The stunning backdrop of a Bolivia slowly succumbing to the iron grip of the ruthless drug lord El Sueno and his Santa Blanca cartel provides the setting for Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, the tenth instalment in the Ghost Recon franchise.
In this third-person, open-world shooter, you play as the eponymous Ghosts, a fictional, special-operations unit tasked with undermining and destabilising Santa Blanca’s power and influence. Parallels can be drawn with the infamous Pablo Escobar and the popular Netflix series 'Narcos'.
The game is truly staggering in size, with a massive map beautifully capturing the landscapes of Bolivia varying from deserts to mountainsides, rivers and jungles, which can be traversed by land, air or water through various modes of transport.
The narrative is interesting enough, while not entirely compelling, the gameplay and endless-possible methods of approach to each scenario are what make this game shine.
Santa Blanca has four divisions of operation: influence, security, production and smuggling. Gathering intel and taking out lower-level cartel members slowly eradicates the cartel’s influence and leads to opportunities against the leaders.
Do you attack during the day, guns blazing and lobbing endless grenades in a trail of violence and destruction that would shame John Rambo? Or stealthily approach at night, scoping out guard patterns and taking an encampment out one by one?
Either approach can work and the choice is up to the individual player’s creativity in making it succeed. The missions can be attempted in any order, so one could completely shut down one division of operation or slowly whittle away at each in turn.
Playing solo you are accompanied by three AI ghosts, who are responsive and allow you to plan out attacks quite well. But the real joy is in multiplayer, where you can play with up to three other players, opening up the possibilities far more than AI teammates can achieve.
Gameplay mechanics and controls are tight, with a different weight and feel to the multitude of weapons and vehicles available. Customisation options are plentiful, from character design through to weapon attachments and colour schemes. Sound design is excellent, with meaty, distinct sounds for each weapon and regional dialects and music from locals or the radio giving the locale a more vivid feel.
Players can attempt the main story missions in each area, but side missions give access to new weapons, player upgrades, intel and various kinds of rebel support that can be used in fire fights. The sheer size of the map and the amount of missions, including side missions have the game play time total at well over 30 hours of content.© Image supplied
Downsides include the occasional frame-rate drop when plenty is going on on-screen, occasional AI glitches, lacklustre dialogue and slightly repetitive mission styles later in the game, but none of these are game breaking and the freedom and creative possibilities more than make up for these negatives.
Overall 'Wildlands' creates a huge, well-crafted Bolivia to explore. The experience is satisfying playing solo, but is elevated when playing with human counterparts in the multiplayer. A huge game with plenty of content, including an already available DLC 'Narco Road' and a planned future PVP multiplayer DLC release.
'Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands' is well recommended for fans of open-world shooters.