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'Ghost Recon Wildlands' Draws from the Real-Life Cartel War

Ubisoft's new game may seem ridiculous, but the over-the-top tactics are—unfortunately—more realistic that you might think.

Robert Rath

Robert Rath

One half of the team moved in on the cartel boss' hideout by night, watched overhead by their partners in an helicopter gunship. The narcos retreated to the second floor of a building, scattering to pick up machine guns and a grenade launcher.

That's when the helicopter's minigun opened fire, hammering through the walls and tearing the narcos apart. With another capo down, the team moved in to search for intel that might lead to their next target.

Though it might seem like a mission out of  Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands, this battle between Mexican Marines and the Beltrán Leyva drug cartel actually occurred two weeks ago, in the Mexican city of Tepic. It wasn't the first time the Marines had used helicopter gunships against cartel targets, but previous incidents had been in rural areas, not the heart of a city. This underscores why it's difficult to create believable fiction out of the ongoing Mexican Cartel War: what's over-the-top one day might be standard tactics the next.

"In 2009,  Breaking Bad had an episode where Mexican cartels used an IED," says Ioan Grillo, a journalist and author of the book  Gangster Warlords. "I thought 'Oh, that's too much,' then in 2010 there was an IED in Ciudad Juarez."

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