When I reviewed Ghost Recon Wildlands last week I noted that it was flawed, sometimes frustrating, and occasionally repetitive. However, despite its issues, I nevertheless really enjoyed playing the game. Indeed, I've poured many hours into Ubisoft's massive open-world title, completing all the story missions, collecting an impressive armory of guns and accessories, and generally hooning around the game's huge Bolivian environment causing mayhem and destruction.
What particularly appealed to me while playing through the game is the way that you're given completely free reign to tackle its hundred-plus missions. While it's true that there are a few that don't offer much flexibility regarding potential approaches, the vast majority of them are quite open, and give you plenty of opportunities for creativity. Sometimes that means you're able to do things that almost feel like exploits – such as stealing an armored personnel carrier and using it on an assault mission to completely annihilate the opposition. I've done that more than a few times, and it's really entertaining, even if it does somewhat trivialize the mission and make the proceedings feel rather preposterous.
Helicopters can also make some missions quite straightforward. I've flown right into the middle of an enemy camp, jumped out and ran into a building to seize an objective while my teammates laid down suppressing fire, and then returned to the chopper to escape before the enemy could do anything to stop me. Again, it felt a little like cheating, but it was quite exciting to successfully complete missions in this smash-and-grab kind of way.
Funnily enough, though, looking back at my adventures, the most satisfying and rewarding missions have also been the most frustrating – the ones that involve sneaking into a location undetected to achieve an objective. Although the stealth mechanics in Ghost Recon Wildlands are rather weak, and sometimes it feels almost like trial and error as you figure out exactly how to work your way towards the objective without being seen, many of these missions were a lot of fun.
One in particular involved breaking into a truck depot to photograph some intelligence, and it was exceptionally tough. The objective was located inside a building that was guarded by a tight cluster of enemies, and it was difficult to take them out without being detected. In the end, it was a case of being really patient. As day turned to night, two of the guards went to bed, which enabled me to sneak into the building and eliminate them while they snoozed. With two of the guards taken care of, I then had the space to maneuver into a position where I could take out the rest of the enemies one by one. But even then it wasn't over – I had to escape the compound without being seen. Fortunately, I simply stole a nearby truck and drove out of the front gate without alerting any of the remaining guards. It ended up taking me almost two hours to complete the mission, but it was one of the most memorable experiences I've had with the game – simply because it was so tense and challenging.
It's moments like these that have made playing through the game a tremendous amount of fun. However, now I'm at 100% and have completely destroyed the Santa Blanca cartel, I wish there was more to Ghost Recon Wildlands – that it had some kind of endgame so I could still continue to enjoy what it has to offer. Sure, I still have a few minor personal objectives to complete to further round out my character's build, but beyond that, there's nothing else to do other than replay missions with other players. The problem is, however, that there are no rewards for doing that – Ghost Recon Wildlands wasn't designed with an endgame in mind.
To me, that's a real shame. I understand that some games aren't open-ended MMOs, and simply offer an encapsulated experience that you complete, and then move on from, but Ghost Recon Wildlands seems to have the potential to be much more than it currently is. It has a vast open world that could have been filled with additional objectives and activities – especially when you consider that there are some huge bases and emplacements that aren't a part of the main campaign, and several regions don't feature any missions at all. Perhaps they'll be used for the pair of DLC expansions that will arrive over the coming months, but even so, there still seems to be plenty of room left over for additional content.
While it might eventually become repetitive, I'd be interested in replaying key missions as part of a daily challenge, for example, particularly if there were some interesting rewards up for grabs that would let me continue to build out my Ghost. I'd also be up for playing randomly-generated stealth infiltration missions where there were simple intel objectives to grab from inside bases and installations. Something like that would certainly keep me actively involved with the game – for the time being at least.
Maybe I'm being greedy, but I simply want to experience more of Ghost Recon Wildlands' brand of arcadey tactical action. Despite the campaign taking me around 30 hours to complete, it's just not quite sufficient enough to slake my thirst for the game. The other thing is that I've developed a character that I've grown quite attached to, but now that she's at the point where she's really fun to play, there's nothing left for her to do. Well, apart from side missions, but those aren't particularly challenging and eventually become much of a muchness once you're used to the way they work.
Ultimately, I just find it a little strange that a game so utterly massive in scope and scale, and featuring such comprehensive character development doesn't have some kind of endgame mechanics to keep its players engaged beyond its campaign – particularly given the game's strong multiplayer component. So much time and effort seems to have been spent on making an incredible sandbox to play in, not adding features to recycle and re-present its excellent content in an entertaining way strikes me as a seriously missed opportunity.
Ubisoft Paris' massive open-world shooter is occasionally flawed, frustrating, and repetitive. But bottom line, it's a lot of fun.
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