Narco Road is a despicable piece of garbage. It walks back on all aspects that made the campaign great and taints the series’ name. In a game set in the realistic Tom Clancy’s universe and with a baggage as intense as the Ghost Recon franchise, Narco Road’s idiotic antics defecate on every ounce of good faith the main game managed to garner.
One of the main questions regarding Narco Road is where does it fit within the timeline, given that the main campaign is clearly framed by events preceding it and sets the stage for future happenings. The DLC circumvents that question by not explaining it, and the end result is that the plot doesn’t fit anywhere. Although your character has the same voice as the main campaign Ghost, his story, and indeed the game’s history, do not factor into Narco Road’s narrative at all.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands, while flawed, was a fun title with a semblance of realism. The story was definitely its best part, with an engaging plot and incredible presentation via briefings, conversations, and cutscenes. The gameplay combat was tactical and brutal, with AI teammates around to synchronize shots and flank enemies. It had a grounded, realistic overtone that made it feel like its events -- as hyperbolic as they were -- could take place in the real world.
Narco Road throws all that off the window, adding a ridiculous excuse for a campaign set around the idea of “infiltrating” gangs via public tomfoolery, performing missions and activities to gain followers on social media and get a shot at taking down the elusive “El Invisible”. Unfortunately, the game forces you to complete side missions and activities in order to unlock the main story missions, which drags the game way past its expiration date.
The missions are the essence of bad game design, with terribly placed checkpoints and convoluted unexplained objectives that are placed way too far from each other. Unlike Wildlands concise and well contextualised missions, Narco Road’s objectives serve little plot value and consist of nothing more than unenjoyable expository dialogues. Side missions do not even provide a context for their existence, merely made manifest out of a desire to scatter icons through the map.
Literally 9/10ths of the DLC missions revolve around instafail scenarios, making experimentation rarely rewarding and turning the whole expansion into a slog.
Contrary to it’s marketing full of race cars and tuned rides, Narco Road has zero missions involving racing. There is, however, an ungodly amount of time trials, and I would have flown to Canada and punched Ubisoft in the neck with a bag of oranges because of them, if not for the company of a friend of mine. He’s a pretty good driver and sniper in this game, and drove me through virtually every single timed mission.
I played a number of missions solo for review purposes, but the overwhelming majority of my time was spent in coop. I would have gone crazy otherwise; the missions are incredibly boring, forcing you to go to a location every single time before being redirected to the actual objective. Boss fights in particular are painfully unexciting, as they are all cutscenes; unlike the main campaign, you don’t get to play and shoot the bad guys yourself.
Not that shooting is that exciting in the first place -- Narco Road changed the tactical combat, no longer favouring a tactical stealth approach thanks to the lack of AI teammates and the removal of 90% of the game’s customizable weapons. Instead of the personal arsenal players spent hours collecting, they get a collection of awful “special” named ones. The lack of AI buddies makes singleplayer a frustrating experience at best, where you’ve got no one to cover your back and getting shot often leads to a game over screen: as you cannot be revived if anything goes wrong, every death is a loading screen that turns the whole endeavour into an exercise in frustration. Unable to approach situations tactically or to tailor my weapon to specific circumstances and missions, I found myself just shooting at random and rushing past enemies for the entirety of the DLC -- screw your named weapons, I want my goddamn guns back.
The “expansion” reuses locations from Wildlands and doesn’t add one single piece of furniture, yet manages to completely destroy the landmarks’ identities that the main story worked so hard to create. Areas like the Sueño Mausoleum, a hot bed of Santa Blanca activity in the campaign, are weirdly deserted now. Nothing changed: structures are still intact, Nidia’s statues are still under constructions, barracks tents are still raised; there’s just no one to be found, anywhere.
However, the worst offender is Narco Road’s premise. The DLC’s tone is reminiscent of a bad Saints Row knockoff and doesn’t take itself seriously, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it was actually a good expansion. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Narco Road for some inexplicable reason resets your character, forcing you to create your operative from scratch and level him up again. To the game’s credit, resource drops are significantly increased and allied AI thugs permeate most of the map, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that firefights are instafail propositions.
The actual moment-to-moment gameplay is clearly not thought out, either; as Santa Blanca is everywhere, half the game map is packed full of “allies”, reducing enemy numbers to something like 10-20% of the world’s population. It is quite weird to arrive at a mission’s location and see four enemies and 22 allies, just standing next to each other. It renders the whole open-world bare, as any area is mostly devoid of enemies outside of missions.
One of the universally hated aspects of Wildlands was it’s vehicles, plagued with horrible handling and abominable physics. Those remain unchanged in Narco Road, and some -- like the airplane -- somehow became even worse. Cars now have a “nitro” boost, which is quite fun when it works, but more often than not just gets you stuck at weird angles on top of the countryside’s many, many, *many* rocks. With vehicular physics that were arguably the worst technical aspect of the entire game, the decision of making a *racing*-themed DLC for this tactical shooter is beyond mind-boggling.
The only good thing about the Narco Road DLC is the return of voice actors Jane Perry and Joseph May, as CIA Agent Karen Bowman and player-character Nomad, respectively. Both artists delivered an amazing performance in the main campaign way above the overall quality of the game, and I’m glad to see them return in such a top shape for its expansion. Unfortunately, the script is terrible, and I am sincerely sorry for the actors who had to read such unbelievable garbage.
CIA briefing videos are still awesome; partly because of great voice acting, partly because of great editing and style. However, the narco ones are narrated by the new shamefully bad characters, and are both too unfunny and too bad to be anything but cringeworthy. Similarly, Narco Road’s writing and dialogue is unfathomably terrible. It forcefully delivers jokes every step of the way -- not one single exchange is serious, and not one joke is good. They are often non-sensical, out of base, and just plain unfunny.
Technically, Narco Road is a shitshow. The DLC is plagued by technical issues, far outweighing anything found in Wildlands at launch -- performance randomly drops, audio cues are cut, and dialogues don’t play properly. The QA team was probably comprised of one developer, as missions have ridiculously restrictive conditions that would surely been noticed if anyone had actually played them.
Worse still, there are more bugs in it than rocks in Bolivia: cars bug into the ground, players shoot up into the sky when fast travelling, and mission-critical people and vehicles suddenly die or explode, leading to an unwarranted game over screen. The last two missions bugged in every single stage, to the point they took me three hours to complete. The DLC was playable and can be finished, but only at the expense of sanity.
Whomever designed and/or approved this expansion does not deserve to be a game designer. Those people are not qualified to give orders and to make decisions, and they should not be allowed near any Tom Clancy’s franchise ever again. If you are considering getting Narco Road as more of the main campaign or because of it’s “racing” theme, don’t bother -- it is neither of those things. What Narco Road is is one massive disappointment.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands - Narco Road (Reviewed on Windows)
The score reflects this is broken or unplayable at time of review.
With miserable gameplay, terrible story, and utterly unfunny jokes, Narco Road’s idiotic antics destroy everything the main game managed to accomplish.