Ghost Recon Wildlands taps The Cartel’s writers to punch up its narco-state playground

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

The Cartel’s Don Winslow (he wrote the novel) and The Cartel’s Shane Salerno (he’s doing the movie adaptation) have been announced as writers on Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands [official site]. The narrative will apparently be “cartel-themed” which, I mean, sure.

I’d actually forgotten that the game isn’t out yet as I think I saw a version of it at E3 in 2015 (my notes on that build read “can’t ride llamas” and a sad face – a note which also explains why I stopped keeping tabs on the game). But with a release date of 7 March details for the open-world Bolivian drugland co-op experience are being fed out and Winslow and Salerno’s involvement will provide a hook for people who enjoy their take on drug-war thrillers.

Before continuing with the Ghost Recon side of things I want to make sure we don’t miss this section of the press release:

“Salerno is one of the most sought-after writers in the film industry. He is currently working with Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron on four separate sequels to Avatar”.


I had forgotten about this development, partly because it’s so easy to forget pretty much everything to do with Avatar, so the reminder that these sequels exist is like hearing the news afresh. It’ll be at least 12 hours of… something about rainforests? Honest to goodness I couldn’t tell you what that film was about and I’ve definitely seen it.

Anyway, moving on from my residual irritation at a 3-hour numb bum, Salerno and Winslow seem like a decent fit for Wildlands as Ubi want to position it:

“Winslow and Salerno worked closely with the narrative team at Ubisoft Paris to help create the narrative of Ghost Recon Wildlands, by expanding on the series’ “what if” scenario that sees a Mexican drug cartel take over near-future in-game Bolivia and turn it into a narco-state. Their previous research and writing experiences across two decades allowed them to help the development team establish a grounded storyline inspired by real life events, a believable criminal organisation for the fictional Santa Blanca Cartel, and assist in creating the in-depth backstories for key in-game characters, including the boss, El Sueño, the heads of operation that players will interact with, and core elements of the special forces “ghosts” that will hunt them down.”

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands

From the press release it feels like the pair were brought in to make sure the game has a degree of accuracy or that the characters are fleshed out so people who want to role-play as operatives taking down a drug cartel can do so without breaking this particular fiction.

More specifically, from the quote above it sounds like either the duo took an editing pass over the game or that they contributed some missions or whatnot to give the game more of a narrative flow. Perhaps both.

Thing is, Brendy and Graham were playing the beta and, no idea whether this is with or without Winslow and Salerno’s changes/amendments, but they didn’t have effusive praise for the experience – the verdict was broadly that it was Ubisoft’s familiar icon-clearing and levelling up which was fun enough with a friend but didn’t sustain the experience when playing solo or with internet people.

Brendy also added:

“As for the setting and the tone of the thing, it’s pretty ridic. I don’t think any real-world scenario should be off-limits for games, but this definitely doesn’t handle (at least in the beta) the problem of cartels and drug trafficking with much nuance. The most jarring moment for me was when I discovered a group of men hanged by the side of the road. That’s horrible, I thought. Then I saw a green box below their dangling feet. “Oh!” I rejoiced “Supplies to tag!”

“I am willing to bet that the closest this comes to exploring any of these issues is that one drugman down the line will shout at you, “It’s you gringos who are buying the drugs! Without YOU there’d be no cocaine at all!” But he will be shooting at you with an uzi while he says this, invalidating his already-clichéd argument. I doubt there’ll be any strong criticism of the United States’ policies in the “war on drugs”, for example. This is a Clancy game after all. Then again, that wouldn’t be necessary if, like you say, they’d just gone for a more silly vibe.”

I’d be interested to see if that opinion hold true once the game releases as it’s incredibly unlikely that any significant changes are going to be plonked in so close to release.


  1. Boomerang says:

    …”have been announced?” The game is out in about 5 weeks. So they’ve either been at it for a while (from what I’ve played and seen and heard, the dialogue and story are laughably bad, I’d expect better if they have some pedigree), or they’re giving it a polish now, which will then require huge rewrites and re-recorded audio, which they don’t appear to have time for.

    • syndrome says:

      I don’t know if you can tell difference between “beta” and “final release” but

      Release date(s)
      WW: March 7, 2017

      is definitely in the future at this point in time

      • Boomerang says:

        I understand both the concept of time and the difference between betas and final releases. What’s your point?

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    phuzz says:

    “can’t ride llamas”
    But what about alpacas?

  3. CMaster says:

    Based off the beta (the first zone of the game), the writing is pretty bad. Apart from the weirdness of the “What if Mexican Cartels overthrew the Bolivian government” setting, the writing is all pretty bad.

    From the “Ohmigod so sad that someone I knew died” of your CIA contact, to the “We need him for his theory of a agrarian proletariat” rebels, to your character randomly, deadpanning “shitballs” for no discernable reason, it feels pretty silly.

    • -Spooky- says:

      I agree here. “Narcos” plot is way deeper and more intense. But hey: “Wildlands – We use every Ubisoft game feature and put it in a Just Cause stempede” will work very solid in co-op.

      • Bull0 says:

        Hardly fair, Narcos is pretty closely based on a true story.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        The TV series was masturbatory self indulgent bullshit which put me off reading the book. Seeing Salerno’s credits doesn’t give me much more hope for the movie either.

  4. Kollega says:

    The only thing that GR: Wildlands makes me wish for is a Mercenaries spiritual successsor. Set in the future. With room for both destructive lunacy and actual infantry/guerrilla tactics, out-of-the-box co-op/multiplayer, and a storyline straight out of Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin. That’s about it.

  5. CartonofMilk says:

    that this is announced that close to release tells me they actually had nothing to do with the game but got paid to say they did and so ubi can use their names to get more attention for the game as it approaches release. I mean why would you not have announced this as it happened? And if it happened NOW then clearly that means they just looked at the script/story and said “yeah it’s fine”

    It’s like that whole “Tom Clancy’s” shit. Tom clancy had shit to do with any of those games past i think whatever first one was billed as Tom Clancy’s

    • Bull0 says:

      Tom Clancy is dead, and has been for a while. Personally I’m happy with “Tom Clancy’s” meaning “features silly politics and sound suppressors”, and not “development overseen by a terrifying jingoistic zombie author”.

      Actually, I changed my mind