Tom Clancy, eh? He has put his name to some of the most realistic and punishing shooting games in the long history of video games. Rainbow Six, right the way up to and including Siege and Extraction (okay, not overly realistic), the Ghost Recon series, Splinter Cell; all have entered gaming legend as being as real as it is possible to be without suffering actual bullet wounds.
But what about transferring that formula to a massive open world environment? How would that go? Well, in 2017, we got the chance to find out with the release of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. And whilst I’ll try to not spoil the rest of this trip down memory lane, it was pretty flipping special.
So come with me to Bolivia, the land of coffee, carnage and other things beginning with the letter C…
The story of the game was the usual kind of Tom Clancy nonsense, to be honest, but still quite plausible. In the “near future”, Bolivia has been taken over by the Santa Blanca cartel, a merciless drug dealing bunch of real baddies who are really into making people’s lives a misery. Their objective is to create the biggest Narco-state (I’ve no idea if that is actually a thing) in history, and get the world hooked on their brand of marching powder. Now, clearly, good old Uncle Sam isn’t about to let that happen, so to make sure it doesn’t, he sends in four people. Not four brigades, oh no, four “Ghosts” – who are apparently bad ass enough to take on an entire country all by themselves.
What this translates into is a massive open world environment to mess about in, either solo with three AI teammates (who actually do a really good job of holding their own, if you’ll pardon the phrase) or with three real life friends, who can go blundering about in the dark and set off all the alarms in the world, while I’m trying to be stealthy. It’s not just my friends who do that, right?
So, as it is a realistic shooter, stealth is your friend, and sneaking around, spotting enemies with your drone, tagging them for later quiet disposal, and then synchronising your shots to remove the most troublesome guards is a lot of fun. And roundly mocking your one friend who missed their shot, and largely couldn’t hit a barn door if they were stood on the latch, is even more fun.
The environment is so big, and the world of Wildlands as a whole is so varied, that trying to run everywhere would take about a week. It is fortunate then that there are a plethora of vehicles to be found, commandeered and driven about the place. These range from civilian vehicles like cars, through military vehicles with mounted weapons (and your AI teammates will man the guns and shoot anything that looks at you funny), right the way up to combat helicopters with rocket launchers and guns attached; they can really mess up your targets. Or at least they would if I could hit anything other than “That mountain, over there!”. The helicopters are a great way to get around, and while they aren’t totally safe, as the Narcos have sophisticated anti-air systems, they certainly make zooming off to far flung corners of the map a lot faster.
The real fun of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, of the whole gameplay loop in fact, is in just completely ignoring all of the demands of the story and striking out on your own into the wilderness. You can find missions this way, you can find bases to neutralise and allow your rebel friends to take over, and even locate helicopters and aeroplanes to steal. In this way, you can find better gear for yourself and also make your Ghosts stronger, to make the rest of the levels that little bit easier.
There was also some DLC released for Wildlands over its lifespan, including the obligatory PvP mode called Ghost War. Now, for me, this was a game that really didn’t need a shoehorned in PvP mode, and with the game being so based around stealth, the whole thing just felt off. Luckily, there were other story based expansions released as well – Narco Road and Fallen Ghost – which challenged you to step up to the plate and fight against even greater odds. One of my favourite parts of the expansions was the introduction of the Predator as a mission, where you had to track down the invisible alien and try and take him out… or, as I found, more likely end up dead and strung from a tree.
In all honesty, I enjoyed Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands more than its follow-up, Ghost Recon Breakpoint, as the whole game just felt more polished and finished than its successor. But what about you guys out there? Did you play it on release back in 2017, or have you tried it since? Did you enjoy wandering around Bolivia and getting into scrapes? Let us know in the comments!
If you haven’t yet played Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, you’ll find it available on the digital stores of Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S (helpful Xbox Store link for you), PlayStation and PC.