Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint (commonly referred to as Ghost Recon Breakpoint) is an online tactical shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Paris and published by Ubisoft. The game was released worldwide on 4 October 2019, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and will release in November 2019 for the Google Stadia. The game is the eleventh installment in the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon franchise and is a narrative sequel to the 2017 video game Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands.
The game is set in an open world environment called Auroa, a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean. The player takes on the role of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman, a special forces operative sent to the island to investigate a series of disturbances involving Skell Technology, a military contractor based on Auroa. Upon release, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint received mixed reviews from critics
Like its predecessor Wildlands, Breakpoint is a tactical shooter game set in an open world environment. It is played from a third-person perspective and uses an optional first-person view for aiming weapons. Players take on the role of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman, a member of the Delta Company, First Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, also known as “Ghosts”, a fictional elite special operations unit of the United States Army under the Joint Special Operations Command. The game world, Auroa, is an open world environment that features a variety of landscapes, and these can be used for tactical advantages. For instance, players can slide down rocky terrain and use mud to camouflage themselves. According to Ubisoft, Auroa is larger than the game world featured in Wildlands. Players have a variety of ways to traverse the open world, controlling various air, land and sea vehicles.
The game is planned to launch with four character classes. Ubisoft announced plans to make more classes available through post-launch updates. Each class has its own abilities; for example, the panther is a class oriented towards stealth and is able to throw smoke bombs. The player will be able to switch between classes in-game. Players have to gather intelligence in order to progress through the game and can use a variety of methods to approach missions. As in previous titles in the franchise, they can utilize a variety of weapons in combat, with the player’s repertoire expanded to include combat drones and rocket launchers to kill enemies. Alternatively, the player can use stealth to silently neutralize opponents. In Breakpoint, players can equip a variety of new weapons and gear such as a blowtorch to cut through fences, sulphur gas grenades to kill enemies, and electromagnetic pulse grenades to disable drones and vehicles. Players can carry corpses away and hide them so that enemies would not become alerted. Fallen enemies will leave loot for players to collect. Fallen teammates can also be carried away so as to revive them safely. Many of the new features added to Breakpoint were developed based on player feedback in Wildlands.
The game places a larger emphasis on survival than Wildlands. Enemies will be more numerous and the game will feature a wider range of enemy archetypes. These enemies will have access to many of the same weapons, skills and equipment that are available to the player. Enemies will respond more realistically to player actions and patrols wander the game world searching for the player. Ubisoft introduced these changes to give the player the sense that they were “no longer the most dangerous thing in the game world”. Players need to collect different resources in the game’s world and use them to craft resources such as bandages. Regular weapon maintenance checks are necessary to keep the weapons functional and the player will need to manage their character’s fatigue, hunger and hydration. Failing to do so may slow the player down, limit their ability to regenerate health, or cause them to make more noise while moving. The game uses a regenerative health system whereby the player character naturally recovers health, but serious injuries will impede the player character’s performance, as they will start limping and can no longer aim their weapon accurately.
Players can set up a bivouac shelter in order to heal themselves. The shelter is also the site where players can manage their weapons and inventory, customize their character and change the character’s classes. The game can be played with three other players cooperatively, or in single-player with squadmates Kim “Fury” Hernandez, Benjamin “Fixit” Jones and David “Vasily” Zhang controlled by artificial intelligence. The game was initially announced to have no AI squadmates, but the addition of AI squadmates was later amended as post-release content based due to negative feedback from players. Unlike previous Ghost Recon titles, Breakpoint will require a constant internet connection to play, in-part due to the game’s single-character progression system.
The game’s story features dialogue choices. These will not affect the main narrative, but instead enable players to gain intelligence that may aid in their missions. The game also features a mode called “Exploration” that was first used in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Unlike most open-world games where the player is given an objective marker to guide their progress, Breakpoint‘s Exploration mode gives the player a rough approximation of the area where an objective may be located. Their approximation can be refined by exploring the world or through investigating intelligence. A competitive multiplayer mode will be released at launch, and end-of-game content such as raids are set to be introduced post-release
Setting and characters
The game is set in the year 2025, six years after the events of Wildlands. The story takes place on Auroa, an island in the South Pacific owned by billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Jace Skell. Skell is the founder of Skell Technology, a blue chip company producing drones for commercial applications, but the company has also found success as a military contractor developing cutting-edge equipment for the United States government. Skell purchased Auroa with a vision of turning it into a hub for the design, research, development and production of artificial intelligence and drone technology, which he dubs “World 2.0”. The island is made up of a series of individual biomes including marine estuaries and wetlands, fjords, arboreal forests, snow-capped mountains and active volcanoes.
The main antagonist is former Ghost Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. Walker (Jon Bernthal), who has gone rogue after leaving the army. After witnessing his fireteam be slaughtered on a mission in Bolivia, Walker has come to believe that the United States government does not value the lives of its soldiers. A private military contractor named Sentinel has occupied the island under Walker’s command while Walker himself is leading a team of soldiers calling themselves the “Wolves”.
Returning characters from Ghost Recon Wildlands include the members of Nomad’s fireteam Dominic “Holt” Moretta, Corey “Weaver” Ward and Rubio “Midas” Delgado.
Skell Technology starts coming under increased public scrutiny when they are faced with mounting evidence that its products are falling into the hands of corrupt regimes,and the island is abruptly cut off from the outside world. The United States government decides to investigate further when a cargo ship, the USS Seay, sinks off the coast of Auroa. The CIA launch Operation Greenstone, deploying a Ghost Recon platoon to re-establish contact with Auroa and determine the circumstances of the Seay‘s sinking. The insertion ends in disaster when the helicopters carrying the platoon are attacked by a swarm of drones. Nomad is the sole able-bodied survivor of the platoon; of his squadmates, Holt is seriously injured, Weaver is killed and Midas is missing.
My Personal Thoughts
I personally think about Ghost Recon Breakpoint is uneven and conflicted. On one hand it’s a natural sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, offering a near-identical core gameplay loop of open-world espionage and shooting. On the other hand, Breakpoint is a messy hodgepodge of disparate ideas, pulling various aspects from other Ubisoft games and shoehorning them in, half-baked and out of place. Ghost Recon’s identity as a tactical shooter has evaporated and been replaced by a confused patchwork of elements and mechanics from other, better games. Its defining characteristic boils down to just how generic and stale the whole thing is.
The addition of loot and an ever-increasing gear score fits into the standard template of Ubisoft’s recent open-world games, whether it’s The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, or even Far Cry New Dawn. Breakpoint fulfills its quota by including these light RPG mechanics, but the implementation of its loot grind feels like a severe afterthought. There are numerous pieces of armor to find and equip as you explore the fictional island of Auroa. The numbers attached to each one will raise or lower your gear score, but the effect this has on gameplay is entirely inconsequential. Rare loot might include small buffs like a 2% increase in stamina or a 1% increase to movement speed, yet the effects of these buffs are negligible, and armor doesn’t affect your damage resistance in any perceivable way. A level 5 beanie offers as much protection as a level 75 helmet, so these numbers only exist to raise a gear score that’s nothing more than a flimsy representation of your progress. You’re supposed to feel good about that number rising, but it’s difficult to care when there are no tangible benefits to picking one piece of armor over another. You just end up opting for whatever has the higher rating without any meaningful consideration.
Choosing which weapon to roll with requires slightly more deliberation, although this is mainly due to your preference for specific weapon types as opposed to the number attached to each. Breakpoint features the usual assortment of assault rifles, SMGs, shotguns, and sniper rifles, and these firearms function similarly to armour, with rare weapons receiving miniscule buffs to aspects like reload speed and recoil reduction. Again, the impact these stats have on gameplay is paltry at best, especially because shooting in Breakpoint is still geared towards landing headshots for an instant kill. This is a holdover from Wildlands and the series’ early beginnings as a somewhat “authentic” tactical shooter. The most heavily armored grunts in Breakpoint take two shots to the head to kill–one to take off their helmet, and another to finish the job–but every other enemy can be extinguished with a single bullet.
Weapons feel impactful as a result of this, successfully capturing the rush of being an elite special ops soldier that can take out four or five enemy combatants in a matter of seconds. But this also means the rarity of weapons and the gear score attached to them is ultimately meaningless. You can wander into an area recommended for players with a gear score of 140 with a significantly lower score and still kill every enemy without breaking a sweat. This amount of freedom would be commendable if it didn’t shine a derisive light on how shallow the RPG mechanics are.
The only enemies in the game that require a specific gear score to defeat are the killer drones dotted across the island. Encounters with these unmanned killing machines are few and far between, but because they don’t have heads and aren’t made of flesh and blood, they can be bullet sponges. Facing off against one of these drones is the only time the number next to your weapon actually matters, and even then they’re easier to destroy by using the rocket launchers, grenades, and mines found in your inventory, which don’t even have numbers attached to them. It’s another example of how Breakpoint isn’t a coherent match with Ghost Recon’s sensibilities, which are still reflected in the way headshots function, and the trivial impact that loot has on gameplay makes the constant switching and dismantling of each piece of gear an unnecessary timesink.
Breakpoint’s paper-thin survival mechanics are similarly underdeveloped, hinting at a tense experience that never comes to fruition. You carry a flask that you can refill in lakes, rivers, and even in someone’s backyard swimming pool for that sweet tasty chlorine. Water is used to replenish any lost stamina you’ve misplaced by over-exerting–usually by rolling down a hillside because Auroa is nearly bereft of flat ground. The island consists of diverse biomes including verdant woodlands, snow-capped mountain tops, and muggy swamps, but the common throughline in each environment is the presence of craggy cliffs and hillsides.
As a result, traversing on foot revolves around spending a lot of time sliding down undulating slopes. This quickly drains your stamina, sending you into an uncontrollable roll that inflicts damage with each nick and bump. Health regenerates over time, but if you suffer either a minor or major injury and don’t want to hobble everywhere, you need to use a syringe for instant pain relief or spend longer wrapping yourself up in bandages. Syringes are finite, yet you have an infinite supply of bandages that almost make the mechanic moot. There are never any anxious moments of desperation as you find yourself hindered with an empty medicine box. It’s easy enough to wrap yourself up after a tumble, and injuries in combat are rare enough that having to find a safe spot to pause is not something you have to consider very often. There are also bivouacs spread out across the map that are used as fast travel points and rest areas where you can apply specific buffs by eating, drinking, or aiming your gun at the sky to somehow improve its accuracy. You don’t have to gather food because it’s always available, and there’s some light crafting on the docket if you have the materials to restock your supply of explosives and gadgets.
Much like the loot, these light survival mechanics aren’t fleshed out enough to warrant any engagement beyond the limited amount you’re forced into. The story revolves around your character being stranded alone, trapped deep behind enemy lines. You’re outmanned and outgunned against an elite force equipped with a stolen fleet of devastating, unmanned killing machines. Stealth is encouraged, so much so that when you’re prone you can cover yourself in mud and foliage to blend into the environment and remain undetected. Each of these elements places an emphasis on survival, but Breakpoint constantly skirts around the edges, never committing to mechanics that would extend beyond the feeble survival aspects already included. The plane-like Azraël drone occasionally flies overhead, ready and raring to rain fiery destruction down upon your helpless human body. Yet all this means is that you’ll sometimes have to lie down and wait for it to pass before you can continue with what you were originally doing. You can see the inkling of some interesting ideas here, but Breakpoint never capitalizes on these and is ultimately a generic pastiche of what’s come before.
The gameplay loop is almost identical to Wildlands’: You send a drone into the sky, survey an enemy base, and mark targets before infiltrating in whichever manner you see fit. Navigating through a heavily fortified compound without being seen is still inherently satisfying. Each one is usually designed in a way so there are a number of enemies obscured from your drone’s vision. You might be able to pick off a handful of guards from a distance using a silenced sniper rifle, but at some point you’ll have to enter and find the rest. The only thing impeding your stealthy espionage is the fact you can’t move sideways while prone. Instead, you end up with these awkward animations because you can only turn at right angles. Taking cover is overly cumbersome, too. You do it automatically, but what the game deems as cover is inconsistent from one low wall to the next, and even if you do manage to get behind an object, whether you can shoot over it or not is another question. Though this would be a bigger problem if the AI were the least bit competent.
Enemies in Breakpoint are mind-numbingly dumb to the point where playing on the highest difficulty doesn’t present a significantly harder challenge. Their reaction to a buddy getting shot in front of them is often one of confusion; they’ll stand still in the open instead of scurrying for cover. They don’t fare much better in the midst of combat, either, running between the same two pieces of cover without engaging you or seemingly forgetting you exist. Occasionally they might try to flank your blindside, but more often than not their strategy boils down to charging directly at you, making it incredibly easy to line up your shots and dispatch a few in a row. Bottlenecks like corridors and doorways are by far their worst enemy, though. Sit down one end of a straight corridor and it doesn’t take long for the bodies to pile up. You can even shoot the ground at the entrance to a base and kill each enemy who comes to investigate. Factor in the disappointing fact that enemies don’t so much as flinch when getting shot in the body, and none of this is conducive to enjoyable combat.
Shooting other players in the Ghost War PvP mode fares better since real people tend to have their wits about them compared to the AI. Unlike Wildlands, Breakpoint cleverly unifies progression across both single- and multiplayer. All of your weapons and skills carry over, and any rewards you unlock can be brought back into single-player, too. Elimination and Sabotage make up the game modes on offer, the former ending when one team is eliminated, while the latter functions in much the same way with an additional win condition based on one team successfully planting and destroying a bomb. Matches generally turn into long-range sniper battles due to each map’s wide-open spaces and the fact that a single shot from a sniper is enough to kill somebody. The best matches in Ghost War are tense affairs, especially since you only have a single life unless a teammate can perform a successful revive. The issues with Breakpoint’s cumbersome cover mechanics and awkward prone movement are only exacerbated in multiplayer, however.
It can also be difficult just getting into a match of Ghost War due to relatively frequent server issues. Breakpoint is an always-online game, even if you’re playing alone in single-player. The servers have run into a few problems since the game’s full release, and it’s incredibly frustrating to be kicked back to the main menu and have to restart a mission all over again when you’re not even engaging with the multiplayer portion of the game. If you do want to do so, the servers are running smoothly, and you can get some like-minded friends together, there’s definitely some fun to be had in Breakpoint’s four-person co-op. Silently clearing a base of its enemies is more gratifying with four people. You can plan ahead, simultaneously approach the compound through different entrances, and time sync shots together. It’s more chaotic with strangers but you can jump into matches with random players if you fancy a taste of open-world chaos.
There is, however, some dissonance between co-op and the story painting you as a lone soldier, although this is much more egregious in Breakpoint’s social hub. You can play the whole game solo, but mission givers all hang out in this homely cave where you’ll also find 50 or so other players. Your character is literally called Nomad, and yet you’re in a space with a bunch of other Nomads, all standing around the same NPC like it’s an MMO. And the story’s not great either way. Jon Bernthal elevates every scene he’s in, chewing up the scenery to deliver simmering monologues befitting a villain with a dubious moral code. The writing is mostly cheesy, though, with some flat voice acting and predictable twists. The inventor of the island’s killer drones develops a minor Oppenheimer complex when he realises his creations can be used to kill innocent people, but this aspect isn’t explored beyond surface level, and that applies to the rest of the narrative too.
Much like the loot, the light survival mechanics aren’t fleshed out enough to warrant any engagement beyond the limited amount you’re forced into.
The presence of the social hub and the effect it has on diminishing the story would’ve been worse if the story were better. As it is, the social hub seems to exist to guide players towards Breakpoint’s myriad microtransactions. Maybe that’s an overly cynical viewpoint, but why else would you gather players in an open space other than to encourage them to show off by purchasing fancy new cosmetics? You can buy tattoos, shirts, masks, hats, weapons, vehicles, and more. Purchasing in-game money also comes in denominations that ensure you’re always spending more than you need. You don’t have to engage with any of this stuff, and it’s easy enough to ignore, but this microtransaction structure is predatory by design.
It would make sense if the addition of loot were in service of guiding people to spend real money on better guns, but even then the stats are so meaningless it would take a lot of convincing. There’s some surprising fun to be had stealthily infiltrating enemy compounds and playing with friends, but Breakpoint is still a generic and distinctly sub-par game. It’s essentially every Ubisoft open-world game rolled into one, failing to excel in any one area or establish its own identity. Breakpoint is a messy, confused game and a ghost of the series’ former self.
In Short: Something of a greatest hits collection of ideas from Ubisoft’s other open world games but it also has some fun new ideas of its own… as well as a mountain of glitches and microtransactions.
Pros: A massive amount of content, addictive gear score upgrading, fun feats of marksmanship against horribly unbalanced odds, and a setting that won’t offend any Bolivians.
Cons: The focus on microtransactions in a £60 game is deeply offensive. Laundry list of bugs, largely redundant gun upgrade system, and the worst dialogue and voice-acting in a AAA game this gen.
I will rate this game 6/10.
|Producer(s)||Nouredine Abboud (Executive Producer)|
|Composer(s)||Alain Johannes Alessandro Cortini|
|Series||Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon|
|Release||4 October 2019|