It’s safe to say that I wasn’t impressed with Ghost Recon Wildlands. The game’s first DLC Narco Road tries to take the game down a wackier, more adrenaline filled path. After all, Tom Clancy games are well known for monster trucks.
Spending time with Wildlands revealed a solid tactical core underneath the uninspired world design and jingoistic narrative. Taking down an outpost without detection is an exhilarating experience and the game is blast with a squad of friends. But it was caught in a tonal limbo. It had all the serious aspirations of Far Cry 2 married with a love of big explosions that would make Just Cause blush. Narco Road opts to explore the latter concerns, offering high octane action that ultimately falls flat.
Here’s the thing: I want to like this game. I really do. The early Rainbox Six titles were challenging tactical outings with serious grit and Splinter Cell managed to turn labyrinthine plots into gorgeous pulp. Narco Road starts with an interesting concept. You’re tasked with infiltrating a dangerous cartel and earning their trust before dispatching the high ranked lieutenants. The stakes feel higher than the base game. Factions clash in large scale gun battles, reputation matters, and careless gunplay can blow your cover. It should be an improvement.
Instead of using this conceit to explore the setting meaningfully, Narco Road doubles down on spectacle. The cartel lieutenants want to be impressed. This means completing racing stunts and wild missions. You’ll blow up gas stations, dodge missiles while piloting a broken helicopter, and ride trucks off massive jumps. It has moments of genuine excitement and a clear identity that sets it apart from the original game. But that’s also part of the problem.
I have no goddamn clue who this game is for anymore. Ghost Recon Wildlands wants to appeal to fans of hardcore military sims and folks looking for their next big adrenaline fix and it just doesn’t work. Narco Road adds a veneer of glitz and glamour that might be distinct but also feels incredibly out of place. It’s very strange to have a teammate distract baddies with a drone that drops confetti and plays the Mexican Hat Dance before you snipe them from 70 meters out.
Narco Road positions itself as something of a satire, poking fun at adrenaline culture and expanding upon the base game’s fascination with ego and social media vainglory. It would seem self aware if only for the fact that it then actively encourages you to participate in that stupidity unironically. While games like Max Payne 3 used social media and wealth as a framework for a complex morality tales, Narco Road apes the visual aesthetics without purpose.
Like the base game, Narco Road finds itself in moments. Stunt filled chases and explosion filled gun-fights offer temporary delights. When kicking at full throttle, it does so with considerable aplomb. Bright, action packed flashes.
But Narco Road makes no sense in a broader context. It seems antithetical to the franchise’s realistic aspirations. If the goal was to make sure no one takes the game seriously, it definitely succeeded.