Ghost Recon Wildlands is Ubisoft’s newest entry in to the ever-decaying Tom Clancy franchise. I spent a few hours in the open beta, and here are some of my thoughts. If you skim this, just make sure to read points 5 and 6.
1. Let’s start positive. If you like taking over bases in Far Cry, this is your game. In fact it seems to be the entire game. There are some other pieces of side content that pad out the otherwise rinse and repeat mission structure, like flying a plane full of ‘whatever’ from A to B. The kicker, is that Ubisoft clearly understood that this is exactly what players wanted out of Far Cry 4 and built a handful of systems around making base-raiding more interesting. The “sync shot” feature is pretty cool – you mark targets for your team to snipe simultaneously a la every action movie ever – and feels like a great addition to the formula. It also borrows Watch_Dogs 2’s drone system and target marking. Moreover, it generally gives the sensation of the player setting up a plan of attack, and executing it. The exception to ‘generally’ is when things go off the rails and open combat starts.
2. Open combat feels sloppy. Enemies dual-wielding Uzis (held sideways of course – we’ll get to more of that later…) seem to be able to hit you effectively hundreds of yards away. While your own shooting has a pretty decent sense of tactility, doing so isn’t terribly engaging because the AI is pretty weak. Your character is squishy, so the game encourages hit and run tactics which are generally up my alley, but something just doesn’t feel right about it in Wildlands.
3. All vehicles drive and fly like toys. You have about as much precision with them as a child does smashing their toy cars together, which isn’t great when you’re driving on a guardrail-less winding mountain path.
4. For Honor, much like Rainbow Six: Siege, was a breath of fresh air from Ubisoft. While they both have issues, they do a lot to buck the very self-similar gameplay systems that make Ubi’s other franchises so homogeneous. Ghost Recon Wildlands didn’t get that memo. Whatever bland ooze Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Watch_Dogs start as, before being poured in to their respective molds, functions as the shapeless backbone of Wildlands. If you’re sick of that formula, this is more of it.
5. Lets get back to the dual-Uzi-wielding, pants sagging, “fuck you esse”- shouting, horribly insensitive depiction of Latinos. It’s there, and boy is it bad. Look, I know that intense facial tattooing is a part of gang culture in parts of Central and South America. Some of those people probably hang out during the day wearing basketball shorts with their shirt off. But not every goddamn person. Let’s not kid ourselves that AAA game development has been historically very good at representation, but it just feels really gross in Wildlands.
6. ‘Really gross’ is how I would describe the tone of the entire game. I know that Tom Clancy games have always been a nationalist, oo-rah, shoot the terrorists/Russians/drug dealers/brown people type deal, but the lack of respect that Wildlands has for the real life problems occurring in Central and South America is simply staggering. I’m usually able to get past issues like this and say “well it’s a video game” but this is too much. Maybe it’s because my parents live in Mexico and whenever I visit I see police with flak jackets and machine guns, I see the extreme poverty and corruption, I see the symptoms of the cancer that is the cartel. Here’s a little excerpt of gameplay that hammered this home for me:
During a mission your character is tasked with stealing a cartel boss’s sports car (totally what marines do.) When you get in the car, your character remarks:
“There are two bloody condoms in here… but it’s still a sweet fucking car.”
Yes. That is in this video game. Ubisoft acknowledges that rape is an endemic issue, and take’s no position on it except for that it’s still a sweet fucking car.
Fuck this game. Ubisoft, grow up and stop teaching the kids that will be playing this that thinking about the world in those terms is OK.