Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is the latest installation of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series with its first open world debut gameplay elements. There has been a lot of uncertainty over the game’s relation with real world military tactics which has included criticism into whether the game is actually a realistic interpretation of what would be a covert insertion into foreign territory. Many can relate this type of environment to games such as Just Cause and Mercenaries (moment of silence for the Mercenaries series).
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a depiction of an elite special operations unit under the Joint Special Operations Command of the United States Army. This is a similar depiction to real life counterparts such as Delta Force and DEVGRU teams around the world. The game is set in 2019’s drug cartel infested Bolivia where the Santa Blanca cartel has dominated the country and therefore has influence over the country’s governance. This article will not be focusing on the games story or the gameplay mechanics as and how a gamer would perceive them. We will instead be focusing on the differences and similarities of the tactics used in the game and in the world of a tactician in real life.
As Ghost Recon Wildlands was reaching its release date, 5.11 Tactical collaborated with Ubisoft to produce a series of short videos to help illustrate what this article is going to point out. Please be aware that certain parts of this article may be opinionated across different experts and is, as anything else, an advisory and not a factual interpretation of a comparison between the game and the tactics of the real world.
The game starts out with the covert insertion of The Ghosts to the country of Bolivia to help re-stabilise the country against the Santa Blanca cartel. This is done by assisting the local rebellion taking place and to take part in covert operations to destabilise the cartel’s organisation. The large part of this statement is that all of this is happening covertly without the United States government being involved. This must sound familiar if you try to relate the situation to any large conflicts which took place in the last thirty or so years. In fact, there have been rumours that the CIA have been performing such operations since the end of the Second World War. From the Iranian coup d’etat to the Bay of Pigs (Cuba), the CIA have reportedly conducted the same form of covert insertions into foreign territory as being depicted in this game.
One part of the game that is missing (mainly due to gameplay elements) is the training of such rebels to fight their opposition more effectively. There is a gameplay mechanic that improves the rebel forces however there is no direct gameplay to provide a considerable proportion of the operation being focused in this key area. Other than the CIA, the SAS and many other elite military and counter terror units have been deployed as such either within foreign or domestic territories to perform the same kinds of operations.
A fundamental part of most Ghost Recon games in the series is the amount of stealth employed across the gameplay and the opportunities given for such a mechanic to be used accordingly. Ghost Recon Wildlands in no way enforces the use of stealth, however the employment of this element is greatly influenced within the game’s core mechanics.
As part of the basis of a covert insertion, getting into the area of operations via non conventional means is one of the key gameplay elements of the game. Vehicles, bikes, aviation or by foot, Ghost Recon makes use of this throughout its open world environment. A good example of a real world use of this tactic has been shown when the SAS were conducting covert kidnappings of high ranking members of the IRA. Members of the SAS would reach the area of operations using a civilian vehicle to prevent being noticed or alarming any IRA outlookers to their presence. Having a small footprint provides an element of surprise against the opposition where needed, if needed at all.
The use of suppressors (sound moderators for the knit pickers), are common place in this environment and are widely used in the game’s mechanics. Albeit still implementing the hollywood silence that is not evident with the real world application of a suppressor, the game does still make the usage audible depending on the characteristics of the weapon being used in game. In the real world, the use of suppressors has its advantages for the very same reasons, however at a less pronounced effect. The use of subsonic ammunition in conjunction with a suppressor would gain the closest effect to what is experienced in the Ghost Recon game. The game unfortunately does not measure the negative effects of a suppressor such as the heat dissipation or the wear and tear a suppressor can endure from prolonged usage.
Night operations are advantageous when the right equipment is available (night vision optics). Ghost Recon does provide the use of night vision (including thermal vision) within the gameplay mechanics and attempts to include the ranged limitations of the technology that is available today. The game however does not provide the tunnel vision that is most evident in the use of these optics. This is most probably in part to improving the gameplay as the camera does use a third person’s perspective most of the time. All the advantages of stealth at night is evident in Ghost Recon Wildlands, which gives the player the ability to take advantage of the 24 hr day/night cycle of the game.
The use of lasers as an assistance to your weapon is not really a stealth mechanic however it is true that the use of IR emitting lasers do provide a great assistance towards weapon manipulation whilst operating night vision capable optics. Ghost Recon Wildlands once again allows the usage of lasers however it is not a key element to the gameplay during day or night. One element to the use of lasers that is not particularly realistic is the ignorance that AI will have towards the use of visible lasers in game. Realistically, anyone should be able to notice a laser and hence give away the element of stealth to the opposition.
Ghillie suits are available in game and do provide some form of decreased detection which is relative to what you’d expect in real life. There are obviously some limitations that the game does not pronounce about these suits. This includes comfort, stamina and the fact that in certain situations a suit would be impractical and somewhat clumsy to wear (especially indoors). Ghillie suits are normally catered to a specific environment and do not effectively work across multiple types of terrain (arid, tropical, rural). Once again, these limitations are most probably ignored to provide smoother gameplay mechanics.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is all about the firepower, although one could be passive throughout the game and only use hand to hand combat (please don’t be that guy). Their are a multitude of weapons available from machine pistols to light machine guns, the player has the option to utilise multiple roles into their character, as they see fit for the situation. All of these different armaments have different tactics involving their uses (I will not go into this as this article would extrapolate out of control).
Most military instructors would inform their students that the best form of attack is an aggressive one. The act of aggression or “violence of action” is strong when receiving it in the manner it comes. Whether it be a volley of lead or an uproar of motion and noise that invades the senses. This discipline of using aggression to overwhelm can be used in the game via use of the environment and the tools available (the use of vehicles is included in this act). The idea of using controlled fire amongst a fire team is common amongst defensive maneuvers but has been known to be used in offensive routines as well. A constant act of aggression is vital in order to prevent the opposition from being able to take a breather from the assault to their senses. Where the situation requires it, sometimes the only last resort is to use “violence of action” to get out of a terrible situation.
As previously mentioned, the use of vehicles is widespread and abundant in the Ghost Recon Wildlands game environment. Although based on player decisions, the use of vehicles can be sometimes over saturated compared to how they would be treated in a real environment. This is especially the case when it comes to acquiring such a vehicle in the first place. If and when that hurdle is crossed, the next issue would be in how to use such a potentially large bullet sponge without being the victim of what would have been considered otherwise as the victor. Act of aggression once again is most vital in these situations. With the use of speed and unpredictable changes to the environment, it is best to end vehicular combat as soon as it starts. The longer an engagement takes, the more likely the situation is going to move from bad to worst.
Vehicular interdictions, whether land, sea or air, are rarely predictable and controllable within an extended time frame. In fact most fast moving vehicles are equipped for saturation over accuracy when it comes to weaponry. This in effect allows the combatant to try and resolve the situation as quickly as possible before it has the ability to get worse. Having said this, most of these scenarios are based on the use of unshielded vehicles which can only take a finite amount of small arms fire before being decommissioned or worse.
Ghost Recon Wildlands is a game which focuses on the use of cooperation between players. This means that there will be some mechanics that seem to only make sense amongst coop playes. The sync shot is probably one that many question but has validity in the real world. The problem is that it is more complicated than the game makes it seem. Be aware that the idea of command fire is not restricted to snipers. The same principle is used in ambushes and other forms of tactic which requires timed action. If you’ve ever played the original Tom Clancy Rainbow Six games with stage planning, you will have a more clear understanding of what is meant by timed action. Once again, the act of taking down as much of the opposition as possible is part of the act of aggression principles of engagement. Stunning the enemy and causing a delayed response will add advantage to the end game of that scenario.
One tactic which seems to be lost in this game, even though it has such a deep presence for it, is the use of close quarter battle or close quarter combat. There is a lot of urban combat that will give opportunity for the use of cover and concealment. Line of sight is of great importance in an urban environment especially considering there is a huge advantage in knowing where your opposition is at all times even where you don’t have a line of sight. Ghost Recon loses this perspective somewhat however the gameplay mechanics are there for being able to practice what is done in a real world situation when engaged in close quarter battle.
NOTE: Please be aware that the information presented in this article is based on third person perspective where sources have been consulted and is based on reference with fictional material and entertainment media.