Title: Ghost Recon Breakpoint Released On: October 4, 2019 Genre: Tactical Shooter Reviewed On: Xbox One X Also Available On: Playstation 4, PC, Google Stadia Developer: Ubisoft Paris Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD / £59.99 GBP
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the 11th entry into the venerable Ghost Recon franchise, with the original Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon hitting store shelves around 18 years ago. The series has certainly had several highs and lows, as well as the ability to divide opinions when mechanics or gameplay are tweaked. Some Ghost Recon fans considered Future Soldier an abomination, whilst others rated it higher than Advanced Warfighter 2 (GRAW 2); even 2014’s Ghost Recon Phantoms (a free-to-player multiplayer-only game) was hit and miss depending on the player’s personal definition of what a Ghost Recon game should and should not be.
The Premise of Ghost Recon Breakpoint
In Ghost Recon Breakpoint you play as Nomad, the current team leader of the ‘Ghosts.’ Ghosts are the best of the best; elite soldiers from 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Battalion, D Company. (They are of course a fictional unit, as the real 1st Battalion of 5th SFG only have A/B/C companies.) These Ghosts are the finest that the U.S. military has to offer, usually the first unit to be deployed – and regularly behind enemy lines – in an attempt to accomplish high-stakes missions without leaving a trace.
Nomad was also the protagonist of Ghost Recon Wildlands (male or female depending on which the player chose during character creation), making Ghost Recon Breakpoint a direct sequel to the 2017 game. If there were any doubts that this was the case, the free update earlier this year called Operation Oracle further ties the two games together; as well as introducing Cole D. Walker (played by Jon Bernthal). Within the lore of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, this was the first time that Nomad and Walker collaborated; which led to them becoming friends and later working together closely in Afghanistan. At some point during that deployment, Walker executed an officer and was immediately investigated for immoral and illegal behaviour. He subsequently left the Ghosts and the United States Army.
Nomad refused to testify against Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. Walker, which significantly hampered their career. Now looking to retire, Nomad has accepted one last mission on a remote pacific island.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint takes place on the Auroa Archipelago: a ﬁctional group of islands in the middle of the South Paciﬁc Ocean. Notice that this time around Ubisoft avoided a real-world location, which could have something to do with Bolivia formally complaining about Ghost Recon Wildlands. Auroa is composed of 21 provinces and displays a vast diversity of landscape and human architecture. Since Auroa’s purchase by billionaire entrepreneur Jace Skell, the archipelago has become home to the Skell Tech corporation. The island serves as giant incubator for WORLD 2.0, a hub of innovation and research dedicated to building the tools to lead the planet into the future.
On top of the varied biomes ranging from fjordlands and tundra to rain forests and marshes, Auroa is divided in specialty areas such as the AI research centre in the North, and the residential areas along the East Coast.
Whilst on paper this sounds amazing, I could not help but find myself somewhat underwhelmed by the environment within Ghost Recon Breakpoint; especially when comparing it to Ghost Recon Wildlands. This is not to say that the world does not look fabulous, as it most assuredly does; but whilst Bolivia felt alive and dynamic thanks to the civilians walking around the various towns, Auroa feels dead and bare.
It is also a very lonely experience if you choose to play the game solo. Whilst Wildlands provided solo players with an AI controlled squad: Midas, Weaver, and Holt; Breakpoint does not (but cleverly justifies their absence via the narrative). This is not to say that you cannot play the game as a solo player, but it is clearly a much better experience with friends.
Another factor that makes the world feel less alive in my opinion is the lack of radio stations whilst driving. I understand that Ghost Recon Breakpoint is supposed to be a serious tactical shooter and not Grand Theft Auto, but the banter of the radio within Ghost Recon Wildlands was one of my favourite features. It certainly made longer journeys that little bit more interesting.
Overloaded with Features
Those familiar with the franchise will recognize the core aspects of the game. You can equip two main weapons as well as a handgun and knife. Customization is also once again brilliant, allowing you to fine tune the look of your gear as well as your Ghost. There are the usual variety of vehicles that you can commandeer: helicopters, boats, trucks, and motorcycles. Driving actually feels a little better in Breakpoint when compared to Wildlands, which is just as well because the map is just as large as it was in the previous title.
Nomad once again has a drone on hand, which can be deployed to recon an area and mark enemies. This was one of the best aspects of Ghost Recon Wildlands, so it has thankfully returned for action within Ghost Recon Breakpoint. But this is where the similarities end, as Breakpoint is fundamentally a completely different game in comparison to Wildlands.
Ubisoft is no stranger to reinventing a franchise. Assassin’s Creed has changed dramatically over the years, adding in new features and changing the way that franchise feels and plays. Ubisoft also has a decent track record when it comes to direct sequels. The Division 2 is a fine example of taking a good game and further refining it whilst also adding a few new mechanics or features. I would imagine that the majority of Ghost Recon fans expected Breakpoint to follow a similar pattern; Wildlands was not perfect, but it was still a decent tactical shooter that with some further polish could have been excellent.
But for Ghost Recon Breakpoint, it just feels that they went a little too far. Metaphorically speaking, imagine that the Assassin’s Creed and The Division franchises had a baby; but that child wanted to identify as Ghost Recon. This is the problem with Ghost Recon Breakpoint in my opinion, it is so chock-full of features that it loses its own identity; one that used to set itself apart from other titles.
Now this is not to say that some of these features are not welcome additions. Breakpoint introduces Ghost Classes, which allows the player to fine-tune abilities to fit their play-style. Each class has a unique item and a unique ability:
Unique Item: MEDKIT
Short-range throwable item that deploys at the point of impact, allowing any allied player to interact with it. Upon using the MedKit you’ll immediately be healed of all but the most critical of injuries, and you’ll also gain a health bonus that will remain for a short period of time.
Unique Skill: HEALING DRONE
Releases a remote-controlled drone that uses specialized darts to revive downed allies. The healing drone has the same range and battery life as your normal drone, and comes equipped with 3 darts, allowing you to potentially revive 3 downed allies in a single activation.
Unique Item: GAS GRENADE
A hand-thrown device that detonates 1 second after hitting a surface, releasing a cloud of gas with 10m radius. Gas can go through walls, so it’s excellent in conﬁned areas. Enemies will start taking damage as soon as they enter the area of effect. Also damages you or your allies if you enter.
Unique Skill: TRUE GRIT
During TRUE GRIT activation time, you earn a strong damage resistance bonus, as well as a gigantic reduction of recoil. Any kills you make will further extend the duration and heal you a small amount.
Unique Item: CLOAKING SPRAY
If you apply the spray before a drone has spotted you, it will be unable to detect you for a full 60 seconds. If you use the spray while a drone has line-of-sight on you, you will still interfere with its targeting sensors, making it less likely to hit you, but you won’t be invisible to it.
Unique Skill: CLOAK & RUN
A smoke screen is immediately deployed around the activation area, causing all nearby enemies to lose sight of you and drop out of Combative state, and into Suspicious state. While inside the smoke you and your allies are invisible to all enemies and remain so for 5 seconds after exiting. Enemies close to the activation area are stunned for 10 seconds.
Unique Item: SENSOR LAUNCHER
Fires a sensor grenade in an arc over long distances. Upon contact, the grenade will initiate a scan that Marks all enemies in the vicinity. Any enemies within that area will be marked and their outline will be highlighted, making them visible through walls or cover. Enemy outlines will remain visible a few seconds after the scan.
Unique Skill: ARMOUR BUSTER
Loads 3 special bullets into any Sniper Riﬂe or Marksman Riﬂe, giving a buff in range, damage and penetration to the next 3 shots. This technique is especially useful for inﬂicting massive damage to armoured targets like Behemoths, Incubus variants or armoured vehicles
As a solo player, which class you choose will drastically affect your playthrough of the game; with the Field Medic being the only class that can effectively self-revive. It is worth noting that you can of course change your class and even save multiple setups; but you cannot change your class on the fly, this must be done at a Bivouac site.
I opted for the Sharpshooter, as I prefer to slowly recon an area before silently picking off my enemies from a distance. Whilst I have not managed to play Ghost Recon Breakpoint with a full squad of different classes, I would imagine that it must be a pretty cool experience (and likely what the dev team envisioned). Fortunately, I know a few people that have picked up the game, so that can hopefully be arranged (you know who you are).
The varied skill trees are also a welcome addition to the franchise. Upon ‘leveling up’ via XP, the player is awarded a skill point to spend. Which branches you choose to populate is entirely up to you and will vary depending on what you consider important to your play-style. This forms part of ‘the grind’ within the game, one that could initially be bypassed on day one of Early Access. The predatorial pay-to-win micro-transactions have been quickly removed, which enabled players to purchase all skill points immediately; but may return at a later date so players can ‘catch up fast’.
Another grind that has been introduced to Ghost Recon Breakpoint, one that I have mixed feelings about, is the loot grind.
Weapons and armour now have a ‘gear score’, which much like other games with a similar mechanic results in the player continually trying to improve their gear score. This is a fundamental aspect of the game, as certain enemies and missions will be completely impossible to overcome unless you have a high enough gear score. Whilst I personally love ‘looter-shooters’ and play several of them myself; I am not totally convinced that I wanted Ghost Recon to try and turn into one.
This further becomes an aspect of interest for the PvP fans out there. Sure enough, Ghost War returns in Ghost Recon Breakpoint; but whilst in Wildlands this was a separate entity from your campaign progress, Breakpoint features shared progression. I can only assume that this was a feature that fans of the PVP mode requested, which admittedly I was never really interested in. The thought of a 4v4 tactical PvP mode does indeed intrigue me, but then again, I prefer playing a dedicated PvP game such as Rainbow Six: Siege if I need that itch to be scratched.
There is a considerable amount of content available on launch. With 28 main quest missions, 30 Auroa missions, and 12 Factions missions available right away, this is not a game that you will just breeze through in a short amount of time. With multiple episodes planned for post-launch as well as live events (the first one features the Terminator, which funnily enough makes sense given the ‘tech-centric’ theme of Breakpoint), an upcoming raid, and new classes planned; Ubisoft are clearly aiming to keep players interested in Ghost Recon Breakpoint over a long period of time.
But is it too much?
I personally love RPGs, I am also fond of looter-shooters, and I have always adored tactical shooters. I play several different games within those respective genres and I am absolutely fine with that.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint tries to be all of those things: it has the cinematic story-driven aspects of an RPG (which is complemented by the stunning graphics at higher resolutions), it has the loot grind and will be offering ‘end-game’ activities, and it certainly has the mechanics of a good tactical shooter (headshots are lethal, encounters require planning, cover and stealth are paramount); but by trying to be all of these things at once, it just does not quite hit the mark.
I would say that it is a decent game, but I am not convinced that it is necessarily a good Ghost Recon game if that makes sense?
I See What They Did There
With all that being said, there is still no denying that Ghost Recon Breakpoint has the bells and whistles you would expect from a modern AAA title. It looks and sounds phenomenal on a 55″ 4K television with HDR and with Dolby Atmos audio delivered via a compatible 7.1.2 surround system. It is debatable whether the story itself is compelling; but as someone that personally enjoyed how the narrative of Ghost Recon Wildlands progressed, I feel that the story (which I have not completed yet) should be able to keep me wanting to play the game fully.
With clever additions such as Nomad being able to sustain minor and major injuries which impede your mobility until attended to, the nicely laid out social spaces and the Bivouac system which enables you to ‘prepare’ for missions (choosing a specific bonus, changing your class, and crafting supplies); Ghost Recon Breakpoint is in many ways a considerable step up from Ghost Recon Wildlands.
But with Ubisoft throwing every possible gameplay aspect they could think of at Breakpoint, the final result is a game that does not quite know what it actually is. Ghost Recon Breakpoint is practically every single open-world game that Ubisoft has ever produced rolled into one. Which I would bet is due to the player retention issues that previous titles have had. Plenty of people rushed out to buy Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2, just as The Division and The Division 2 sold like hotcakes (with both games breaking records during their respective launch weeks) initially; but in all of these instances, the player base dramatically dropped off not long after launch.
It just feels as if Ubisoft thought that by throwing as much as they could into Breakpoint, as well as making it more of a grind-based experience than a purely tactical one, that they thought it would result in more people continuing to play over a long period of time.
Unfortunately, it may have inadvertently resulted in less people picking up Ghost Recon Breakpoint to begin with.
Give it a Little Time
I firmly believe that Ghost Recon Breakpoint has a fantastic tactical shooter hidden somewhere within the myriad of features and mechanics that Ubisoft threw at it, and fans of its predecessor will most likely run out and buy it just because it has ‘Ghost Recon’ on the box. The diehard fans will likely recognize that the core Ghost Recon experience is most certainly there but is wrapped in so many additional bits and pieces that the casual onlooker would not necessarily recognize it as a Ghost Recon game.
Even so Ghost Recon Wildlands had a decent amount of content throughout its life cycle, one of the most infuriating aspects were that some of the bugs that were evident on day 1 are still present today. With Ghost Recon Breakpoint however, it appears the team has learned from this and it looks like they are committed to post-launch support (if the Day 1 patch is anything to go by) as well as multiple content releases.
As it stands right now, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is difficult to recommend in its current form unless you are a fan of the franchise; but in the not-too-distant future, it could very well shape up to be a fantastic game. Especially during content lulls which other franchises will no doubt experience.
Final Score: 7/10
Ghost Recon Breakpoint can be an entertaining adventure provided that you have friends to play with, whereas solo players will likely want to wait to see how the game is fine-tuned post-launch.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.