Ghost Recon feels like a series with an identity crisis. What was once a simpler world, where Rainbow Six focused on tight, interior environments and Ghost Recon offered more sprawling, outdoor spaces, has gotten more complicated. With the ways that the Division, Watch Dogs, and Far Cry all have felt more and more adjacent, how does Ubisoft’s other, other, other Tom Clancy shooter fit into the mix?
The answer to this question was Ghost Recon: Wildlands. A sprawling, messy, and at times, far too easy game. A title marred by an awful story, downright offensive writing, and simple, but often satisfying, open-world combat. The follow up to Wildlands has arrived in the form of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. A lot has changed with Breakpoint, but much has stayed the same. One thing that’s definitely true is that this is an enormous game, so we’re bringing you some first impressions with a full review coming a little further down the road.
The opening hours of Breakpoint feel familiar but are also quite intriguing. The game opens with a fake employee welcome video for the Skell corporation. This organization has set up shop on the island of Auroa to create a sort of “Libertarian paradise,” the game’s words, not mine. As you might expect, things aren’t as idyllic as Skell’s soft-spoken founder makes things seem. It feels a bit like a Far Cry intro, and it’s the first of many bits that resemble pieces from other Ubisoft titles.
The video cuts to your Ghost in a helicopter, where you’ll customize your appearance. From there, you learn that you’re the team leader of a group of Ghosts searching for clues to why a ship sank off the coast of the island. Very quickly, your helicopter is taken down by a mysterious black swarm, along with the rest of the choppers.
The game tutorialises healing your crash injuries with a medkit, which apparently you have an unlimited supply of. It rather immediately betrays the concept of injury, because after a brief animation sequence I was back at full health. This is true of the game’s other survival elements like needing to stay hydrated. The penalties are so slight for not engaging with the survival mechanics that the only reason to do so is because they are so easy to manage.
It was once I started heading towards my objective – checking the other crashed helicopters for survivors – that things hit a better rhythm. I gasped audibly when my Ghost snapped an enemy’s neck from behind, and I quickly took aim and downed another enemy with my silenced pistol. Patrol neutralized. Another encounter went louder, as I was too sloppy. I eliminated the resistance but had to flee the area to avoid their attendant allies.
This act of quietly moving through the environment and dealing with patrols was exciting and entertaining, and after a bit of that I had found both other choppers, gotten my first look at Walker, the game’s villain (played by Jon Bernthal), and contacted a small group of remaining Ghosts holed up in a settlement. From there I was given visual reference points to find this settlement, but oddly still had a clear objective marker. I checked the options and sure enough, there is an option to turn off objective markers. The menu, in fact, suggests that playing with them off is the way the game is meant to be played.
Why then, was it on by default? Why wasn’t I confronted with the option when I selected my difficulty (maybe I was, but I sure didn’t notice it). It’s an odd choice that makes the game far more interesting. I think including the option is great for accessibility, but give me the intended experience by default!
All of that aside, I was able to steal a motorcycle and head for the hills. It was at this point that the scale and verticality of the world really struck me. This is a huge game. I passed loads of points of interest, lootable containers, and enemy patrols, and it was fun to work to get from point A to point B.
A note on loot: This game has a strangely similar (but far more shallow) loot system to the Division. Armour and weapons have power numbers that go up as you find new gear. Nothing I saw affected any stat aside from my power, and in my brief firefights, I didn’t notice the enemies feeling as spongy as in the Division either. It’s an odd choice that I’m not sure this game needs, but much like its skill tree system, I need to play more to see where it goes.
I eventually made my way to the encampment of rebels that my Ghost allies were hiding out at. It was here that I made my next odd discovery. This space was a social hub. I saw dozens of other Ghosts with handles floating above their heads wandering the space. It totally goes against the notion that you’re a lone Ghost (or small co-op team) struggling to survive, but much like the loot and skill trees, I’m intrigued to see more.
The missions menu lists so many fascinating looking elements that I really am excited to see more of what Breakpoint has to offer. There’s a lot on the surface of this game that is swiped from other Ubi titles, and I’m not sure it serves the game. That said, there’s also a compelling tactical shooter here that may deliver on its tactical, open-world gameplay. Check back in the future for our full review.