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Ghost Recon: Wildlands - Narco Road Review

Ghost Recon: Wildlands - Narco Road Review

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.

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Not that you can have a lot of meaningful narrative built around this.

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.

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I would like to point out this never happens. Not even once.

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.

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And my character. And my squadmates.

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.

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There is more happening in this screenshot than in the whole expansion.

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.

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We could say this whole DLC is a joke, and a damn good one at that.

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.

2.50/10 2½

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.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Marcello Perricone

Marcello Perricone

Staff Writer

Passionate, handsome, and just a tiny bit cocky, our resident Time Lord loves history, science, and all things that fall from the sky.

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Mauul - 02:43pm, 25th April 2017

"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."

Damn right!

Ayersey - 12:31am, 27th April 2017

I agree. What a complete piece of crap they churned out. I feel like I got screwed wasting my money on the season pass. The base game was fun when playing with friends, worthless when grouping with others and Narco Road is the final nail in the coffin. I will probably be waiting for the next expansion before I even log back in. Absolute trash expansion. Honestly the worst I have seen for any game in a really long time.

LG - 08:26am, 18th May 2017

I NEVER buy season passes, and very, very rarely get DLC from Ubisoft.  Their idea of DLC is usually a hat, shirt and watch for your character.. for $30.  They have NO idea how to make DLC.  They should have fixed the rediculous helicopter controls by now.. and don't even get me going about the "rudderless planes" that fly like a palette of bricks.  This is no surprise.

james-light-1493150008 - 08:56pm, 25th April 2017

It is indeed horrible and such a wasted opportunity. Those damn telegraph poles are a nightmare in a monster truck! The other vans are just as bad trying to get them back. You only have to look at them and they're smoking. 2.5 is generous in its current state!

dominoid - 09:40pm, 25th April 2017

So, you're not a fan then? It's difficult to tell ;)

james-light-1493150008 - 09:41pm, 26th April 2017

Haha I tried to cover my distain It just seems so off kilter from the original. I'll struggle through but won't be happy doing…

JVP123 - 01:10am, 27th April 2017

Really nothing to do outside of the slapdash racing missions, which saturates the entire storyline, that I couldn't already do and enjoy more in the main story. I also couldn't develop my character from the main story, too. I want my 14 dollars back.

charles-fulcher-1493284141 - 10:13am, 27th April 2017

I wholeheartedly agree with your review. Especially your comparison to Saints Row. If you took Saints Row 3, dumbed it down, glitched the mechanics, removed 75% of the humor, then had it compiled by a group of morons who had never played SR or GR...you'd still get something better than Narco Road....

Phil - 06:26pm, 27th April 2017

Yeah, I waited until the DLC was released, and the reviews were published, before I dared buy one of Ubicash's so called "expansion packs". They are notoriously out of touch with their customers. The Tom Clancy franchise has been on a slipery slope for over a decade now. Rainbow Six 3 Raven Shield was the last real tactical shooter from these clowns. Whoever the good ideas fairy incharge is, they are clearly attempting to pander to the wrong crowd, and until they actually come up with the challenging, punishing and gritty realism that made their games of yesteryear so great, I will refuse to buy any of thier games until after it has been released, and has been reviewed by a reputable games reviewer. I suggest we all do the same, and collectively put a stop to rewarding this bullshittery by giving this developer our hard earned everytime they want to cash in on our nostalgia.

Adam - 07:22pm, 27th April 2017

Brutal review. I was hoping the first Wildlands DLC was going to be special.

LatNWarrior - 10:18pm, 27th April 2017

~~100% in agreement. I gave it a few hours too many and then just deleted the DLC from my precious hard drive space. It's junk and I was completely disappointed in the fact that I purchased the exclusive bundle and got junk for my first DLC!

18b-gamer - 08:48pm, 2nd May 2017

Glad to see in this new world of short attention spans and ridiculous story-telling, that I am not alone in my disdain for Narco Road. After spending a long week awaiting its release to us mere mortals who did not purchase the Season Pass, I was anxious and ready to play.

Sadly, the first ten minutes were disappointing, but it had to get better...right?

Well, it didn't. So to fill my time, I am drinking heavily and playing Hitman. Whoever designed Narco Road, i hate you. Seriously. Hate.

Carbonj - 06:02pm, 3rd May 2017

Thx for the comments  i wont be buying this dlc good thing im only 10 % Thru the actual campaign 

Yeziam12 - 08:18pm, 9th May 2017

I was looking forward to NarcoRoad until I played it, then I remembered all those haunted 90's games that focus on balance, jumping, and aiming - aimless vehicles down some near impossible route.  So, after falling off a raised "board" path on a motorcycle a few times and flying a plane you have to fly at full throttle or not fly at all, or even the big tired trucks that you need to drive offroad up hills that have significantly more boulders than anything in the real game...I just said screw it, THIS is not GHOST RECON, it's a unpalitable throw back to the old days that I did not enjoy in the least.  I like SHOOTERS, Ghost Recon is a SHOOTER...I don't know what Narco Road is supposed to be, but it's not a shooter, so while Ghost Recon is pure awesomeness...the DLC is NOT - I wouldn't have bought it if I'd have seen a preview, I just ASSUMED it'd be more like the original with IMPROVEMENTS...Guess I should have checked YouTube first...Dangit!

Shogroth destroyer of bathrooms
Shogroth destroyer of bathrooms - 12:08am, 28th June 2017

Thanks for the heads up guys, just thought I'd let you all know you saved one. I really liked Wildlands (despite it being NOTHING like the older Ghost Recon games) as it kind of played like a cross between Mercenaries 2 and Just Cause with less vertical mobility. Not Ghost recon, but good. My only major dissapontment with the game was the sparse nature of the missions, and how 'samey' some of them were. Hungry for more I thought of getting the season pass but... yeah no. I don't think I'll be doing that. I guess I'll just save my money and get the Battlefield 1 DLC. At least that has some new locations... Jesus...

Sherminator - 02:15am, 6th September 2017

Thanks everyone, you saved a person $15, I owe all of you. I think we should get together and beat the fuckin shit out of the project manager of this dlc.

commanderkorra - 09:49pm, 16th October 2017

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.

Or Her story

 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. 

Or level HER up again

and by the way the female va of Nomad is Andrea Deck.

Other then the fact you seemed to forget that Nomad can be female or male. I mostly agree so far, taking away the squad was so dumb and I barely drove at all in the main campaign, mostly just would fly everywhere. I have barely begun the dlc and I and I am not really liking it to much.

DCello - 10:20pm, 16th October 2017 Author

Since we're nitpicking, don't forget it could be "its story". My Ghost personally identified with an Attack Helicopter.

commanderkorra - 12:54am, 17th October 2017

He didn't say my characters story, he said his as if the only option for Nomad is just male. I am not here to argue or fight, I just think he shouldn't disregard the female Nomad and just mention the male. He says   

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.

He says (your) character as in the readers, well my character did have the same voice but she isn't male. So obviously he is only mentioning the male Nomad and not the female.

Must have been crazy then when your Attack Helicopter character actually got into one then huh lol jk

maximustrajan23 - 02:32am, 20th May 2018

Its not surprising that a woman gamer cant make a valid point, without the little sexist InCel trolls getting their panties all up in a bunch.. Sad.. 

maximustrajan23 - 02:40am, 20th May 2018

let me make a correction, it wasnt the normal trolls, so i apologize to all the teenage boys that were acting like adults this time around, instead-  it was THE AUTHOR of the article, that got all offended, inspiring a tired 4chan "trope' of "I identify with a toilet seat, etc."This,  i  did not expect, and it just goes to show that even people in positions that should have been  properly vetted for at least a moderate level of maturity,  are out there, making females feel singled out, everywhere.. I kinda thought the review wasnt the most professional piece of critical fire from the opening paragraph, i guess my instincts were correct... 

dominoid - 07:48pm, 20th May 2018

For clarity, GameGrin are proud to embrace all gamers, regardless of their characteristics (as long as they're nice, of course), but we always welcome feedback where we might not have met these standards.

Sorry to hear you weren't fond of Marcello's opinion on this DLC. He is no longer writing for us however, so we're unable to let him know.

Mark - 03:41am, 30th November 2018

Good. I agree with the review but his "I identify as..." transphobic comment was way out of line for a reviewer. I would expect a comment like that from a 4channer/alt-right Twitter account.

DCello - 03:54am, 30th November 2018 Author

I don't often engage in internet discussions nor visit internet forums, so when I first heard about that Attack Helicopter joke a year ago, I thought it was some sort of acceptable option when it comes to gender identification. Given how destructive and badass my Nomad was, I could totally picture him as a metaphorical attack helicopter.

Only later I learnt it actually is something people say to make fun of that topic. So if it offended anyone, it wasn't intentional.