Switch version tested
Review code provided
In video games, drug wars can take the role of a serious narrative or flat out over-the-top antics. We’ve seen it before, yet there’s always room for more flavour. In Narcos: Rise of the Cartels, a side has been chosen which leans onto its linear path. Does it suffice itself to even make El Patron proud? well, we’re not grave diggers or Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. We’ll do our best though. Narcos is something unique. Not a storyboard, nor FPS/TPS, but, get this: a turn-based strategy shooter.
As the show, Narcos starts in the backdrop of 1980s Columbia. The Double Dragon duo of the series is also here in their possible first meeting. A majority of the dialogue does assume that players are assuming the role of Steve Murphy, the DEA whose perspective runs the first act. On the other side, Pablo Escobar handles the other.
Narcos aesthetics aims to depict the events of the Netflix series it borrows from, yet not as photo-realistic. It swaps things out for a bit of a Telltale Games palette, which probably softens the blow. We still get blood. Cutscenes come out in either show snippets or FMVs that utilise the current game’s motif. Some voiceovers could be rips. Pascal, Moura, and Halbrook, can be heard in the video scenes. The FMVs barely use any of their talents. The game itself chooses a top-down form for the battles. There is definitely the X-Com feel for this turn-based strategy. The game’s one-unit-turn-per-round renders several restrictions, but keeps the player on their toes. Points are spent but can’t be used to move or help other units until their turn. You move your guy and that’s that. The backdrops are suburban, which are buildings and houses, as well as larger areas. Units, in Narcos, can be bought through capital from the game. Missions themselves can vary from kill everyone to finding documents. Heavy units, police, soldiers, etc. The game doesn’t overthrow here and keeps it one-to-one. The kill shots and controls of the counterattacks stood out well. Back at the headquarters, units and missions are managed. Deaths are probably not as sad as they need to be because it’s a war, but investing in units and hopefully having the ability to restart. I get too attached to my pawns in other titles.
Narcos lacks several beats. There are usually 5 men allowed on the field at all times for the good side, whether it be on either scenario. At times, the game ignores its’ own boundaries. Some characters can literally shoot through walls on a near Casper level without having a clear reason. The move point system feels a bit confusing. While I make a dart to an enemy, I would be unsure if I possess enough to stifle his descent. Mobility is vast to a point of where units can literally clear 25% of the map on a single turn, which could already spell doom for units on either side quickly. The lack of a clear view as to who harnesses what, for abilities, is stifling in the place that is needed: actual combat. One nuance I felt would be the lack of detail with the game’s feel. If Pablo is meant to speak in Espanol for his cutscenes, why not just keep this in for his speaking points or even the bad side? just hearing this made me cringe slightly because of how quick this kicked me out of the feel.
As far as spinoff games go, Narcos understands its own subject matter enough to be seen as something more than several others, of its show tie-ins brethren, pull off of. Its charm is in the confidence of the show and genre’s popularity. Still, Narcos does bring about its own set of flaws that can be ignored from time to time that supersedes its attempt to connect the Netflix experience. Narcos is definitely that game which is almost akin to the flash tie-ins of yore, yet does several better in its’ execution, one kilo at a time.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 21/11/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Strategy
Publisher: Curve Digital
Download link: eShop