In 2017, Ubisoft launched the next entry in the Ghost Recon series, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands. It was the series first foray into the open-world structure, with a massive recreation of Bolivia. The game launched a bit rough around the edges but grew into a fun Arma-lite: tactical campaigns without the rigidness of the Arma series. It allowed players to jump in-and-out of co-op, exploring the world, carrying out missions and living in the shoes of the legendary Ghosts. The game had a simple formula of giving players a massive playground to run free in.

Unfortunately, it’s follow up has traded the simplicity of Wildlands in favor of a convoluted mix of mechanics from other Ubisoft games. Breakpoint has an identity crisis.

Apocalypse Now

The entire premise of Breakpoint is fascinating and exciting. You are part of an elite squad of ghosts who crash land on an island, now, fighting for your life against a relentless force. This force is armed to the teeth with advanced weaponry and robotics, in a world filled with technological wonders and terrors.

For the most part, Breakpoint accomplishes this through the visual design of the Wolves and the mechanized terrors on the island. You feel hunted when you’re cowering in the mud as a drone flies over you. Breakpoint’s moment-to-moment gameplay can be exciting and shows glimpses of the overwhelming odds that the Ghosts are facing, all alone.

If the killer robot can’t see me, he can’t hurt me.

Except, you’re not alone. And at that moment the idea of being hunted behind enemy lines completely falls apart. Breakpoint features a hub-world much like the tower in Destiny or the White House in The Division 2. The hub world of Breakpoint completely goes against the narrative and tension implied by the game.

You leave the brutal jungles of Arora and step into a pristine, overgrown village hidden in the caves where random human players run-around, participate in emote tag (where you just spam someone emotes till they respond) and a ridiculous micro-transaction store (which is a whole other problem). Of course, some may not be bothered by having a hub world and this is completely based on personal opinion, but for me this completely ruins the survival fantasy I longed for in Breakpoint.

Beautiful? Yes. Pointless. Also yes.

And the winner of games that don’t need a hub world goes to….

Breakpoint story itself is a mixed bag. The narrative revolves around the central antagonist of the game Cole D. Walker, played by The Walking Dead / Punisher’s Jon Berenthal. Berenthal himself gives a good performance as the leader of the Wolves. I just can’t help but yell “Shane!” every time he’s on-screen.

The supporting case and denizens of Aurora, however, are a bit more mixed in their performance. There are some pretty hilarious lines that were probably meant to show strength or resolve, and then there’s Nomad (your character), who is a pretty stiff person. Besides the dialogue, I actually enjoyed Breakpoint’s story for the most part, primarily scenes with Berenthal’s character.

“Shaneeeee!”

Muddled Warfare

At its core, Breakpoint is a tactical military third-person shooter in a vast, sprawling open world. Wildlands played to its strengths by focusing on this aspect, but Breakpoint is another story. Breakpoint introduces a gear-score system to the Ghost Recon series for the first time. If you need a reminder of what that is, think about loot-shooters like Destiny 2 or another Ubisoft game that came out the same year, The Division 2. What makes Destiny and Division stand out is the importance of higher-tiered loot and how it modifies gameplay. In Breakpoint, it doesn’t seem like your gear-score really matters at all.

Take down’s are cool, but inconvenient if there’s someone nearby.

While taking on a group of enemies that were at a higher level than me, I was still able to dispatch them with a headshot. In The Division 2, a headshot is rarely the end-solution against higher level enemies. The only instance where I felt like the gear mattered was when I was fighting the various robots in the game. In Destiny/Division, when you get a piece of loot it is either satisfying or necessary for dismantling to create components, satisfying the gameplay loop of grinding.

Breakpoint, however, just feels like a lot of busywork. We’re behind enemy lines on a technologically advanced research island, and we’re scrambling to get slightly better boots.

“I wonder what I will find on this utopia of technology” *Slightly better boots* “Shit”

Beyond the inconsequential gear-score, the game also suffers from half-hearted systems. One of the things that had me really excited for Breakpoint was the emphasis on survival elements and nuanced animations that complimented them. I wanted to survive in a harsh jungle behind enemy lines, scrounging for ammunition, supplies and stumbling across the island. What I got instead, were half-baked survival elements that felt like they had no weight or impact on my character.

When your character gets severely injured, it triggers a lengthy animation where the character starts to patch themselves up. While the length sometimes may feel a bit unnecessary, I appreciate the developers giving the player the feeling of scrambling to heal in a tense situation. This feeling goes right away when you realize you can craft healing syringes for not too many resources, automatically restoring your bars of health. Moments like that kill the immersion that the developers were trying to reach.

Tis a scratch!

Breakpoint does shine, however, in its moment-to-moment combat. Much like Wildlands, the combat does feel satisfying especially when landing the perfect headshot or sneaking into a compound completely undetected. There was one moment where I was being hunted by the wolves, the game’s elite antagonist group, where I hid on the ground covering myself with mud and watching a patrol van drive right past me. Thrilling moments like that showcase what the game could be after a lot more patching and fixes.

This, unfortunately, falls apart soon as the game’s A.I. does. Breakpoint’s enemies are not quite the brightest bunch, with enemies walking right past me or not noticing me inching my way behind them. The worst was when I was attacking a compound, and enemies kept rushing at me in a line and I simply had to do an execution animation each and every time.

Not the smartest bunch.

The World of Tomorrow, Today!

Even on consoles, Breakpoint is a good looking game. The world of Arora is beautiful with towering snowy mountains, dense swamps, and jungles for you to traverse. Close up, Breakpoint is a beautiful step up from Wildlands. Looking into the distance, however, Breakpoint suffers from a persistent blurriness that makes the world look washed out. Playing on the Xbox One X, the game looks sharp and the performance is pretty good considering the numerous bugs and oddities I came across. Ubisoft has created a beautiful world in Breakpoint, I just wish traversing wasn’t so unforgiving sometimes.

A beautiful world, just take a chopper so you fall down a hill.

Fluctuating elevations, dense waters, dense forests, Arora has a varied biome for you to run around in. Unfortunately, controlling your character feels very similar to trying to walk right after stubbing your toe really hard. The response time for changing direction feels unresponsive and some of the movement like crouch running looks very awkward. Some of the animations are fantastic, especially walking through a swamp or doing a prone cover. Breakpoint has a mixed bag of animations, but the worst offender is the sliding/elevation change dynamic.

I’m not in the best shape of my life I admit, but I know for a fact that a small hill is not going to drain my stamina to the point where I’m rolling down the hill gasping for air. In Breakpoint, however, the smallest of hills can trigger this annoying state. Here’s a couple of pictures to signify how utterly frustrating this is:

*angry sobbing while falling down a hill*

This seems like a more likely scenario of me falling down a hill.

Between stumbling down slightly steep hills, players can find themselves to bivouacs which act as resting zones and fast-traveling points. Another survival element where the concept is good, but its usefulness is trivial.

Players set up camp (which kicks into animation which can thankfully be skipped), and gives you the choice of various buffs (which leads into another animation). It would have been interesting to be able to scrounge resources together and find effective combinations to boost these buffs, but alas, it all felt very canned and pre-made taking away any tension of survival.

A cool concept, that begs for more depth.

Diamond in the rough

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint is one of the most frustrating games I’ve played in some time. Not just because of it’s choppy dialogue, bizarre gameplay mechanics or the god-damn hills I have fallen down on. It’s frustrating because under the rough exterior it has some moments of truly being a great game. Unfortunately, the game’s issue outnumbers its brilliant moments.

Down, but not out.

While I am frustrated with the game, I’ve come to learn that Ubisoft is the king of the comeback. If months from now the game is patched and re-worked and turns out to be great, I really would not be surprised. Until then, I might be cutting my vacation short on Aurora.

 

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint Review
The Good
  • Good moment-to-moment gameplay
  • Some great moments of tension
  • Aurora is a flawed yet beautiful world
The Bad
  • Inconsequential gear-grind
  • Many gameplay mechanics feel half realized (survival etc)
  • The. God. Damn. Hills. (Traversal is messy)
5.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
2.5

About The Author

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Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.