Overall, I enjoyed the base game of Ghost Recon: Wildlands. I have no major investment in the franchise and so judged the game on its story, mechanics and accessibility. As the concept of a Narco State is not beyond the realms of possibility, the story although stylised was acceptable. All games require the suspension of disbelief and as long as they don’t break their own internal logic and dramatic conceit, they tend to successfully tread the path of their narrative fantasy. Sadly, Narco Road the first DLC for Ghost Recon: Wildlands tries to take the game down a more bombastic and excessive path, filled monster trucks, extreme sports and villains that have crossed the line from the melodramatic, to caricature. Most players discovered this last April when the DLC was released. I have only discovered this now, over a year later and it’s a little disappointing.
Narco Road begins with an interesting concept. You’re tasked with infiltrating yet another dangerous cartel that is affiliated to Santa Blanca. You have to earn the trust of three high ranking lieutenants, to learn the identity of the overall mastermind, El Invisible. There are distinct differences this time round. Large scale faction-based gun battles can frequently erupt around and if wisely exploited they can facilitate your plans However, a careless engagement causing ally and civilian collateral damage may well blow your cover. As you need to impress the various lieutenants, you’re required to indulge in various stunts and extreme sports to build up your reputation. It will also amass you an army of followers who will wade into any fight to support you. Overall this time round, you spend less time playing tactically and are frequently required to jump feet first into the fray This means blowing up gas stations, piloting damaged helicopter while dodging SAMs, and then there are the monster trucks. Yes, you get to ride trucks off massive ramps, race up mountain sides and carry out various other vehicular stunts.
Now all the above is great fun in principle but it’s not what I expected as DLC for what is otherwise a quite serious game. This tonal shift is not to my liking and I find it undermines the point of Ghost Recon: Wildlands overall. Some game journalists consider Narco Road to be a form of satire, tweaking the nose of adrenaline junkie culture and expanding upon the base game’s exploration of the world of social media. However, I don’t buy that. There may be an element of that present, but I am of the opinion that Narco Road is simply trying to appeal to the Grand Theft Auto V crowd. However, it feels to much like an afterthought. Where games like GTAV are specifically designed from the ground up to be raucous, sly and excessive, Narco Road smacks of just trying to cash in on such themes. As a result, it fails to satisfy and falls between two stools. It should also be noted that this DLC dispenses with your AI squad. If you don’t want to go down the road of internet co-op play, then you’ll find yourself dying a lot more frequently because there’s no one around to revive you when things get chaotic. So far, I’ve been playing Narco Road for about three days. If I’m still doing so in a week time, then I’ll be surprised.