Intro and Gameplay
"Crows soared and cawed overhead. A small column of black smoke was a dim plume against the small village. Church bells rang as drops of rain gently began to fall. The muffled yet harsh shouts of the cartel echoed across the rocks of the small valley. I looked through the scope and slowly began to select my targets.."
The setting described in the previous paragraph and the screenshot above was the exact moment in GHOST RECON: WILDLANDS that I knew I was playing something special. It was a culmination of stellar game design, stunning technology, and just the perfect moment in an open world game where everything just comes together in a symphony of chaos that is truly magical. I digress, as the latest outing of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon series goes open world in the brutal drug cartel fable based in Bolivia. I will spare you all the details of the story but let's just say it's quite gritty and a little too brutal sometimes.
Gameplay is a huge mix of quiet sniping moments, tagging baddies with your drones, cruising up canyons on a dirt bike, flying helis and watching videos on insane cartel members, named Santa Blanca, in a very polished and detailed world that is absolutely massive and just begging to be explored. I haven't been this enthralled in an open world game in years. It's polished to a spit shine. Whether you want to just bust through the story, explore every nook and cranny, or a mix of just whatever the f*%^ you want to do, it's wide open to you and the story is your own to make. Whether going solo, or co-op, there is a massive amount of things to do but take it from us, co-op is where it's at and we need more games like this that friends can clean up the streets or cause pure chaos together.
There are a whole plethora (in my best Three Amigos voice) of weapons to unlock, Rebel tactics to rain down on your enemies, and secrets to be found. The sheer amount of items and points of interest scattered throughout the world is quite stunning. You will never have a lack of things to do and beating all bosses and sub-bosses will take you a long, long time. That is an extremely good thing.
Graphics and Sound
Dense jungles, baked deserts, small babbling streams, and huge mountain peaks are just a few of the locales brought to life in WILDLANDS and let me say, this game is absolutely gorgeous in both the artistic and technical sense. It takes quite a beast of a PC to run but as you can see (click to enlarge), the 4K screenshots and videos are incredibly stunning. Even though there are a few low res textures here and there, everything is teeming with life and detail. I took hundreds of screenshots and it was extremely difficult to choose which to include. The sense of scale is jaw dropping yet intimate, internal details of blasting baddies are rendered with perfection.
The sound is equally if not more stunning than the graphics. Gunshots ring out, thump, and just plain rock in most cases. Vehicle sounds are heavy and booming when they need to be yet small details such as birds and the small splatter of both rain and the blood sprays of your enemies are extremely detailed. The one thing that really hurt though was some of the cheesy voice acting. Why is that almost every shooter on the market today has to fill their dialogue to the brim with profanity?! Just a few short years ago, it seems we could have intelligent, mature stories and dialogue that didn't have to drop an f-bomb every other sentence. Either way, it's distracting and juvenile in both content and delivery which is too bad for a graphical and audio package that is otherwise second to none.
Value and Conclusion
In the end, this was a very tough game to score. There are quite a few repetitive moments in WILDLANDS as the game progresses but the more I digested the game, the more I realized how much FUN I had experience flying my drone around, sneaking into a twisted couples hunting lodge, calling in rebel mortar strikes and dozens of other moments that put a huge smile on my face. If are looking for smart, tight story and dialogue, you probably should elsewhere. This game ranks extremely high on the insane, gritty, and sometimes horrid world of drug trafficking and can be truly twisted. That being said, grab some friends, just into a heli and explore this giant, detailed world that is overflowing with awesome moments and FUN to be had. Honestly, isn't fun why we play games anyway? I can't wait to see where Ubisoft takes this series next with an engine so impressive and so much open world potential to be had. One thing with WILDLANDS is you will never, ever be bored and that is about the highest praise I can give in today's gaming landscape.
Be sure to sign up for your chance to win a copy of GHOST RECON: WILDLANDS right now!