Review: Narcos: Rise of the Cartels (PS4)

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As long as the enemy doesn’t look up to read that word, he’ll be fine…

NARCOSIf you told me a game about a violent but long deceased Colombian drug lord could be a pretty well done turn-based strategy game in 2019, I’d have said that you were on something. I’m sure the late drug lord (in his previously bullet-free state) would also be smirking as well before setting you up for a nice tire necklace fitting for suggesting such a thing. Then again, publicity being what it is these days, he might be even crowdfunding his own game like this if he were still alive, now that I think about it. “¿Qué? Estás loco … pero eso me gusta.” or something like that (but with a lot more colorful and a lot less rusty use of the language).

So, here we have Narcos: Rise of the Cartels ($29.99), from Kuju Games and publisher Curve Digital, a game I knew I’d like as soon as I realized it was a much more polished version of the now forgotten Falling Skies: The Game, which itself borrows its best parts from the XCOM reboot from a few years ago. While it has that entry level thing going for it, the game checks a few boxes on its way to being a solid buy if you like the genre. The more gritty trash-filled and alien free realistically rendered maps help a lot here in delivering the goods, and while turn-based, the combat can often be tense, especially when surprise enemies appear and you’re outflanked.

Yes, the AI is sometimes careless, at least in that it has foes that may put themselves in harm’s way (I consider those cases where a you’d see a real life reckless thug [or reckless DEA agent on the flip side] let out a yell and bum rushes someone), but the game is quite addictive once you get the combat and tactical stuff down. For those who wanted a boring GTA clone, the game might be surprising to play with its M-rated language, blood. permadeath, and high body count, but it’s hard to guess other than to suggest those folks give this a try and see what happens.

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NARCOS: Rise of The Cartels Trailers Have You Choosing Sides

I’m grinning a little too much because NARCOS: Rise of The Cartels isn’t the Grand Theft Auto V clone some expected from Curve Digital and developer Kuju Games. Nope, this one’s going the turn-based strategy route much like the XCOM series or the underappreciated Falling Skies: The Game from 2014. This is a good thing for me because I prefer to slow things down a tad these days and stuff that’s turn-based fits right up the alley here. Sure, it’s not the visual feast some expect, but this means it’ll be a perfect fit on consoles as well as PC. I’ll certainly be playing it to enjoy its merits and will have few issues unless the AI isn’t up to snuff.

Fans of this sort of game should keep an eye peeled, I say (or some drug lord will peel one for you, ow).

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-GW