Open world games are often accused of risk aversion and putting quantity over quality. With all its bells and whistles, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands exemplifies just that.
The legitimate Bolivian government in South America is suffering at the hands of the fictional Mexican Santa Blanca cartel. Their big boss, El Sueño, has reinvested his cocaine profits into forming a new religion, into social media, local seniors and corrupt officials. As a result, the cartel runs the country as they wish. Several under-bosses handle security, smuggling, cocaine production and propaganda. As a member of the US special forces (who else?), your job is to dismantle the cartel piece by piece. As the strike force leader, you're given a lot of freedom on where to strike and how to go about it. Once two of the four pillars are taken down, El Sueño himself will come out of his hiding hole for a final showdown. That's basically the entire plot, aside from a few notable standouts, you'll forget the minor side characters as soon as the cut scenes are over.
Wildlands relies heavily on tradition with its modern open-world gameplay. It offers a huge map and is beautiful to behold with its varied vistas, from jungle to salt flat. Once you've built your special ops person from a few facial options and several outfits, you're thrown into the world with three vanilla-flavoured AI friends. You can, of course, bring your friends instead. Especially if they're after the same sort of experience as you; whether it be gun smoke-filled action or stealthy covert strikes. This is very much a cooperative experience.
Your standard mission type is to clear out a military base, village or a camp of enemies and items. How you proceed is largely up to you. Our troop of ghosts usually began with recon, followed by taking out solitary guardsmen with silenced weaponry. Once that was over, we sneaked deeper into the camp, where the action often ramped up as someone was seen and the general alert was sounded. It's not all guns and grunts against cartel and the local paramilitary Unidad forces, though. Many gadgets, from drones to explosives, can turn the odds in your favour. Careful reconnaissance is the key here. A spotted target is an easy one. Wildlands is not a terribly difficult game to beat even on at the higher levels. Your opponents do hit hard once they open fire, but are rather oblivious to sneaking covert operatives and mates that suddenly go silent.
The varied scenery can be observed from several different vehicles. Keyboard and mouse works fine most of the time, but playing on a controller might suit the driving better. Cruising along the tarmac or dirt feels fine, but any kind of bump in the scenery, other cars, or rocks, seem to overload the physics system and the result is a coin toss. The light and weightless motorbikes suffer the most from this. Surprisingly the heavier the vehicle, the better it handles. A lorry might offer the smoothest of rides, but a getaway vehicle from a botched petrol convoy ambush it ain't. Helicopters spawn aplenty, so they quickly rose as the main means of transportation. Chopper controls are not quite there yet, either, but somewhat improved from the beta experience.