Ghost Recon Wildlands trailer explores authenticity of drug empire themes

Installing a fictional but believable Cartel.

Despite having binge-watched Narcos, Breaking Bad and The Wire at various times in my life, I'd hardly claim to understand the intricacies and logistics of running a drug empire. In Ghost Recon Wildlands, that's the duty of Ubisoft's Sam Strachman and Dominic Butler who've now detailed the level of research that goes into crafting a fictional operation that's rooted in real life scenarios. 

As posted by the folks at Polygon, the video below has Strachman and Butler—Wildlands' narrative director and lead game designer—discussing how the game integrates its narrative with its mechanics, what elements mirrored reality, and where artistic license was leveraged to make certain aspects more fitting within the context of a videogame.  

With such sophisticated themes at play, it's probably of little surprise such care was taken when researching. What I find most interesting, though, is when Butler starts to explain the liberties taken when planning how the game's fictional Cartel goes about smuggling. Skip to the 2.20 mark above for that, where things start to get a bit Donnie Brasco-esque.    

Speaking to designing the Cartel itself and creating a credible world for it to function within, Strachman says: "For us, even though it's a work of fiction, one thing that's always been important to us from the beginning is this theme of the 'grey zone.' So, for us it's not about good guys versus bad guys, it's about having characters at every end of the spectrum. 

"Of course, you're going to have members of the Cartel who are just pure monsters, but then within the Cartel you also have some Bolivians, some Cocaleros, who are working for the Cartel because they don't have a choice—they're being forced to either through violence or because they need the money to feed their families." 

Strachman continues: "For them it's just growing this leaf that isn't really associated with cocaine, it's just this deep traditional of theirs. We put a lot of efforts into—even though it's a work of fiction—making it feel authentic. There's certain indigenous words and languages that exist in the game that we've talked to various experts to make sure that the pronunciation is right. We've done everything we can to reach this level." 

Strachman and Butler round off the video by discussing the game's multiple customisation options. 

Ghost Recon Wildlands is due March 7—have a read of Tom's early impressions in the meantime. 

We recommend