If I’m being honest, the Ghost Recon franchise is one I’ve never payed much attention to. I understand that it exists, it’s tactical and it’s bordered on the sci-fi for quite some time. However, when the time came to announce Ghost Recon: Wildlands needless to say I was surprised. The latest entry in the series attempts to ground the franchise in at least some degree of reality, but is that for the better?
Like Future Soldier before it, Wildlands keeps the focus on cooperation, tactical subterfuge, and military gadgetry to assure a successful victory. But invisibility cloaks and X-ray vision have been replaced with natural camouflage and portable drones. There’s enemy outposts to conquer, intel to retrieve, and loads of weapons scattered across the world, all promoting a “play your way” approach mission structure. If that sounds familiar, unfortunately it is: it’s only every Ubisoft open world game from the past five years.
Open world games have come under scrutiny simply because they refuse to innovate, and Ubisoft is largely to blame for that. The latest Ghost Recon does nothing to deviate from this formula, and that really sucks because as far as the setting goes, it’s one of Ubi’s best in a long time.
The story (or, maybe concept is a better term) focuses on a hypothetical near-future in which Colombia is now run by drug lords and the government is essentially non-existent. The United States sends in four elite soldiers to destabilize the new government and take back Colombia. It’s an interesting concept to hang a bunch of loose plot threads around but again that’s all it is. What makes the game stand out is the gorgeous setting. I was only able to play one region out of the ~20 that are in the game, but it was strikingly beautiful. The haunting soundtrack, played against the backdrop of an expansive canyon dotted with various fauna, makes for a game that feels inspired by the culture it attempts to emulate.
But again, if the setting is the only real highlight there’s a problem. The rest of the game plays out in a generic fashion: go to this place, grab this intel, do enough of these missions, and congratulations, one region down, another 20 or so to go. Despite the fact that so many games have been criticized for going down this route, and for obvious reasons, Ubisoft can’t seem to break away from the “open world” prison it crafted for itself a little over five years ago. A giant world isn’t enough if you’re only repeating the same mundane tasks to no avail.
If you’re set on grabbing one of these two games in the next couple weeks, it’s in our best interest to try For Honor instead. Vote with your wallet and encourage more out-of-the-box games to shine, otherwise franchises like Ghost Recon will grow stale, and new IPs like For Honor are doomed to die out.