Bringing peace to Bolivia with exploding planes in Ghost Recon Wildlands

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 304. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US. 

Brought together by our love of knockabout open world shenanigans, the PC Gamer team has infiltrated near-future Bolivia. It’s a more serious assignment than we're use to. Ghost Recon Wildlands is ostensibly a game about highly trained special-ops agents completing objectives in an efficient, professional, and—most of all—silent manner. We’re going to be taking on missions in some of Wildlands’ hardest and hairiest zones. The only problem: Phil is the only member of the team who’s played the game.

Phil: I spend a couple of hours unlocking new missions in the hope of finding stuff that will be (a) exciting, and (b) manageable. My plan is to see if I can take these new recruits and temper them in the forge of battle—albeit a silent ghost battle that none of our enemies will notice. Hopefully my leadership skills are better than that metaphor. First up, we’re heading to an airfield to destroy some chemicals being used in the manufacture of bad criminal drugs. My team join, and, after a couple of minutes of messing with audio settings, I exit the settings menu and... oh, who destroyed all the cars? 

Samuel: Someone blew up my motorbike while I was riding it, and now I’m dead, and the bike is a fossil. Which of you pricks stitched me up, big time? 

Andy: The Ghosts have no jurisdiction in Bolivia, and the US government will deny all knowledge of their existence if they’re caught, so I’ve given my guy some stars-and-stripes facepaint and a big American eagle tattoo. Hiding in plain sight, baby. I test my gun by shooting and destroying all the vehicles in the area, which forces us to seek alternative transport: a rickety old fishing boat parked in a nearby river. 

Joe: This is the first time I’ve played online with the PCG team and I’m naturally shunted to the front of the boat. I pretend to myself this is an initiation-type scenario, when in actual fact I couldn’t face the unbearable pressure of (mis)steering the boat, and so have meticulously orchestrated my seat placement. My plan works as Samuel is forced to do the honours. 

Samuel: We sit there for 20 seconds while I work out how to make the boat move. Eventually we’re off.

Phil: The airfield is close to a river. By approaching from the west side, away from the road, we should avoid any security patrols. I choose to think of this as a deliberate tactical decision by my squad, and feel a small amount of pride. Also concern. Lots of concern. 

Joe: We ride in silence for a moment while taking in the gorgeous landscape. At one point I expect to hear banjos. It all feels a bit Deliverance. 

Andy: I’m not sure what the objective is because I didn’t really listen to the briefing. I was too busy enjoying the scenery on our little boat trip. It’s quite nice out here, actually. Shame we have to go and shoot a load of drug dealers with guns and spoil the ambience. 

Samuel: We disembark after I collide the boat with the bank in a way I thought would be reminiscent of an action movie, but actually looked a bit shit. 

Phil: We head up the embankment, towards the airfield. Crouching in the bushes, I deploy my drone. It’s being jammed. That’s not a surprise—the harder missions tend to increase the number of security measures—but it might make things more complicated. I get my binoculars out, and scout out the nearby area. Almost directly in front of us is the jammer. That’s a stroke of luck. If we take it out... 

Samuel: No problem, pal. I assume there’s only one way to take out a jammer, having played this game for a total of five minutes, and that’s by throwing a hand grenade at the spinning thing so it explodes. So that’s what I do. It blows up. Boom! 

Phil: ...by flipping the switch on its side. Oh, no, Samuel’s blown it up. On the plus side, I can now use my drone, but all it’s going to show is that the entire base is now shooting at us.

Andy: As the alarm wails I take a few guys out, but despite having a silenced MP5, they see where I am and suddenly I’m dead in the bushes. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be, especially considering I have the most basic gear possible and no upgrades or abilities whatsoever. A smarter approach is needed, I think. 

Joe: Samuel’s unorthodox approach to stealth has alerted a chopper manned by two gunmen. It rains fire over the wooded area we’re camped in and, in my blind panic, for whatever reason, I begin repeatedly hitting the crouch button. Suddenly, I’m taking bullets while performing The Worm. If only the jungle floor were made of linoleum. Eventually I regain my composure and spot Andy in need of first aid a couple of hundred metres away. 

Samuel: I appear to have fucked the mission for everyone, but at the same time, I generated an anecdote, which is all I ever really want to do. An enemy helicopter turns up as well, and starts circling the trees where we’re concealed (except Andy, he’s dead). I’ve no idea if you can blow up a chopper with a machine gun, but I guess I’ll keep firing at it and see. 

Phil: I had hoped to get a bit further into the mission before the shit met the fan, but here we are. While the rest of the team starts shooting and dying, I switch to my sniper rifle and take out the alarm before it can call in reinforcements. That done, I start popping heads. I’d specifically retrieved this gun—the MSR, arguably the best sniper rifle in the game—last night, in order to look badass in front of my colleagues. It’s sort of working. I’m making some pretty amazing kills. Unfortunately, everybody else is too distracted to notice. 

Samuel: I’ve been firing at this chopper for ages. Looks like it’s doing naff all. Oh, hang on, it’s down! I watch it spin out of control and explode somewhere behind the trees, and make my way closer to the base.

Joe: After Samuel downs the bird (wow, I’ve taken to the lingo fast), I head for Andy. The wreckage isn’t far from his position, yet I can see two enemy blips next to him on the map. The long grass obscures my view but as I creep closer I notice that, bizarrely, both gunmen are still in situ taking shots from the very much crashed helicopter. I take them out, fix Andy and we’re on our way. This game is weird. 

Phil: Wait, is Andy in a plane now? This is getting out of hand. Still, Samuel and I seem to have cleared a path to the hangar, where the objective is. We start shooting barrels of drug juice. 

Andy: Yeah, I found a plane. It was unattended, so I had to fly it. In the air, I thought about finding a bunch of enemies and slamming the aircraft into them. But I forgot the controls and ended up just sort of falling out of the sky and bouncing against a wall. But I didn’t die! And now I’m behind enemy lines. I’m a great Ghost. 

Phil: Oh, Andy’s on the ground now? He chucks a grenade into the second hanger and the mission is done. Take that, drug boys! Now we need to escape. Luckily, we’re in an airfield. 

Samuel: I take another plane, and wait for Joe to get in. Before we even try to leave the runway, though, its propellers seem to be on fire and we’re forced to evacuate, like in some kind of farce. There’s a second plane, which I make for and get in. Now I just have to wait for these lads to get their arses inside. 

Phil: Andy and I get into our own plane. It’s also on fire, and we crash shortly after take off. Diving into a car, Andy drives us over to Samuel. I get out, and Sam—unaware that we need a lift—runs me over. How is this going worse than the actual mission? I’m revived, and we all pile into Sam’s plane. That went... OK? Shall we try another mission? There’s one here to extract a prisoner from the heavily guarded base of the state military.

Samuel: I spend a while awkwardly reversing the plane so I’m not going to crash into a tree, then I go for it on this, the tiniest runway in the world. We’re in the sky! Not bad. How is it that this game somehow looks both impressive and ugly at the same time? Phil sets another waypoint and I fly us over there. 

Joe: This gives us another chance to wonder at the scenery, this time from thousands of feet above ground. Then a thought occurs to me: I’m not sure if we’ve got parachutes. Um, Phil… do we have parachutes? 

Phil: Oh, right. Parachutes. The ones you unlock through skill points you haven’t earned yet, by spending resources you haven’t collected. No, you don’t have parachutes. I do have one, though, and I don’t see the point of us all dying. Er, good luck? 

Joe: Phil jumps from the aircraft and all eyes turn to Samuel. I hope that his plane-landing abilities are better than his boat-docking skills. 

Samuel: I slow the plane and try to land on a road outside the base we’re raiding. I’m steadily bringing the plane down... and then it blows up before dropping to the ground. But we still seem to be alive. What a great landing by the pilot! We get out and make a run for the treacherous Phil Savage, who’s already in cover in a building inside the base. I get shot and killed before having the chance to rendezvous with him. This mission isn’t going quite as well. 

Andy: I accidentally wander directly into an enemy compound and am instantly killed. Then the game spawns me a fair distance away from the mission. I try to run back to the other guys, but I die again. As the screen fades to monochrome and my life ticks away, I decide my contribution to this particular operation is over. I’ve done my part by doing nothing at all, which is what I’ll have etched on my gravestone. 

Joe: With the team dropping like flies the pressure is on. I sneak into a nearby building, take aim at an enemy soldier and... I’m out of ammo. This is going from bad to worse. Seconds later I’m crouched behind a desk as a foe peppers the room with machine gun bullets. Seconds after that, I too am face down on the floor. 

Phil: Unlike the cartel, the military will keep sending reinforcements until they lose track of you. So by flying a plane directly into their base, we (by which I mean everybody but me, the guy with the parachute) have done the worst possible thing. I try to revive Samuel, but there’s just too many soldiers. I die. Everybody dies. Our spec-ops career is over. You win this round, drug boys.