The Ghost are back, this time trapped on a hi-tech island under siege by a one of their own, gone bad.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the follow up to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. The new game swaps the drug-fuelled warzone of Bolivia for the far less contentious fictional island of Auroa, the South Pacific Island paradise of tech billionaire, Jace Skell.
Unfortunately, the island has been taken over by Skell’s security company, Sentinel. They, in turn, have drafted in rogue Ghost, Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. Walker, who you may remember from the recent Wildlands Operation Oracle DLC mission. Walker is played by The Punisher, himself, Jon Bernthal. Yep, this time it’s personal.
The game starts with the Ghosts getting dispatched to Auroa following the mysterious sinking of the USS Seay, off the coast of the island. As the platoon approaches their helicopters are attacked by a drone swarm. Injured, alone and behind enemy lines the player has to find and make contact with the surviving members of the team.
Once again, players take on the role of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman. You can play as a male or female character, Anthony being an interesting name for a woman, though.
Ubisoft have long been privy to the game creation algorithms that make them work. Like digital MSG, adding tried and tested game mechanics to an otherwise bland idea makes for a better, if still slightly unfulfilling gaming experience.
And that’s what we have here.
Ubisoft have really thrown the kitchen sink at this one. They’ve stuffed in every game mechanic they could find. I wouldn’t be surprise if there weren’t some Rabbids lurking in the code, somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice having lots to do. But Breakpoint has an overwhelming amount of side-quests, missions, crafting and activities held together by such a nose-bleed inducing menu system.
When carefully curated, Ubisoft’s open-world game mechanics work amazingly well in the likes of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, The Division 2, and even Ghost Recon Wildlands. The Breakpoint development team seems to have lacked the restraint or just run out of time to coherently meld these gaming components together.
Breakpoint borrows Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s exploration mode, which makes players search for locations using clues rather than just highlighting the next location on the map. It works well in Assassin’s Creed and kind-of works here. It’s just that the map and menus are so busy it’s easy to get lost in it all.
Even though the visuals were crisp and the game ran buttery smooth, it was rather unstable running on the review rig: an Intel i9 9900K, Asus ROG Z370 and an Nvidia RTX 2080ti. I experienced quite a few crashes to desktop as well as a few BSODs. Very unusual for me with the review rig, which is otherwise solid as a rock. I’m sure this sort of thing will get patched out, as it is after all, part and parcel with PC gaming.
As part of the review I revisited Ghost Recon Wildlands. Despite its technical advances, the 2017 game shows up Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Bolivia looks stunning and real in Wildlands, whilst the island of Auroa is comparatively bland and very generic-looking. That’s not to say that Breakpoint doesn’t look nice, it does. The environment just doesn’t feel as authentic. It looks superficial, especially compared to Wildlands. The mission structure and user interface in Wildlands is refined and easy to follow, rather than the more comprehensive, but messy affair in Breakpoint.
On the plus side, though, the game’s gunsmith mechanic is very good, an improvement on the last game, enabling players to customise their weaponry with interchangeable sights, stocks and barrels. Technically, Breakpoint does build upon Wildlands across the board, but it just doesn’t quite fit together properly.
Even if the landscape does live up to Wildlands’ Bolivia, the island of Auroa is vast and packed with installations and interesting places. The use of a fictional location has enabled the designers the freedom to craft the island’s own history and explore its culture with better world-building and dramatic effect. This time the world fits the story and not the other way around.
There are loads of collectables, weapon parts and clothing upgrades scattered about. Whilst there’s no pause, you can pop on for just a few minutes to hunt down a stash of take out a few bad guys just for the XP. The game has a comprehensive skill tree that includes class specific specialisations.
With a play area so vast, even in a helicopter it takes a while to cross the map, thankfully help is at hand. The games, fast-travel network is handled by bivouac locations. Not only can players quickly travel between these. Building a temporary shelter enables players to apply buffs, retrieve vehicles and skip time.
The world features many advance technologies. The theme of the game is that technology designed for the good of humanity, to enable Skell’s utopian dream has been subverted for use as weaponry. To this end the island is covered with patrol and attack drones, autonomous walking weapons platforms and security robots. The island is also routinely overflown by a predator drone that, if it spots you, will send a platoon of Walker’s elite troops, The Wolves, to hunt you. The Wolves are a formidable enemy, best avoided until you are a high enough level and/or part of a decent multiplayer fireteam.
Whilst the AI teammates from Wildlands sometimes provided more comedy than help (the way used to just appear in your chopper or alongside you out of thin air, for instance), their omission does leave a vacuum. You play Breakpoint alone or with other online players. Apparently, due to fan backlash they are looking to reincorporate your AI teammates in a post-launch patch.
Breakpoint, like its predecessor, is a game designed with multiplayer in mind. There’s a hub area at Mount Hodgson that also acts as a lobby with other players visible, similar to the safe houses in The Division 2. Here you can meet other players and form teams of up to four to experience the game together. There’s also a Ghost War PvP mode, with missions of its own and a raid mode that send your team to Gollum Island. It’s good to see PvP avialble at launch this time, rather than having to wait as we did with Wildlands.
I found Ghost Recon Breakpoint to be a good, fun game. But it’s not really Ghost Recon– having moved so far away from the series’ original concept that it’s practically unrecognisable. The stealth aspect has been whittled away to the point of being inconsequential. Running and gunning will often prevail.
As it stands, Ghost Recon Breakout does its job, it’s entertaining enough. I’ve no doubt that Ubisoft will refine the game into something very special over the next few months. But until then, we are left with a game that a good as it is, has plenty of untapped potential. Despite my reservations, I still had a lot of fun reviewing the game, there’s loads to do, and I’m still enjoying playing it.