Title: Ghost Recon: Breakpoint
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 18+
Release Date: 4/10/2019
Price: £59.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Ghost Recon has a long history as a bit of an experimental sandbox for Ubisoft’s developers. With roots as the “outdoors” counterpart to Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon has come to occupy a space somewhere between the Division 2 and Far Cry. How has this interesting placement affected the most recent iteration of the game? Read our Rapid Review to find out!
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint trades in the landscape of Bolivia for the fictional island of Auroa. This South Pacific Island is owned by the Skell Corporation, a company akin to real life tech giants like Google and Apple. This corporate isle is an attempt at creating a libertarian utopia. In reality, it’s more like living in a company town. You and your squad of Ghosts are called to the island after a US Navy warship sinks mysteriously off the coast of Auroa. It turns out, a renegade group of mercenaries has taken over the island, and its considerable drone arsenal. The mercenaries are led by Cole D. Walker, played by Jon Bernthal, and an old friend and compatriot of yours.
All of this setup and premise really just serves to drop you into a large environment with enemies to fight. The story isn’t bad per say, just generic. There’s nothing here that rises above the standard military action story that you’re used to from other games with the Tom Clancy moniker.
With all of that said, what does set this game apart is its environment.
The last Ghost Recon game, Wildlands, really felt like a Far Cry game. You’d follow icons on the map, steal vehicles, and generally make the game world your playground. Breakpoint shifts the formula by providing a much more dangerous world. Rather than feeling like a playground, Auroa feels like a deadly landscape full of things that want to do you harm. This makes moving around the world strategic, challenging, and even frightening on harder difficulties.
Another way this design ethos is effective is in navigation. While map icons are on by default, a menu option allows you to turn them off. With them off, you have to navigate using landmarks and descriptions of places. This gives the game a feel much more akin to something like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and it’s how you really should play the game.
The combat in Breakpoint doesn’t do much to innovate on what was in place in Wildlands, and that’s mostly OK. A new set of skilltrees gives you more separation in how you engage, but no gameplay styles are locked out to you. I played as the long range sniper class, but I found myself up close and personal with SMGs and pistols all the time.
While many of the game’s encounters are pretty standard tactical shooter affairs, the game takes on a different shape when you encounter the “Wolves.” These are the antagonist, Cole Walker’s, top soldiers, and they are legitimately terrifying. Boasting superior equipment and frightening masks and armor, stumbling onto these guys creates a great sense of tension. Unfortunately, that tension is undermined by the fact that these enemies are mostly frightening because of the math behind their strength. They simply have more powerful equipment than you do.
Oddly, Breakpoint features a loot system that feels like a simplified Division 2. Sadly, Instead of interesting perks and stats of that game, most of the loot here is just a bigger number that does more damage. It really doesn’t make much sense and while not as intrusive as in something like Destiny, it’s still an element that the game really didn’t need.
Other oddities include social spaces, also ripped from games like the Division and Destiny. Seeing a bunch of other players running around in what amount to resistance-run towns took me out of the experience quite a bit. It totally belies the desperate, tense feeling of stalking through jungles, avoiding the Wolves that makes the game work well.
There are some amusing takes on silicon valley tech giants in the form of missions that take place in spaces like an artisan juice factory, but ultimately the game breaks down into repetition fairly quickly, with loads of Far Cry-like combat encounters. While the thrill of navigating a challenging landscape never quite leaves, Breakpoint’s baggage from other Ubisoft titles ultimately holds the game back from standing on its own.