Ubisoft open world game is very much an Ubisoft open world game. Almost immediately, myriad of icons pop up on your map, leaving you unsure what to do next. Your long-term goal is to destabilise the already unstable Bolivia, moving from sector to sector and liberating it, much like Just Cause 3… only this time, you’re supposed to do it sneakily.
Playing solo, you’d best be prepared for AI stupidity — though this is mostly from your Ghost squad rather than enemies. As you roam Bolivia, you collect resources through tagging them — gasoline, medical supplies and the like are coupled with skill medals to level up your character and his or her skills. As you progress, you’ll unlock aid from rebels, enhanced drone support, and more and more skills that rely on Ghost cooperation. Its in those skills that your AI squad blunder, missing shots — or even forgetting to shoot — or wandering aimlessly into groups of enemies or oncoming cars.
Playing in a group can sometimes turn proceedings into a delightful comedy of errors, and it’s here where Wildlands really can shine. Glitches encountered in pre-release have quieted down, post-launch, so you’ll usually fail a mission because of your own group making bad decisions rather than the game breaking. It’s here, with real live people, that Wildlands can shine: there’s such joy to be found in calmly and collectively scouting an area, tagging enemies, and then determining how to either take them out or circumvent them.
Despite a newfound polish, some of the systems in the game’s core, stealthy loop are flimsy at best, in dire need of fine-tuning and revision. This is coupled with some fairly bland missions — I’ve lost count how many times we’ve undertaken a highly complex mission merely to find our target has left and that we need to take a smartphone picture of a piece of paper to continue. If you’re feeling things are getting stale, it’s probably best to jump into side missions.
While the game’s enormous map and seemingly limitless missions will entice some gamers, I just can’t help but look past the investment I’ll have to make. This is a title that will eat the hours away, and if you’ve committed to a squad, you’re going to have to make good on those promises. Plan accordingly.
The glitches we encountered ahead of launch are forgivable in preview environments, but not in the weekend before release or especially when it’s time for consumers to buying what should be a finished product. Its day one patch has certainly brought it to a level of polish we weren’t sure it could ever hit, but it’s still inexcusable. Multiplayer seems to really depend on the host of a session — we didn’t encounter flying enemies post-launch, but we’re still seeing ones that dart around the map as if you were experiencing a bad connection in Halo.
Right now, it’s a bit of a trade-off — you’ve more stability inside solo play, but you’re paired with some rather useless AI who sloppily follow orders and get spotted by the enemy doing so. In multiplayer, you’re less of a smooth experience, but you’re more than likely playing with people who’ll be able to pull of some pretty complex stuff. At the moment, we’re happy to suggest this to groups of gamers who’ll be able to commit a bunch of time as a squad; running solo, you’re bound to get frustrated.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands was reviewed using multiple promotional codes on Xbox One, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.