Never have I wanted to “Not like” a game so much…but I bloody love it anyway!

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a regurgitated, recycled concoction of other games. It is the formula employed in 80% of Ubisoft games, grounded within a large open world. So we have the same rince-repeat pattern of The Division/Assassins Creed/Watch Dogs meaning that in each individual area you have the same 4 or 5 quests over and over with very little variance. Resulting in what should be a very motivation sapping mechanic…. I always find the method akin to playing World of Warcraft and being to told to go fetch 10 effing flowers!

BUT!

Wildlands…takes this pattern, this hideous nature….and smashes right through it!
The game-world itself is why. The recreation of a fictional, modern-day Bolivia being run by a remarkably influential Drug Cartel is a brilliant love affair. The sheer size of the traversable world is exceptional, on foot it would take a few hours to cross it, even in as straight a line as possible. To help, you have cars/trucks, transport and attack helicopters, planes and boats to get you about.

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The world is not so much alive with Bolivian culture and history but with wonderous beauty. It is truly the most stunning open world environment I have ever had the honour of… creating as much chaos as possible within.

There was an interview with one of the lead designers in Bungie over the launch success of the original Halo a few months after its release. In which he said that “If you can create a solid 30 seconds of fun, non-stop, no breather, a full 30 seconds…you can use it to template a great game”. Now there are always exceptions to the rule and open world games are largely considered part of that group but Wildlands, literally, told that rule to “Go Spin!”.

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Wildlands has had the usual development cycle and production period of most Ubisoft games, where the recent Ghost Recon games have focused on that Future Edge of war with experimental technology and weaponry – Wildlands stays true to current tools of the trade.

On that note, we have all played shooters… dropped an enemy, thrown a grenade, used SMG’s/Rifles/Snipers… when you hit a Cartel conscript here, you feel the shot. It is sickening satisfying to land a bullet on your target in this game. Wether it’s 10 feet or 700 feet away, you are going to love it.

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From the weaponry to the gadgets, you can feel the effort poured in by the devs. Just last night I was flying my Quad Drone over a Cartel run drug production facility while spotting targets. Below me, step by step, I am guiding my teammate from corner to corner, inching closer and closer to our mark. He takes out the two bodyguards, grabs the target and bundles him into the trunk of a saloon, gets in himself and drives off for the exit. This immediately raises hell! The baddies start shouting, calling in back up and the alarms kick off – trouble is incoming! – NOT TODAY! I call in a mortar strike ahead of his position mid-getaway… the shells start falling and echoing explosions across the valley, he passes just head of the barrage unscathed, but his pursuers are not so lucky. Four jeeps crammed with enforcers get obliterated by some rebel artillery support. Just Epic!

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Now when your done with the mission and extracted safely your first thought is whats the next one then? No, well…yes, but you can’t help stopping and exploring this gorgeous creation. Every rock, cliff, gorge, plateau, lake, river, stream, brush, jungle, desert or salt flat will soak up so much of your time just admiring it.

You have an XP system and skill points to acquire, used to unlock perks and modifiers to increase your deadly proficiency…ranging from a steadier aim or more effective AI team mates to an explosive, healing, EMP or distraction drone mod. The Gunsmith is also well kitted out, a number of modifications for your weapons in the form of scopes, butt-stocks, fore-grips, magazine extension and barrel lengths.

One thing I really hate here is the use of “Silencers”. Wildlands has fallen into that common misconception that a suppressor makes your firearm garner a lower range and damage potential…this is a myth. In fact a suppressor on a rifle or pistol actually increases its velocity, therefore increasing the capability by an average 1.3%. It always saddens me greatly when I see this in modern games still.

The plot revolves around you and your team – NOMAD – being called in “off the books” to deal with the Cartel in its entirety. A CIA asset on the ground is your direction and throughout the regions, cut scenes will ensue after extracting high-ranking Cartel members or liberated ones working against their will…but I wont spoil the surprise.

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Each “Region” is categorised into four parts of the Cartel organisation, Security, Production, Influence and Smuggling. Each has a few above average enforcers in charge of something but after you take them out this leads you to the guy – or girl – responsible for the region. After you have dissolved enough regions within one of the four Cartel aspects, the under-boss and boss of that organisational side will appear. When these guys show up it’s a big deal, these guys are pivotal to the Cartel’s income and will destabilise the whole operation if removed.

The end result is to get the big boss on the board, “El Sueno”. This is the main man, the head honcho, the villain you need to eliminate and send the Cartel to a leaderless mess. Then you can mop up the refuse.

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You will put about 40 hours at least into this bad boy before wanting to start it all over again. Maybe this time at the extreme difficulty which limits your radar and ups the ante on the capabilities of your opposition.

Story – 8.5/10
Visuals – 9.3/10
Sound – 8.5/10
Gameplay – 9.5/10
Game Design / Innovation – 9.3/10

Overall – 9.2/10 – Excellence

Yes, the repeating nature of the region after region is a large detractor but it’s overwhelmed by the mechanics, gameplay, visuals (good god the visuals) and audio throughout. Definitely something you need to buy.

Reviewed by Michael Jones (Gryffudd)

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