Ghost Recon Wildlands is better with friends, which means, if you follow the statement to its logical conclusion, it's worse without. Wildlands' co-op mode isn't an extra or an afterthought. It's the driving force behind design decisions that make for a poorer singleplayer experience. There are problems no matter how you choose to play, but grouping up with pals is the difference between a repetitive, systemically sparse to-do list and a somewhat messy, oft entertaining engine for anecdotes, shenanigans, and—every now and again—thrilling moments of tactical prowess.
You play as a Ghost—one of a squad of four US spec-ops operatives sent to Bolivia to bring down the Santa Blanca Cartel, a monstrous drug empire that became your problem when its members bombed an embassy. Your job is to bring down the kingpin, El Sueño. Cutting off the head of the snake first requires systematically removing all the other, lower bits of the snake. It's a big snake, too—a reticulated python of drugs, murder and trafficking.
The Cartel is divided up into four operations: security, smuggling, production and influence. At the top of each is a head, and below them an underboss. Each underboss oversees up to five buchons, who each control an area of the map. Each area contains a handful of missions—usually around six—that culminate in you killing or capturing the associated buchons. Destabilise an operation enough and you'll unlock missions to take down the higher ups—first the underboss, and finally the head.
The upshot of this structure is a large number of missions across a massive map. This is where Wildlands' co-op bias comes into sharp focus. Missions rarely feel scripted. Most involve going to a village, base or outpost to retrieve an item, or capture, rescue or kill a person. Between missions, you can visit other villages, bases or outposts to complete side-ops, or hunt for collectibles to earn new skills, weapons and attachments.
These incursions into enemy territory resemble Far Cry's outposts, except here they're the entirety of the game. That isn't to say there's not great variety within the design and layout of each base, but the few basic mission templates remain broadly the same. Playing alone, the repetition becomes wearying—and hurt further by the relatively few toys you have to play with. Another comparison is to MGS5's side-ops, but they at least benefit from a vast possibility space, from heavy weapons to horse poop.
In co-op, though, the structure becomes a strength. What feels uninspired in singleplayer, feels streamlined in co-op. There are no long cutscenes, nor linear set pieces. Each buchon has a target briefing, but it's optional, and can be viewed at any time. Wildlands' design removes all the chaff that would prevent you and your friends from getting out into the world. And, while a few more tools would be welcome, Wildlands understands that its most entertaining aspect is the tension between stealth and chaos that arises when four people attempt to silently infiltrate a village. In this context it doesn't feel lacking. In fact, it's the opposite. Any more and you'd risk confusing the issue—taking the focus away from your squad's cooperation.