Saturday 20 January 2018

The taming of the wild Ghost

Ghost Recon Wildlands, (PS4/XO/PC), 3 Stars, Age: 18+

Ghost Recon Wildlands
Ghost Recon Wildlands
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

When a publisher lavishes four copies of a new game on the critic, you know something's up. From memory, the last time that happened was with Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City in 2012. And that didn't end well (a Metacritic average of 52).

The sudden generosity from Ubisoft indicates the publisher believes tactical shooter Wildlands performs at its optimum when played in co-op with online friends. That may also be another way of admitting that the single-player experience lacks a certain oomph.

Unsurprisingly, both of these scenarios are true, with the eternal caveat about online co-op, that it's only as good as the crew you match up with. Join a gang of messers who constantly go off-message and your enjoyment plummets.

Ghost Recon as a brand used to stand for painstaking tactical action, with a side-order of futuristic gadget voodoo to give your soldiers an edge. But Wildlands diverges even further than 2012's GR: Future Soldier from the blueprint, ratcheting up the action as a squad of US crack-shots slowly take down a South American drug cartel.

There's stealth and light tactics aplenty but this adrenalised version emphasises body count over mission goals. In single-player, it all blurs into one repetitive cycle padded out by Ubisoft's trademark side-quest mania. The squad eliminates one narco lieutenant after another amid some exquisite scenery but the narrative soon begins to cannibalise itself. Online co-op restores some of the brio - leading to some exhilaratingly tense set-ups - though it can't quite quell the excessive familiarity that haunts most missions.

A Pixel Story

(PS4/XO/PC), 4 Stars, Age: 7+

Who wouldn't want a magic hat that grants the power of teleportation? A Pixel Story employs a series of progressively more detailed graphical styles to embellish its fond homage to the pioneering platformers of gaming's early history.

But as lovely as the evolution looks - from eight-bit pixelated sprites to slick cartoon-like characters - the hat steals the show. It introduces a new twist to long-standing platforming mechanics, forcing you to think as well as relying on twitchy reflexes.

Full of pop-culture humour and heart, A Pixel Story may be a tad retro in its exacting difficulty but it transmits its love of history with ease.

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