Ghost Recon Breakpoint is Ubisoft’s much anticipated follow up to Ghost Recon Wildlands. With a couple of weekends of the beta under my belt, expectations have been high for the full release, and with high spirits I set off into the fictional archipelago of Auroa. With an ambitious story arc and new multiplayer options to experience, alongside more missions than you can shake a stick at, signs were initially good.
So, the first thing you have to involve yourself in with Breakpoint is to design your character, and thankfully in this game it is pretty good, allowing you to come up with some truly awe-inspiring creations. It’s not quite as in-depth as something like Code Vein, but it will allow you to make an avatar that isn’t too far from your own visage. Personally I tend to just hit “Randomise” until I find someone who I don’t find too objectionable, and with Breakpoint I initially ended up with a vaguely Oriental looking woman, before being thrown into the story.
And what an opening Breakpoint has.
It tells the tale of how a US Navy ship has sunk off the coast of Auroa, with communications lost. We, a team of Ghosts in helicopters, are sent to find out what has gone on, yet as we fly in our helicopters are attacked by what looks like a flock of bats, but with the power to take down a helicopter. Crashing, before coming to, we find ourselves badly injured, limping around the place and trying to find survivors.
First order of business is to heal ourselves, and it’s a testament to how tough the Ghosts are that with the application of a couple of bandages, we can then jog away from a helicopter crash that has killed the rest of the squad. Making it from crash site to crash site, we find only dead Ghosts until finally we discover a survivor, arriving just in time to see him executed by the leader of the bad guys, a man called Walker, who used to be a Ghost, like us. Now he seems to be writing his own orders, and they seem to include just killing anything that he perceives as a threat. Eventually we make our way to Erewhon, making contact with a man called Mads Schulz, who is the leader of the resistance to Walker’s unit – The Wolves – before ending up having to help him and other NPCs we meet in the world. This is the basis then for the rest of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, with quests to be found, people to speak to, and bad guys to take out in a stealthy manner.
Graphically, the world of Auroa is nicely represented, with scenery ranging from beaches and lakes to snowy mountains and underground bases. The wind blows, the trees sway, and weather effects such as rain and snow really do make the game harder, as visibility is massively reduced. The effect of standing in a blizzard, trying to spot enemies through the gloom, while the snow builds up on your character is very well done. Draw distances are pretty good as well, with only minimal pop up when flying high in a helicopter; climbing up and down mountains and seeing the world open up before your eyes is very impressive. The audio is as you’d expect too – silenced weapons and enemies shouting as they try to figure out where the threat is coming from. There is a smattering of music that cuts in every now and then, but to be honest it isn’t memorable and adds nothing to the game. The soundscape works much better when we are left with just the noises of the world; wildlife, birds, footsteps and gunfire.
In a way, it’s pretty much business as usual with Breakpoint, as it basically runs the same setup as Wildlands, only with no AI teammates to help you out. You are given an objective, you get to the objective – scout the base or whatever – then take out any bad guys as quietly as possible, before picking up intel or rescuing a prisoner. There is a bit of change in the missions this time around, however, playing either in guided mode or not. In guided, when a mission is given, a marker in placed on the map and off you trot. In non-guided mode, you have to gather intel in the world or from NPCs, gradually narrowing down the area where the objective can be found. This adds a welcome layer of complexity to the game, as there is a real sense of achievement in chasing the clues down and completing a mission that starts with “It’s east of some lake you’ve not found and in a province you’ve not visited”.
The grind is also real with Breakpoint, with certain areas requiring a specific Gear Score before you can even think about setting foot there. As an example, in the prologue, when you first see Walker, you get a warning on the screen that this is a Level 150+ area, and with my Gear Score standing at one, with a pistol that would do more damage if I was to throw it at an enemy, I wisely decided that discretion was the better form of valour and ran away as fast as my little legs would carry me.
There is a decent loot system in Breakpoint too, one that seems to have taken some cues from Borderlands or Destiny, with different level gear being represented by colour, ranging from white (the most common) through green, blue, purple and all the way up to gold – legendary items that are quite rare. As the tiers of loot rise, then there are different perks that can be attached, such as extra XP or +20% accuracy attached to a sniper rifle. Luckily, finding new gear happens quite regularly, with either enemies dropping gear, or determined exploration being rewarded with finding chests that contain weapons, armour or attachments. This is in addition to special chests that either contain blueprints for weapons, or even Skill Points if you are super lucky. Getting a build together to take on the latter game activities is quite a slog, but it’s been weirdly enjoyable, reminding me of Destiny from back in the day. Even now, seeing a golden item drop from an enemy who has been sneakily sniped from the other side of the base is liable to ensure a mad dash through the base; something which usually never ends well.
To me, this style of games have always been at their best when you are playing with a team, with a crew to watch your back and help you take down difficult bases and enemies. Having a team communicating, spotting enemies and timing synchronised shots to take out the most dangerous enemies without being spotted is a genuine highlight. However, in a move that I didn’t agree with in Wildlands, and now that has tainted the world of Breakpoint, competitive multiplayer has been introduced. This to me is a silly move, as I am of the firm belief that not every game needs a PvP mode. With a stealth based game and mechanics built around being a sneaky ninja, why would Team Deathmatch fit in that environment? Every game I have played ends up with a bunch of people charging around, being picked off one by one until the two remainers break off from fighting and go and revive their teammates, seeing the process starting again. It’s dull, slow, janky and seems to run badly, with the enemies you do manage to spot through a sniper scope seeming to slide around without moving their legs. Also having someone teleport out of your sight as you fire, revealing your position, to then fall victim to two bullets from an assault rifle 150 yards away, is extremely frustrating.
The other PvP mode, which seems be to a carbon copy of Rush from the Battlefield series, involves setting a charge at a point then trying to stop it from being disarmed. Sadly, again, the pace of the game doesn’t lend itself to the action on display. It takes so long to set a charge, and they are all in such an open area that even trying is tantamount to suicide. All you need to do on the defending team is lay in the distance, with a sniper rifle, and watch the point that you need to defend. Anyone trying to set a charge can then be dispatched quite easily with a bullet to the dome. Attacking is such a thankless task that it again makes it very hard to whip up any enthusiasm to play any more.
Sadly, this is only the beginning of the list of what is wrong with Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
Take the vehicles that you drive for instance. Helicopters are great, but the cars and especially the motorcycles have hilariously bad handling. Seriously, it’s like the tyres are made of butter when you try to drive on tarmac, but then they suddenly become the grippiest things ever and let you drive up almost sheer cliffs. The bikes are just uncontrollable unless you drive everywhere at 5mph, and the trucks act like they are on the moon, jumping and bouncing about like it was only lunar gravity that they had to worry about.
When your character isn’t in a vehicle, any attempt to walk down a slope will see them slide as if they have Teflon trousers on, unless you crouch, in which case you can duck walk down sheer cliffs. The traversal mechanic is also pretty broken, with our super soldier seemingly unable to jump over a waist high wall, while at other times is able to vault obstacles with ease, even getting themselves into places where the only way to get out again is to fast travel to a bivouac that you’ve previously found.
The check-pointing in the missions is also very unpredictable. The one that has stuck in my mind focused on rescuing a scientist. If you die, sometimes the game will start you in the woman’s office, and the next time it would spawn you 300 metres away in a forest, leaving you to try and run through the enemies to get back to her. Also, especially in this mission, the scripting of enemy encounters is absolutely stupid. You have to carry her out on your back, so to make life easier I went and cleared a path, brought a helicopter close, and then picked her up. The instant I carried her through a door I had cleared 10 seconds earlier, carrying her through triggered three Wolves to appear out of nowhere and proceed to fill me with hot lead. I’m not ashamed to say that at point I just switched the Xbox off and walked away…
In conclusion then and Ghost Recon Breakpoint on Xbox One does have a lot of ambitions and ideas, but then drowns them in a tide of nonsense and poor design. I have enjoyed the game at least in the PvE environment, as the multiplayer PvP is not very good at all. Grinding for levels, exploring, and finding missions is a great deal of fun, but the problems are never far away. The parallels to the early Destiny game are quite appropriate, as it feels like with a little bit of care, a few patches and some attention paid, then it could be a contender. Sadly though, as it stands you will find yourself playing through the issues, just hoping you don’t come across anything too serious. There is fun to be had here, but I can’t tell you it’s a good game as things stand at the moment.