Excitement was high as the clock ticked down towards the appointed hour; the hour when I could get my hands on the Ghost Recon Breakpoint Beta. Never mind Gears 5, I wanted to get down and dirty in the jungle with the Ghosts, and the same kind of exacting but rewarding gameplay I remembered from the many hours I spent running around in Wildlands. Due to reasons, which I was not made privy to, the Beta hadn’t started by 10pm, and being an old, old man, I toddled off to bed and dreamt of warfare. But, springing from my bed arthritically, I scurried down the next day to find the Beta available, and I dived in head first. Come with me as I try to relate what I saw and felt over the next couple of days.
First off and we have to talk about the setup and the whole reason why the Ghosts were where they were. A man named Skell has been developing a concept he calls “World 2.0”, talking about how technology can be used to make the world a better place. He gathered in scientists and boffins, and set them to work for the betterment of mankind, until something changed. Now Skell Tech seems to be primarily weapons, and the indigenous people of the area are starting to be oppressed by the Sentinals, Skell’s private militia. There is another layer of soldier above them, known only as Wolves, and the weird thing is that they appear to be set along the same lines as the Ghosts: small units, highly trained and absolutely lethal.
Weird that is until the start of the game where we witness an ex-Ghost – Walker – executing an injured Ghost, and confirming his loyalty to his Wolves. And to make things worse, he’s the Punisher! Okay, hes played by Jon Bernthal, but stick a skull on his chest and I’d be really worried…
So, after seeing this and finding no survivors from the helicopter crash that stranded us here, it’s no surprise to learn that there is a resistance, and that they are interested in putting us to work. Known as Homesteaders, they are descendants of the crew of a Cold War base that was decommissioned, and settled on the headland to farm. Once you find their base of operations, it becomes your base; you’re able to rest, shop, find missions and engage in a spot of PvP warfare should the fancy take you.
Talking to people opens up investigations, and these are interesting to pursue. Rather than being given a map spot to head to, you are told roughly where to look, and then are left to scout the area out, talk to civvies and interrogate soldiers to find the location you need. With minimal hand-holding, this approach makes Ghost Recon Breakpoint more challenging at a stroke, and I think the game is the better for it. Wildlands could sometimes just become a mass of objectives, and the map and HUD this time around are a lot cleaner. Big thumbs up to Ubisoft from me on this one!
Graphically, and for a beta, I was blown away. The draw distances are immense, and despite every so often bridges suddenly popping into view when flying, the look of the game is great. It’s a different world than Wildlands, with more open mountains and rolling plains, and sitting on a hillside sniping down into an enemy is great fun. Being sneaky, using the drone to spot, silently killing people from a mile away with a sniper rifle, then swapping it up and going in all guns blazing is genuinely exciting.
Playing with a squad makes it even better, with one person on overwatch, another sneaking into the base, and the teamwork it forces you to engage in making all these Battle Royale games irrelevant. This, to me, is what games are at their best doing: you and a group of friends against the AI, testing your skills. Telling my teammate to wait while I removed a sentry, before sending him on again is gaming at its most pure. Being able to choose different skillsets/loadouts to complement each others play styles, being able to prepare before a tough encounter in a Zelda style by cooking food to give extra damage resistance, upgrading weapons, searching for new and exotic gear… It reminds me almost of early-doors Destiny, with opening chests and equipping new gear to up your Gear Score absolutely vital.
By the end of the beta, my gear score was around 34, and I was still being warned I wasn’t strong enough! And boy, they weren’t kidding, as the drones and other Skell Tech you come across can ruin your entire day. I thought I was being clever, placing a C4 trap on a road and then aggro-ing a mech, but even four sticks failed to really scratch the armour, and it showed its displeasure by nor bothering with guns, and instead squishing me into the road surface. I left the area… slowly and quietly after that!
So, what have I made of the beta? Well, even in a season that includes games like Borderlands 3 and Gears 5, Ghost Recon Breakpoint has gone to the top of my most wanted list. There’s a ton of things to do, like Fallout I barely touched the main campaign and spent most of my time just exploring and getting into scrapes. The gunsmith screen is like porn for gun enthusiasts, with each component seemingly able to be tweaked and changed, and the sheer scale of the map is hard to behold.
With a fantastic grind element, which isn’t anywhere near as bad as Destiny was (I never found gear below my current level, for instance) Ghost Recon Breakpoint on Xbox One is set to rule my life.
If the beta is anything to go by, then roll on the full game!