Narcos (NetEnt): Review
And so it finally arrived at our doorstep. Close to a year and a half after the grand announcement at the London iGaming conference, Narcos, one of the most anticipated branded titles, has finally left the production table and rolled out across all NetEnt casinos. Right off the bat, it becomes entirely clear to us why it took so long. To call Narcos an ambitious undertaking would be an understatement to say the least. In NetEnt's take on the American crime series Narcos, the drug-fueled drama effectively expands its world into the online slot format where the traditional boundaries between videogames and slots are becoming increasingly blurred.
Everything our sources told us about Narcos, and which was exclusively reported on our site, turned out to be true. It does indeed come with a setup of 5 reels, 3-rows and 243 ways to win. This is a great format and one that is actually a bit unusual for NetEnt.
Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few features to keep you busy here. In the main game, you'll benefit from the Locked Up feature which is a win-streak mini bonus, capable of delivering quite decent wins. There's also the Drive-by feature where you'll see bullets flying across the screen, randomly transforming high paying symbols into wilds. Available both in the main game and the free spins are the Walking Wilds, similar to the feature that was made famous in Jack and the Beanstalk, another popular title from NetEnt. Finally, there is the big showdown - the Free Spins feature. Frustratingly hard to trigger, but the key necessary to unlock the true potential. You can play it from between 0.20 and 400€ per spin across all devices.
Produced by Gaumont for web television company Netflix, the first two seasons of Narcos are based on druglord Pablo Escobar who became a dollar billionaire through the distribution and production of cocaine. In NetEnt's version, we're taken to the bustling streets of Medellín where we're immediately thrown straight into the crossfire. With Grand Theft Auto-inspired graphics, symbols on the reels include J, Q, K and A royal values with piles of cash, grenades, machine guns and handguns on them. You'll also see flamingos and Cessna's as well as the characters from the TV series, namely José Rodríguez Gacha, Connie Murphy and DEA agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña. The latter two are the most rewarding and will give you 15 times your stake for 5 across a full payline.
The wild symbol is represented by the DEA badge and is of the same value as the agents. As per usual, the wild substitutes for all standard symbols bar the scatter and other special symbols. When part of a winning combination, the wild triggers the Walking Wild feature. You've seen similar features before - the wild stays on the reels and moves horizontally one position left with each spin. This continues until there are no winning wild symbols left.
Narcos (NetEnt): Features
In the main game, the Drive-by feature may trigger randomly on any spin. When activated, a sequence is played where a thug unleashes a hail of bullets from a getaway car onto the reels. This is followed by random transformations of premium symbols into wilds.
There's also a kind of mini-bonus known as the Locked Up feature. It becomes activated when 3 or more Locked Up symbols (with a picture of Pablo Escobar) appear on the same row. Once inside the feature, which is played on a new set, the Escobar symbols are moved together and assigned a win value of between 1 - 10 times your stake.
Fundamentally, what you get here is a win-streak cluster mechanics based feature. Starting with 3 spins, only Locked Up and Golden briefcase symbols will appear on the reels. When 3 or more symbols connect, they form a winning cluster - when an Escobar symbol connects to a winning cluster, a random value of 1 - 10 times your stake is awarded. If, on the other hand, a Golden briefcase connects, one of the following will apply:
- Multiplier - all coin values connected to the cluster are multiplied by x2 or x3.
- Upgrade Symbols - multiple upgrade values in increment of 1 times your total bet are added to the symbols.
- Big Starting Value - the Golden briefcase symbol is given an extra starting value.
Each time a symbol connects to the cluster, the spin count resets to 3. The feature ends when no new symbols are added to the cluster. With a hit frequency of 1 in 124 spins, the Locked Up feature triggers far more frequently than the Free Spins feature which, by comparison, has a hit frequency of 1 in 351 spins. The Locked Up feature gives you a chance to pocket up to 271 times your total stake.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the epic climactic Free Spins finale - a shootout that is played when you land three scatter symbols on reels 1, 3 and 5 on the same spin. Starting with 10 free spins, you'll benefit from the Drive-by feature being in play on every spin which also means there's potential for the Walking Wilds feature to come into play. As you've already seen, the Free Spins feature is hard to trigger, but it's also where most of the monies at. When the smoke clears, you could be looking at a win of up to 1506 times your stake.
Narcos (NetEnt): Verdict
Narcos brings with it some serious firepower but seems to have forgotten to load the guns. For some reason, NetEnt keeps insisting on these low max wins and ultimately, Narcos just falls into the same old NetEnt cliché, which feels like such an incredible waste given the fact that it otherwise has everything going for it. The visuals are excellent and the overall production quality is jaw-dropping, but it lacks punch, simple as that.
Not only is Narcos trying hard to entertain the player through impressive in-game cut-scenes, it's also quite a feature heavy slot as you have seen. What it leads to in this case is a Free Spins feature that seems to drop less frequently than the D in Bonanza. The difference here is that the relatively low potential hardly makes it worth the wait.
It pains us to say this, but we're afraid NetEnt's Narcos only manages to reach the rank of a simple drug dealer rather than the mighty drug lord it was aspiring to be.