Looking for a connected shooter that’s more grounded in reality than some recent releases? Ubisoft is hoping that’s the case, with their release of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Featuring the tactical gameplay that the Ghost Recon series is known for, plus a continuation of the open-world mechanics that Wildlands implemented, and a few new things introduced just for this entry, can this mishmash of genres provide a fun and unique enough time to warrant a purchase?
Take a Vacation on
Breakpoint takes place on the fictional South Pacific island Auroa. Yes, you’ll keep wanting to call it Aurora, but the actual name is Auroa. It just wouldn’t be an Ubisoft-published game without some weirdness, after all! Players take on the role of Nomad, a Ghost from the 5th Special Forces Group. The nickname Nomad works pretty well considering the player can be either male or female. The only time gender seems to make a difference is when enemies spot you if you play as a woman, they will yell out that it’s a woman they’re fighting, which I suppose would surprise anyone crazy enough to go rogue against the United States for seemingly no good reason.
The island of Auroa is a beautiful place, with lush environments, dense foliage, wildlife aplenty, oh and killer drones that are really good at spotting you. The only real letdown graphically in Breakpoint is the character models. While not too evident when sniping others, during cutscenes the plastic quality to skin and odd facial expressions can really be a distraction from an otherwise stellar looking game. Playing on the PS4 Pro offers a Resolution rendering mode, which loads in higher-resolution at the expense of frame rate (the default mode, Graphical fidelity, uses lower-resolution assets, but helps the system hit its target 60 frames per second more often). This helps a bit, but people still look odd in Breakpoint.
An entirely standalone campaign can be experienced solo, with the occasional AI squad mate to take the place of other players. However, drop-in/drop-out online co-op is also supported at any point during the game, with all progress saved for all players. The character customizations set up at the start are as of this writing permanent – you cannot change your character’s gender or their physical attributes once they are chosen, which is a really odd restriction to have that feels out of place in today’s games. Perhaps there is a technical reason why gender and physical traits cannot be changed after the fact, but hopefully the ability to switch things up will be patched in at a later date.
Divide and Conquer
There are a ton of things to do in Breakpoint, especially once the prologue chapter is completed. This introduces you to the homesteads, where NPC resistance fighters can be found. These locations advance the story, but also serve as hubs where other players can be found running around (the area is guns-free, much like in other connected shooters such as Destiny or The Division). It can feel a bit overwhelming at first, as seemingly the entire map is open from this point, which is a bit bigger than Wildlands. Breakpoint launches with a Guide mode turned on by default, which automatically points players in the right direction with waypoints and objectives clearly marked. However, players are urged early on to disable this helpful feature, in order that they may feel somewhat lost, as the story does set up the player character Nomad as marooned from the outset.
Turning this guided mode off is a novel idea. Waypoints are removed, and players have to make their own beacons on their map based on various clues given by NPCs or from intel gathered off dead enemies or in the environment. If you have some extra time to play games these days, then first of all this writer is jealous, but secondly, it does feel a little more rewarding when you are able to piece together exactly where an objective is without having your hand held the entire time. If, however, you don’t have a ton of time and just want to get to the next checkpoint, well then, the Guided mode is perfect.
Loot shooters have an inherently addictive game loop built into them. Players are given a drip-feed of new items to collect as they inch ever closer to endgame content. While the application of such mechanics feels weird in a game about surviving on your own on a remote island, the addictive nature of the loot shooting genre provides enough of a dopamine rush to keep most players interested until they have superior gear. It makes no sense that you can suddenly equip a massive rifle after shooting a guy who wasn’t carrying one to begin with, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough, then it’s simply a fun reward system to engage with.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint Review | PlayStation LifeStyle
Squad Up, or Not
Naturally, Breakpoint was designed with multiplayer in mind. Squads of, you guessed it, up to four players are all but required to tackle some of the later and end-game content. The final story mission, for instance, requires a level of 150, which will take most players a few dozen hours to reach. Despite being located on a remote island, a seemingly limitless amount of vehicles are at the squad’s disposal, including helicopters for going in to enemy territory as quickly as possible. Roaming around, looking for action with friends is a fun activity, and successfully executing a solid plan can feel very rewarding.
A lot of the challenge in Breakpoint lies in the fact that the player is woefully outnumbered. Each enemy on their own, even the most elite, are relatively weak and dumb. During my time with Breakpoint, I saw many instances where patrols didn’t seem to notice the lack of a soldier from the area, and even ignored a dead body I completely expected them to see. Some of this may have been the result of the difficulty level being set to Normal, but even at this level you’d expect the enemy to react to seeing a fallen comrade. Large explosions, such as those from a well-placed mine destroying a vehicle, are also not heard by other enemies only a few hundred meters away in a canyon. If you have any experience with a third-person shooter, it is highly recommended to play at least one level above Normal, as this mode is geared a bit too far towards the casual level to present much of a challenge for most players.
Having said that, one thing remains constant in Breakpoint, and that is that bullets hurt. Players and enemies alike can die with just a few shots, and anyone who takes a shot to the head is dead, period. A couple of body shots is also enough to down all but the most well-equipped characters, while the legs will slow enemies down (and also preserve chances to pick up intelligence, and thus an opportunity to unlock better gear). This lethality of ammunition is a big differentiator in Breakpoint, and what separates it from other open-world shooters.
Hold on to Your Wallets
Now, let’s talk about microtransactions. You see, when a publisher and a developer’s business team love each other, they get together, and…oh wait, wrong topic. Anyway, microtransactions are alive and well in Breakpoint. As of this writing, there are no shortcut items available for purchase to automatically level up a player, though such items are due to return to the game sometime in the future. Indeed, the only things for sale are items that can be unlocked through the normal course of playing the game. Some may argue that this still makes the game pay-to-win, but the best equipment in the world doesn’t change the fact that a headshot from any weapon will still kill someone just the same.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint has the recipe for being a fun, tactical game to play with friends and strangers alike. While playing solo will remain a decent enough way to experience the game, playing with a group of dedicated friends is what it was made for. The continuity of using the same player character across all game modes makes for a coherent package. Some AI issues and occasionally unclear mission objectives may get in the way, but if Ubisoft’s planned DLC schedules work out, then there will be a decent amount of new things to see and do on Auroa for a while to come.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.