Without a doubt, the two best tactical shooters of last gen were Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, GRAW to its friends, and its sequel. The hours my online buddies and I spent taking on every mission on that game, as well as challenging randoms in PvP, was more than I care to disclose but I probably could have learned a new language in that time. In fact, the lineage of this very website can be traced to the time that many of the writers and I started playing GRAW in 2006.
Unfortunately, Ghost Recon Future Soldier wasn’t at all what we hoped for and, to be honest, Ghost Recon Wildlands wasn’t really on my radar until it finally got released. Is it the follow up to GRAW2 that I’ve been craving? No. Not even close. Instead what you get here is basically Far Cry 3 and 4 with a slightly more serious face on it.
As with the Far Cry games, Wildlands puts you in the middle of an unstable country (in this case, Bolivia) and has you ultimately hunting for a charismatic psychopath. This game’s antagonist is El Sueno (The Dream). He’s basically your man Escobar (you’ve been watching Narcos, right?) but with a lot of religious tattoos on his face. He runs the cartel and the cartel runs Bolivia. His lieutenants are in it for the drugs, the money, the influence but he’s in it for the power and he’ll kill anyone who gets in his way.
This sets up the game in classic modern Ubisoft fashion. You get a giant map, littered with icons, with each area owned by a sicario or narco. Some are cold blooded killers, some are spoiled party boys but all of them need to be taken down if you want to get to the big boss. For each person there are a handful of story missions to complete that will get you to them. If there isn’t a story mission waiting, you’ll need to hit a few side missions in order to gain intel. You know the score.
At this point you may be sick to death of open world games like this. I have been for a while. So for a while there I was thinking this would be a chore. Especially as the world isn’t very interesting (sorry, Bolivians). Sure, it is massive and there are some nice views but when all you can see is a field leading up to a hill, you soon get a bit bored. Especially when your next mission marker is a few miles away across basically nothing.
I’m a little bit sick of traipsing around maps trying to climb unclimable mountains in order to get to an icon that’s just there to mess with my map OCD.
Also, the mood of the game isn’t as entertaining as other Ubisoft games. Sure, there are moments of humour from the very persistent radio or your allies but otherwise this is all a bit more po-faced.
However, where other Ubisoft open worlders have their gimmick (Watch_Dogs has the tech, Assassin’s Creed has the parkour and so on), Wildlands‘ thing is the squad-based gameplay. In this game you are never alone, whether teaming up with your three AI teammates (who, surprisingly, are pretty useful) or up to three human players, you are always accompanied. And while the AI does a good job (and I’ve been sticking with them when I’m mopping up side missions and collectibles), I’ve been co-oping all the story missions with Gareth from the site and the seamless drop in/drop out co-op is excellent.
Coordinating our attacks, working the stealth angle and fleeing when it all goes tits up. This is where Wildlands shines. So yes, while it is just Far Cry 4.1 (in fact less, because there isn’t as much to do in the game), doing it in co-op really makes it all better.
On the downside the visuals aren’t quite up to the usual stellar Far Cry standard. There is a slightly jagged look to the graphics, a lack of anti-aliasing which, in conjuction with the fairly generic world and characters, is a let down (although the rain effects are something else). Of course, the sound is excellent (although the radio chatter and music gets tiresome quickly) but overall this isn’t the best looking game that Ubisoft has made.
Also, while there are plenty of vehicles and weapons to play with, you don’t get the kind of crazy experiences you get with the latter Far Cry games. I miss being in a car chase while shooting a one-handed grenade launcher at my pursuers. This is all a fair bit more serious and therefore a little stilted. Not to mention that the vehicle handling is a little loose for my liking. What you get is the distance between objectives but what you don’t get is a fun way to get there. Give me the grapple hook and parachute madness of Just Cause 3 or the athletic runs of whoever is the lead character in Assassin’s Creed these days.
So, at this point it may all sound a little disappointing. It’s not GRAW, it looks good but not great and the gameplay isn’t going to make Wildlands the sort of classic that we talk about in ten years time but the gunplay is excellent, the battles are tense, the stealth is entirely natural and there if you want it and the game requires at least some of the strategy that made the series great. Also, while it has lots of weapons and customisations, it all makes sense now (whereas in Future Soldier it was all horribly baffling).
If this didn’t have the co-op, you’d be looking at a lower score but it does and if you can get a buddy or three to pick up a copy, you’ll be getting the best co-op experience on the PS4. However, if you’re looking to play this by yourself then you’d better really like Far Cry 4 and aren’t jaded by the genre.
+ Great combat
+ Lots to do
+ Good weaponary and perks
- It's another Ubi 'em up
- Visuals aren't top class