Co-op games have sort of become a lost art. Developers often conflate the idea of co-operation simply by adding an extra person to what was already happening. Ghost Recon Wildlands takes a much different approach, crafting a game that requires two or more great minds working perfectly in synch to achieve the most satisfying results.
Even when stealth breaks down and weapons come free, you'll still have to communicate with your team frequently and effectively in order to make it out alive. Ghost Recon Wildlands stands in stark contrast to other co-op shooters that simply put you and a friend against waves of enemies to test your attrition. Despite a few obvious flaws, Wildlands is the co-op shooter you've been waiting for.
Land of the Wild
Wildlands doesn't feature the most delicate storytelling (drugs are bad, as are most Spanish-speaking people, Bolivia is a war zone, etcetera), but it gets the job done because it sets up elements you have to overcome. For instance, the government were too overwhelmed in fighting the cartels that they threw in the towel, and now the Bolivian Special Forces, or the UNIDAD is essentially working with the cartels, which means they're against you. Then you also have the rebellion resistance who work against the cartels and the UNIDAD, and therefore, with you.
This creates the second Ubisoft game in as many months to have a "faction war," as it were, and this plays out very well in Wildlands, giving you side missions and chance encounters with both friendly and enemy groups, all the while UNIDAD forces are patrolling the ground and the sky. Hurt them, and their patrols increase.
Not that you won't have anywhere to run. You have an entire huge map unlike any open world game I've played this year. Thank Ubisoft that Wildlands has a fast travel system (set locations throughout the country), because it can take 5-10 minutes to get from one point to another in just one of Wildlands' 7 areas.
It's tempting as a developer who wants to expand to simply spread your dough out thinner, so to speak, without realizing that this decreases the substance. Rest assured, Wildlands fills its space very well with side-missions, random encounters and, perhaps most importantly, supplies, which are beautifully tied in with your upgrade system.
Supply and Demand
Rather than just a straight-up experience system, where you gain XP for killing dudes and use that XP to upgrade your gear, physical ability and supply, Wildlands requires that the player find or earn both upgrade points and various supplies depending on what you want to upgrade. In Wildlands, you can find Oil, Food, Medicine and Communication Tools, and any given upgrade to your character could require, say one upgrade point and 500 Food. It's a refreshing system that rewards exploration, and gives you plenty to do in this massive, massive sandbox.
I will say, though, that the sheer number of upgrades available can feel a bit overwhelming, and I definitely earned what seems like an obscene amount of supplies relatively early in the game, which may hinder its ability to incentivize exploration. That being said, the cost of upgrades scales decently enough that it seems like the cost eventually caught up to me.
Another surprising aspect of Wildlands is that the team A.I. is not complete garbage. In fact, in many respects, using AI teammates can be more effective than real people. Wildlands was quick to show off "Sync-shots" prior the game's release. These allow you to target up to three people (when the skill is fully upgraded), and have your teammates execute them as you execute a fourth person. These can also be used simply to execute a tough shot, because the A.I. doesn't miss. So, if you see a sniper 300-400 meters away, and you're not too confident in your ability to read the bullet drop, just have your A.I. teammates take care of it.
Snyc-shots in co-op are a lot more fun, but obviously less effective. The button for Sync-shot will now display a target above an enemies head as a way to visually indicate to your teammates which person you are about to shoot. That way, there should be no confusion. Even though its less effective, though, co-op in general is a lot more fun. You definitely feel like you're a tactical military unit, a'la Seal Team Six, executing simultaneous headshots, taking down drug cartels, the works.
And, surprisingly enough, each person's progress is still separate. In a way, Wildlands works a bit like an MMO. While you'll encounter the same quests, and you can complete them at the same time, joining someone's game doesn't fastforward or rewind your progress. So, if you've already progressed substantially throughout the game, you can assist your friends who are only just starting out. Likewise, they can assist you on missions that they can't even access yet. The system has its merits and ultimately proves to be a unique feature that aides its chief mechanic: co-operative play.
That being said, there are some questionable co-op connection issues that can't be ignored. Ubisoft is, unfortunately, notable for having sub-par servers, and multiplayer connectivity has affected its last two major titles, being Rainbow Six: Siege and For Honor. Wildlands is no exception, but it is certainly less noticeable. During my play time, I've experienced one friend drop, but mostly its just sporadic segments of prolonged lagging that stills your frame and your sound for a good 10 seconds at a time.
And the performance on PC is also nothing to write home about. While it doesn't go so far as to break the game, I still find myself with frequent framerate drops that effect single- and multiplayer games alike. I find it hard to believe that even top-tier computers can run this at 60 fps without frequent interruption.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a co-op shooter unlike any I've played before. It's a tactical shooter that doesn't throw tactics out the window as soon as you're discovered. Though much better played with friends, Wildlands is still a must-have for anyone who loves the tactical shooting genre.
Even at the most basic level, there's simply so much to do in Wildlands because they've so carefully populated their open world with enough to do that you won't feel like you're simply walking over massive areas to get to the sporadic points of action.