Bolivia’s population exceeds 10 million people. In Ghost Recon: Wildlands, most of those 10 million deal cocaine.
Ghost Recon doesn’t have time to develop characters, or it simply doesn’t care. The four American soldiers dropping into Bolivia to deal with the illicit drug trade serve as blank canvases, optionally painted with stars and stripes during their effort to liberate the country. Unseen and unknown, these ghosts fire unannounced and without warning. Soon, Wildlands lets them hijack helicopters, land them in enemy strongholds, and continue shooting – because drugs.
Here, Bolivia is as Donald Trump sees Mexico, groups of “bad hombres,” waiting to infest America. Instead of building a wall, Wildlands’ solution is to use force common to American political discourse. The wall wouldn’t work anyway; this Bolivia has more helicopters per capita than any other country on Earth.
It’s an asinine videogame on its surface. Decorated Ghosts wear bright facepaint and clothing (if so chosen), and spread machine gun fire from his and her guns – the her painted with pink neon as to differentiate. The soldiers jack cars from poverty-riddled citizens, pulling drivers forcibly from their cars as if in Grand Theft Auto. Occasionally, the Ghosts yell, “Shit balls.”
Bolivia is just a place to Wildlands. The subtitle insinuates an African locale, sprawling around barren plains, shooting tigers. But no. Ghosts walk into favellas, scopes readied, and fire without orders. Lucky, then, coke dealers dress accordingly – white shorts, sometimes shirtless, tattooed, and always walking with weapons exposed. When attacked, Wildlands pulls from a book of stereotypes, enemies toting two SMGs. turned sideways. and blindly firing. Bad hombres indeed.
Wildlands’ right wing propaganda is startling, the myopic war on drugs personified, and more absurd coming from a French studio. Bullets become a solution, and the four (and only four) flag waving, gun toting American commandos manage the problem on their own. No politics are in play. No one mentions poverty and the issue of operating on foreign soil falls away in the earliest conversation, disregarded at the insistence of building an interactive playground. The game is merely draped over the toxic UbiSoft formula without foresight as to how best make Wildlands fit.
The stupefying base question of, “But is it fun?” barrels through any critical logic. Were Wildlands plastered with signs of satire – poking fun at the current administration’s paranoia and laying waste to the idiocy of the American intervention – then possibly. The conversation then shifts toward political comedy.
Wildlands isn’t charming or funny or appealing though. It’s crude, stupid, gross, and firm in its belief of using American military force to solve everything. Embedded within is an ideology which speaks to the same audience as Navy recruitment ads on TV – we’re awesome; look how we kill stuff. And in this case, kill stuff as Ghosts so no one will ever know, somehow, despite using super powered attack helicopters.