Ghost Recon: Wildlands (PC) impressions: A beautiful, buggy, empty world with no load screens

Ghost Recon: Wildlands offers a big, beautiful world with no load screens and low frame rates.

Far as I can tell, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is a 30-50 hour game. PCWorld received a review code late on Friday (during GDC, no less) and I’ve only managed to play maybe 10 hours. So yeah, as you might expect we’re not reviewing Wildlands today.

Even so, I’m here to offer up my impressions from those first ten hours—mostly PC performance, but also an abbreviated section about the game itself.

Performance

If nothing else, Wildlands is a technical feat. I’m not going to say this is the largest map I’ve seen in a modern game, but it certainly feels that way at times. It’s enormous, with the game often asking you to travel upwards of six kilometers from one end of a province to another—and there are 20-odd provinces in the game, with no load screens as you travel.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Ghost Recon: Wildlands

It’s stunning—and taxing. Even with a GeForce GTX 980 Ti I’ve had to dip certain settings to hit a steady 60 frames per second, and that’s at 1080p. At 1440p or 4K? Good luck. This game is brutal.

And I don’t think it’s Ubisoft’s fault. There will doubtless be some performance gains over the next few months, a bit more optimization both from both Ubisoft and the big graphics card companies. For the size of the game though, and the amount going on, Ghost Recon: Wildlands doesn’t seem poorly-optimized at launch. Just punishing.

For what it’s worth, I only saw major gains from changing two settings: Level of Detail and Vegetation Quality. Everything else netted me a frame or two extra performance, but dipping those two was enough to jump me 5-10 extra frames on average. Start there if you’re having issues, and make sure to take advantage of the in-game benchmarking tool. It’s accessible from the Options menu, and I found it a pretty reliable indicator of performance.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Performance aside, the game is buggy as hell—some of which I first noticed months ago and which haven’t been rectified. Particularly in co-op, Wildlands seems to have all sorts of issues. I played about two hours this weekend alongside my colleague Adam Patrick Murray and in that time saw an error involving him repeatedly falling out of and respawning into a helicopter I was flying; an issue where he couldn’t revive me because my corpse had fallen under a pillar; a weird disconnect where I could see what he was doing but on his end my character had been replaced with an AI that was doing something totally different; and the list goes on and on.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Zoom in, and you can see Adam standing outside this helicopter as I fly it.

One last note: I don’t have an AMD graphics card at home, and haven’t tested on one yet. There was a note with our review code though saying that AMD’s drivers would update on Monday. If we notice any widespread AMD issues we’ll be sure to let you know.

Not so wild

As for the game? I feel much the same as I did during my preview a few months ago: It’s very pretty, very empty, and a bit repetitive.

Like the original Assassin’s Creed or The Division or the second map of Shadow of Mordor, there’s just this overwhelming sense of deja vu all the time. Each province is visually different, but features the same smattering of icons. There’s the “Defend this radio against waves of enemies” mission—I’ve done that one three times. There’s the “Steal this helicopter for supplies” mission—six times so far. And then there are the story missions, all of which seem to be “Go to this place and kill everyone.”

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Ghost Recon: Wildlands

It’s a game purely in the Ubisoft mold, full of “content” that’s ultimately meaningless. Setting aside the fact it feels very little like a Ghost Recon game, setting aside the inherent silliness of the concept (four guys take down an entire Mexican cartel), it’s just not very engaging. I’ve found myself “Making my own fun,” similar to how I play Just Cause, but Wildlands is too serious to really enact the sort of antics Just Cause is known for while simultaneously too silly to please the Tom Clancy purists.

I’m planning to spend more time with it this week, but it definitely doesn’t make the best first impression. The game’s better in co-op but mostly because the whole “Make your own fun” aspect is always easier with friends.

Bottom line

We’ll have a lengthier review later this week hopefully, but I’m honestly not sure whether I’ll get around to finishing the whole of Wildland’s Bolivia. I’m already feeling a bit weary of it, and when I scroll out the map there’s so much more to explore.

It’s an amazing technical feat, yes. Just maybe not the best game. Stay tuned.

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Hayden Dingman

PC World (US online)
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