“See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.” – Milton Friedman
While some defend the idea that drugs are bad, others have enough firepower to justify otherwise. Looking back at Milton Friedman’s famous quote on drug-war, the man is right to a certain extent. Drugs are to the economy what steroids are to athletes, an unsafe and risky shortcut to the top. Although illegal practically worldwide, strong drugs like cocaine for example, bring in some ridiculous amounts of cash. Its circulation is critical to today’s society, but the feeding hand doesn’t really care about that, now do they?
Set in Santa Blanca, Bolivia, one of the prime locations in South America for drug traffic, cartels, and all sorts of hazardous ‘businesses’, Wildlands takes you face to face with some of the biggest and most notorious drug lords. In just a few words, you play as a special op; get in, take out your target, get out, and eliminate cartels. For this game, Ubisoft shipped a story similar to that of Pablo Escobar, one of the most famous drug lords the world has ever met. In his story, we learn just how the government can be corrupted to the point that they would indeed protect cartels. Now, it is your time to get involved and mess the entire business up!
Why Santa Blanca? After an operation went sour and the American embassy was tackled by terrorist attacks, Santa Blanca’s cartel becomes the number one on the terrorist blacklist. The American government then brings forward operation Kingslayer, a special operation that joins the DEA, FBI and JSOC bureau. As part of Ghost, the special and elite military operation unit, your mission objective is to eliminate the Santa Blanca cartel and bring order and balance to the government. Not your typical Oscar-ready set up, but more of a Hollywood blockbuster story that plans on attracting patriotic players.
Special ops Ghost character, check!
A drug cartel worth taking down, check!
With all the basic elements perfectly aligned, what puts the nail on the coffin and holds everything in place is how the world of Wildlands is presented. Ubisoft did an excellent job delivering an open world in which you can explore the virtual canvas around Bolivia. Details are on point and the immersion players get when going through the distances and admiring the view the game has to offer is unprecedented for a title of the series.
In Wildlands, the universe is as big as it is in nature. This can sometimes cause you to forget that you are playing with a controller behind a console and just lose yourself in the game. Unfortunately, one of the key elements in the production of the title breaks the entire experience and renders it dull: language. It isn’t an element that we often discuss about in titles, but when it comes down to Wildlands, it plays an important role. Imagine yourself being that soldier part of the special ops. You head over to Bolivia and everyone, even drug lords talk in the same language you initially set the game up with. This means that if you are playing in English, everyone will talk in English… No Spanish. What a way to break that immersion Wildlands set you up for.
Shooters have this important mechanic called realism. The more a game is realistic when pulling the trigger, the better. Unfortunately for Wildlands, it fails to deliver a decent and convincing shooting gameplay mechanic. For example, the recoil isn’t on point and often illogical, and the movements are limited and no as fluid. The best way to explain this is while you have your back against a wall, in cover, and someone is shooting you, you need to completely expose yourself in order to even be able to land a hit on your enemy. Although those elements pull the game down a bit, the rest is very generous when it comes to weaponry and tactical gadgets. They pretty much make up for the deceiving shooting mechanics.
Speaking of tactical gadgets, there are tons. All of them can used to complete diverse objectives in the game. The best part about having such as selection is when you enter the preparation phase for your mission. As you analyze your surroundings, mission objective and the possible ways to get to your target, you think ahead about what you might need in terms of equipment. This element, subtle, yet strong, grants you incredible liberty over how you plan on tackling a mission and a target. Just make sure you use the drone and binoculars often during recon.
Preparations can be done for main missions, as well as side quests. The game offer quite a bit of content. In addition to those, which grant your character experience points, there are also other ways to gathering XP. The more ways you find, the more solutions players get for gaining new abilities, gear and gadgets. The progression system itself is simple, but the ways you have to pushing it to new levels are abundant.
Orchestra music is always good, especially when paired up with a good video game. In Wildlands, the soundtrack doesn’t quite fit that criteria, but instead focuses more on the latin flavor that is the main theme. Languages might not be on part, but at least, the music does, and the radio channels are the highlights. I might not much 100-man orchestrated compositions, but it deals enough to the ears to pass by.
At the end of the day, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a blockbuster title that missed the train and has to walk the path other major titles go through, but with a superb pair of shoes. It isn’t a 9 or anything close to a 10, but a good enough title to be worth playing and spending time on missions, side quests and other content it features. It has some good recon elements and a typical story, but fails to deliver a decent shooting mechanic. The immersive world makes up for most downside, that is until you hear people from Bolivia talk in English.
Wildlands is exactly what it is, wild lands. The South American setting is the best place to hold a cartel-related backbone of a story, and the canvas where it all takes place looks amazing. The world is immersive and easy to fall under its spell. The best part about it is that there are tons of different ways to tackle a mission. It is an element that I personally love exploiting. It has some flaws, limited by the character’s movements, but overall, the options you have are quite abundant.
I mentioned this above, and I will mention it again, it was a bad idea to completely change the game’s language. In Bolivia, people speak Spanish. The best they could have done to keep you immersed was to feature subtitles instead of changing the spoken language to the one you initially set. That alone could have granted quite several points to the Wildlands.