It wasn’t long ago when I commented that I was optimistic and excited about the direction that the Ghost Recon franchise is heading. I remember watching the trailer for Breakpoint and thinking to myself, “This feels more like the Advanced Warfighter and Future Soldier games than Wildlands ever was…” To an extent, I was correct, but it seems that Ubisoft has borrowed more from other games in their stable of IPs than I could’ve ever anticipated.
Jennifer of course caved to my wishes to allow me to get us a couple of copies on the launch date, so as soon as I got out of work on the the 4th of October, I went home and started the install. I had deliberately kept myself in the dark regarding the game itself, as I didn’t want to spoil the plot at all. To give full credit, there actually is a plot to spoil, though it isn’t something I’d equate to truly narrative driven games. Players step into the shoes of one of the Ghosts who are en route to the island of Auroa (which I keep misspelling and mispronouncing as “Aurora”), which has severed contact with the rest of the world, and is near the sinking of a military vessel that had been leaving the island. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and you make a bit of an unscheduled landing.
The rest of the game focuses on the main character working with the locals, along with the survivors of the Ghosts, to unravel what happened and work to safely call for reinforcements.
Loot The Loot For More Loot
Breakpoint takes place in the near future, where military technology has begun to incorporate autonomous drones on the battlefield. Strangely, in this hypothetical future, that’s the only advancement that has been made. It seems that since drones are the future, the Ghosts have stuck with the same gear they’ve been using since their cohorts in Bolivia finished handing the country to the next brutal regime.
Speaking of gear, that’s the main focus of player advancement in Breakpoint. While there is a leveling system in place for skills you can acquire, what makes it possible for you to take on bigger and badder enemies is the level of gear you equip. If that all sounds familiar, that’s because it’s basically the same system as it was in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The weapons themselves are just as inspired as they are in The Division 2, where you just pick up incrementally better versions of the same guns over and over. Thankfully, any weapon attachments you unlock are free to be equipped an unlimited amount of times onto any compatible weapons you own, and there are upgrade paths for each weapon that can be carried over to other versions of the same make. This means that the TAC50 anti-materiel rifle (which Jennifer affectionately refers to as “TACO”) can be upgraded to a Mk. 2 and Mk. 3 level weapon, increasing stats like damage, range, and accuracy, and those upgrades will be there on any other TAC50 you equip.
As a nitpick that likely nobody else will notice or care about, there’s a problem with the ammunition in this game. Real equivalents of the TAC50 and M82 fire .50 BMG rounds (TAC50 literally has the caliber in the weapon designation). The P90 and (FN) 5.7 USG equivalents both fire 5.7mm pistol rounds (again, right in the name of the 5.7 USG). The MP7 fires a 4.6mm round. The AK What do all of these have in common? They apparently all fire NATO caliber ammunition.
Breakpoint gets these calibers completely wrong. There are apparently only six ammo types: 5.56mm, 7.62mm, .338, 9mm, .45, and 12g. It’s an easy enough oversight to fix, as many other game developers have done it before. Just name the ammunition the gun uses after the class of weapon that uses it. This just looks like a lazy attempt to make the gun statistics look factual.
It’s a good system in the sense that you’re hardly penalized for switching weapons as you progress through the game, but in many cases, the only improvements you’ll be making to your character will be the gear score. Compounding this a little is the fact that in order to get gear of a higher level, you need to make sure that your level is increasing, so you will be switching out your gear A LOT.
Essentially, Ubisoft has morphed the Ghost Recon franchise into another “looter-shooter” franchise, very similar to The Division.
This is made all the more evident by the introduction of a store you can access on the island, of which you use Skell Credits to pay for items. Why an island occupied by a paramilitary force still has a functional economy is beyond me, but whatever. Unfortunately, a large portion of the store is pointless, because you’ll be replacing any weapons or gear you can buy with stuff you find lying around everywhere in Auroa. There are chests filled with body armor, headgear, guns, ammo, meds, and explosives in every base, settlement, shack, house, or ancient ruin on the archipelago.
For some reason, people stash Skell Credits in ancient ruins…
And somehow you’re going to find watermelons and bananas littering the landscape everywhere you turn. I know there’s a crafting system in place to make consumables, but I have yet to actually make full use of them, or had any trouble actually making them at all. Auroa is blanketed with fresh fruit I guess, because there sure as hell aren’t any banana trees or watermelon vines I’ve seen… You just start walking and…
Jokes aside, Breakpoint is bursting at the seams with loot, but I can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing. On one hand, it’s nice to not need to grind to progress, but I can’t really tell if I’m making any meaningful progression. If anything, I’m just making a ton of side-grades and selling or dismantling everything I pick up. This wouldn’t be so bad if the inventory or menu interfaces were functional, but they’re slow, clunky, and little direction is given regarding how things actually work.
For instance, I knew early on that I could dismantle the gear I wasn’t using, but it never showed me what to do with those components. I eventually figured out what they were for, but I made that discovery on my own. I suppose it worked out, and I certainly don’t need my hand held, but if they’re going to make me trudge through scores of tutorials about how to equip a weapon and buy something from Maria the shopkeeper, they could at least explain some of the minutia of the game.
Luckily, Ghost Recon still rewards you for thinking tactically. The AI isn’t horrifically stupid most of the time, and will utilize cover whenever possible. That said, you won’t be fighting Johnny Bernthal’s Wolves very much compared to the dozens of Sentinel Corp. mooks you’ll be gunning down left and right. Trust me when I say that Sentinel Corp. has tons of bodies to throw at the Ghosts; you will be killing hundreds, if not thousands, of bad guys.
Ubisoft incorporated a neat way to make use of the bodies by including locked rooms in each major base with gadget replenishments and whatnot, but as far as I can tell, there’s no other reason to bother carrying a body anywhere. It’s my understanding that you can prevent bodies from being discovered if you want to be stealthy, but it’s not like you’re going to be incapable of dealing with the consequences of being discovered. Still, there’s something empowering about parachuting into a base with your teammates and wiping the enemy out before they even know you’re there.
Which brings me to my next point… Breakpoint is clearly designed with co-op in mind. This isn’t even an assumption of mine; it quite literally says it in the game itself. That isn’t to say that you can’t play the game alone, but they stripped the AI characters from the game completely prior to launch and a persistent online connection is required to just play the game. It’s little wonder that Breakpoint is at its best when you’re playing with others, and some of the most fun I’ve had was playing with Jennifer and my father (love you, Joe!). Playing with other people doesn’t necessarily make the game easier, as it’s easy enough already, but you can play around with various military tactics, as well as make full use of vehicles as more than just transportation.
If only the vehicles didn’t have what seems like input lag when trying to steer. The vehicles themselves are immensely important considering the size of the map itself, as well as the smorgasbord of locations to visit. I’m hesitant to say that the map has too much in it, but it’s difficult to avoid that sentiment. There’s a reason why tactical shooters tend to function better in confined environments in contrast to the ridiculous land masses of games like Wildlands and Breakpoint. When all it takes to recover from a mistake is to hop in a vehicle and drive away, it takes the teeth out of the bite of tactical errors. The enemies themselves aren’t dangerous enough in most instances to pose any real threat, especially when you are playing with others, and the most dangerous of foes, like the “Behemoth” drones, can be “cheesed” quite easily by just remaining at a safe distance and sniping them. Unfortunately, this method is almost necessary, because said “Behemoths” are bullet sponges and will tear you to pieces in seconds if you’re caught out in the open. The biggest challenge to eliminating these drones to get at the loot they guard is trying to not run out of ammo.
All-in-all, Breakpoint is a mixed experience. On one hand, I’ve had a mountain of fun playing it, but on the other hand, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it could’ve been so much better. I guess it follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor in that way, as I really enjoyed Wildlands at launch, and loved it even more once they worked on some of its flaws. I would’ve preferred that Ubisoft didn’t use as much of The Division‘s design philosophy, and just made a single-player game that could be played co-op, instead of the other way around. Similarly, it would’ve been nice to see them retain the remarkable attention to detail of older Tom Clancy games, as well has the namesake’s novels.
With all that in mind, I think I’m going to have to put this one on the back burner because of The Outer Worlds. I’m certainly not done with Auroa though; I’m still interested to see if Ubisoft can improve the experience a little more.