With The Outer Worlds and Activision’s reboot of Modern Warfare just around the corner, I had some time to dip into Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, a title that has been receiving a ton of criticism from fans and reviewers alike. Being called a jack of all trades, yet master of none, I can see much of the issues and criticisms that have turned people off, yet I also had a very enjoyable time collecting loot, new guns, and storming enemy camps or ripping down the side of a mountain in one of the many vehicles available. While I didn’t really care for its previous entry, Wildlands, Breakpoint kept me fairly entertained, even as it became a buggy mess, often making my fun come to a screaming halt.
The story behind Breakpoint starts with you being shot down over Auroa, an island owned by Jace Skell, a man in charge of a drone program that has been recently taken over by military forces led by Cole D. Walker, played by The Walking Dead’s and The Punisher’s own, Jon Bernthal. You’re tasked with putting him down and dealing with his weaponized drones. While many of the side quests are often rehashed open-world busywork, the main story itself is fairly entertaining and did keep my interest, despite the often poor voice acting across a dozen or so characters. The history you share with Walker and the moments you’re treated to him and his plan are quite good, far better than the drivel that made up almost all of Wildlands. That said, there is a strong lack of closure to the story that feels like it’s more interested in setting up a future content pack, or sequel, than telling a complete narrative.
Being a direct sequel to Wildlands, you’re back in the boots of Nomad, once again called out to stop a dangerous threat. As you explore Auroa, you’ll make several new allies, infiltrate enemy bases, gather intel, fly down the road via numerous vehicles, and blow shit up. You can become a shadow and stealth kill entire encampments, or go in gun’s blazing alone or with friends. Sadly, you don’t have any AI companions to assist you while playing solo, so you’ll need to adapt your gameplay to one of survival. This survival aspect is built into parts of the gameplay, but not nearly as much as it was previously hinted at. You’ll bandage your injuries, via a painfully slow animation, drink water to push past exhaustion, or cover yourself in mud when enemy forces are patrolling mere feet from you, although, realistically, you’re probably not going to do a lot of that. If you’ve played Wildlands then you’ll know mostly what to expect here, but it’s also very clear that Breakpoint feels largely unfinished and lacks any sort of polish. I’m not surprised by this considering big AAA publishers often look to release a game first and then patch it later.
It’s not long into Breakpoint where you’ll discover that Walker’s personal army, the Wolves, are everywhere. Working for Sentinel, a private military contractor, their presence is all across the island. During your fights with these soldiers and their mechanized drones, you’ll rescue scientists and engineers required to stop the drones that are currently preventing anyone from entering or leaving the island. You’ll find a vast array of allies that have a ton of side quests to help you earn experience and track down more delicious loot. Auroa has various biomes, which is fairly strange for a remote island, but the variety does allow for some areas of the landmass to at least feel and look different, despite the wide arrange of copy and pasted structures that are everywhere. There were so many times I wondered if I was back at the same base doing a different mission until it would happen a dozen times, yet my travels always brought me to somewhere new, yet far too familiar.
Side quests here are as generic as they come. While there are a few nuggets of good storytelling within a few of then, they often result in going to a place and killing something or retrieving some sort of intel. Now, granted, that is often the case with several videogames, but here it just feels incredibly repetitive due to the sameness of the game’s surroundings. While the map itself is often gorgeous, and very spacious, it lacks memorable locations or set pieces that truly set the spectacle of action apart from scenario to scenario. While you can infiltrate dozens upon dozens of locations, planning them becomes far too routine when you’re simply treading familiar ground over and over again.
Apart from the main story and the various side quests, there are faction missions that allow you to level up your faction level, operating like a battle pass that grants you new gear and items each time you level it up. These missions are incredibly short blips and don’t feel thought out at all. In fact, one objective was to steal a truck and upon gunning down the single car that was alongside it, and the three guards nearby, we only had to deliver it down the road, completing the task in less than a minute. While there is more involving objectives, it feels like a system that was added in last-minute or designed around being more involved later on when more content drops.
By accepting all the available side quests, story missions, faction quests, or tracking down special items, the in-game map starts to be very reminiscent of the problems I’ve had with many Ubisoft titles. As you add to the growing list of things to do, it’s not long before dozens and dozens of icons fill the map, making it not just overwhelming to explore, but a nightmare to navigate as the cursor ping pongs from icon to icon. To make matters worse, trying to find your objective marker is downright impossible given it’s hidden among a billion other icons that look remarkably similar. Had a pillar of light or something else been added to your current objective, something that at least would make it stand out, it would have made it far easier and quicker to see where you needed to go. This is made even worse by the fact you can’t zoom freely in and out of the map, only snapping to preset viewpoints that are either too close or too far away. As you push through on foot to new locations, you’ll start to push away the fog of war on the map, but should you fly through areas in your trusty helicopter, the map will not acknowledge that you’ve been there until you touch down on the ground.
Given the success of The Division 2 earlier this year, it’s not surprising that Breakpoint took the live service ball and continued to run with it. Here, you have a game that is always online, regardless of you simply wanting to play it solo, and a wide range of loot to dress up your character in new armor bits and add to your growing collection. You’ll find gear to equip to your head, body, legs, and feet, with each item having stats boosts to various things like increased damage to drones, or faster stamina regeneration. Items come in various colors as we’ve seen a billion times before, with each tier offering more or simply better perks. You can break down weapons and gear into crafting parts, but currently, you can only upgrade or craft weapons, with nothing so far being set to make use of your body-based gear parts that currently have no use in the game. Also, each item requires you to break it down individually, which can take a long time to dismantle a ton of items. It’s a shame you can’t mark items as junk and then mass dismantle them to save you a ton of time, especially in a co-op game where players will want to get right back out there.
While you can access a store at any campsite or through the hub location where you’ll interact with several NPC’s to initiate quests, the store is largely there to craft weapons, buy new gear, or cosmetic items to display over your actual armor for a locked look for your character. As I arrived late to the party to play Breakpoint, I missed out on seeing the microtransactions that were included that served as time-savers, such as having immediate access to skill points, something Ubisoft stated was there to give “late comers” a way to “catch up”. Ubisoft has since stated these were not to be implemented at launch and have since pulled them from the store. Also, being someone late to the party, I did miss out on the constant server crashes and downtime that plagued the early days of the title.
The loop to finding better items, or upgrading your weapons is very satisfying and might be one of the main reasons I’ve had so much fun here. Searching bases for new weapon blueprints or a new set of pants is very rewarding, as it was with The Division 2. While I’m not exactly sure if the Ghost Recon franchise needed to be so similar, I won’t deny that it’s kept me playing and made it far easier to storm my 232th base, filled with the exact same guards and same threats as the 184th one. For as much as the game lacks its own identity, it does have a rewarding gameplay loop here that has been shown to work time and time again.
While the acquisition of new loot is very appealing, each item has a rating that contributes to your overall gear score level. This is something we’ve seen across games like The Division and Destiny, but here, since the game is not baked with RPG elements, it feels largely pointless given you can one-shot anything in the game with a solid shot to the old cranium. Regardless of your gun having a specific gear score rating, it’s possible to one-shot bosses, and frankly, I have killed many of them that way, including the final encounter. This ability to single-shot bosses makes them feel less threatening and pointless when they go down as easy as guard #712. While some of the gear score does contribute to your own survival and ability to take hits, the offensive aspects make the gear score system feel hollow and tacked on when enemies are essentially glass cannons.
Early on, you’ll choose a class to start with; Assault, Panther, Medic, and Sharpshooter. These range from being more efficient in killing, healing, staying in the shadows, or being a threat from afar. You’ll have various tasks to level them up, but the real progression in Breakpoint is in its skill tree. As you kill enemies and complete quests, you’ll earn experience to level up. This then in turn grants you skill points you can put into various passive skills and perks. You can equip up to three perks that can grant you buffs across the entire spectrum of health, ammo, stamina, and more. You can unlock special grenades to use against drones, raise the upgrade tier on your weapons, or get the most out of your cooked rations as you use the nearby camps to boost damage resistance or earning bonus experience. There is a decent system here to creating certain builds, it’s just a shame you can only equip three perks across how many you can actually unlock. Once you hit level 30, the skill point train ends, but you can track down additional skill points out in the wild, allowing you to keep the progression going.
Ghost War, the PVP component to Wildlands, returns to Breakpoint and allows you to take a break from the narrative co-op for some 4v4 warfare against real players. The combat here is identical to its PVE gameplay in that you can heal your wounds, camouflage yourself while prone, or use your drone to scout out enemy players. You’ll utilize the four classes already operating in the game to have your role within the group across two modes at launch via six maps. These modes are Elimination and Sabotage. In Sabotage, players will attempt to arm and disarm two bombs, whereas, in Elimination, you’ll avoid an eventual shrinking map to force each team into an all-out firefight. While the PVP component is fairly enjoyable, the flaws present in the game, which I’ll talk more about next, bleed into multiplayer as well. Matchmaking and session loading times are drastically long between bouts, making for very long gaps between each conflict. Overall, PVP is ok, but still feels tacked on, despite each of the six available maps at launch being designed solely for multiplayer, unlike Wildlands which retrofitted several story map locations into PVP warzones. Breakpoint had the chance to do something truly unique and special here with PVP and took the very lazy approach to offering what feels like the absolute bare minimum.
For as much fun as the shooting and looting can be, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has a ton of glitches and problems that can really put a damper on that fun. While tagging enemies with my drone is incredibly satisfying, especially when you’ve tracked down every last soldier in a base, I’ve had long stretches of time where I couldn’t even summon my drone, or if I could, the tagging system wouldn’t work. There is also a mission where you need to play music over a speaker while guarding it, and upon completing it, the music wouldn’t stop, even upon a reset. While it eventually went away, it was frustrating that it even happened upon rebooting the game, or in the first place. I’ve also had numerous problems with prompts such as trying to quickly get in the gunner seat of a vehicle as the game can’t make up its mind where the entry spot on the vehicle was, or when you’re trying to talk to a quest giver who is surrounded by two motorbikes and since interacting with vehicles and people are the same button, well, you probably know where I’m going with this.
Another clear problem here is that enemy AI is non-existent, making for puzzling moments of detection, or the lack thereof. Enemies will clearly be aware of you, even being alerted to your presence, and will either go about their business and go back to patrolling, or be fully aware of where you are despite losing line of sight. Because of this, enemies act as a light switch; on or off, and are rarely entertaining or act realistically in any capacity and are often as dumb as the rocks and trees you’re taking cover behind. Also, speaking of cover, the auto cover system here is probably one of the worst cover systems I’ve ever seen in some time, having me often move and reset my character so they are facing the direction that I want, often getting detected in the process. Running up stairwells or pushing through tight areas will often result in your character sticking to a wall and making their movement feel incredibly clunky. Had the game just allowed me to button press into cover, then I feel it would have made me enjoy the cover system instead of downright hating it. Also, your character will often have to bandage their wounds and this is displayed with a slow animation of your character wrapping up their leg and the camera swings around for you to see this animation play out. The problem is that the camera will get stuck on walls or moved around where you’ll have a massive blind spot, and breaking the animation is just a little too long when you have a guard walking towards you. Combine this with constant moments of animations not syncing up correctly, or enemies shooting me through walls, it clearly shows that Ubisoft rushed this title out before the barrage of holiday releases hit.
It’s very clear that Breakpoint is a very bug-ridden and problem-filled mess that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, but regardless of that, there is still a foundation for a very enjoyable game here. I’ve certainly had some fun despite its problems, and much of it has to do with playing alongside friends or other players. Granted, many things are better with other people, but still, Breakpoint does have a solid experience here among those problems. I certainly can’t recommend it at full price or until several issues are fixed, but when the title sees an eventual price drop, and it will, it may not be such a bad purchase to make to join up with friends to take over the map or jump into a few PVP matches. Currently, Breakpoint is an average experience that feels remarkably unpolished for a AAA release and one that feels just a tad too close to what Ubisoft already released this year with The Division 2, which is a vastly superior product. Again, Breakpoint is not a bad game, it just doesn’t give enough reasons to jump in right now until the game has seen several patches and quality of life improvements.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint was purchased by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.