Video Game Review: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
When last we caught up with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, the series had made the switch from its mostly linear third-person roots to the open-world sandbox format in Wildlands. Two years later, Ubisoft is back with Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which retains the open-world setting and some of the characters but moves away from the co-operative A.I. and perpetual four-person squad used in previous games.
Although most of the core elements (aiming, shooting, mantling and so on) feel pretty standard, cover is an issue in Breakpoint. Granted, this isn’t a cover-based shooter like its cousin The Division, but the mechanic does exist here so it’s fair game. The problem is there’s no consistency to what you can and can’t hide behind, so you might think you’re in cover, when in reality you’re just crouching behind an object. Those may sound the same, but they aren’t. Popping out of cover to shoot is also spotty since the game decides which direction you’ll emerge with a small arrow.
Beyond that, we enjoyed how the game handled. Various guns feel different when you pull the trigger, the option to automatically switch to first-person when aiming has been added (it’s also easy to disable) and moving through the terrain had a realistic level of sloppiness, such as stumbling when moving downhill too quickly (even if that happens too often). Vehicles are easy to jump into and go, including the usually tricky helicopter, which is thankfully forgiving in flight.
There’s a lot of variety to the massive island of Auroa with all different manner of biomes, modern installations and older structures and villages. Characters and enemies are also equipped with all manner of cool weaponry and tech. Despite that, Breakpoint isn’t particularly impressive visually. With so much acreage to cover clipping and pop in happen a lot, and viewing the island from the air feels almost last-gen. The world also feels empty at times, but not in same “let’s take this all in” sort of way as a game like Red Dead Redemption 2.
Voice acting here is, for the most part, uninspired with wooden performances and bland dialogue being paired with lip movements that often don’t come close to matching. Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal at least lends some credibility and personality as the villainous Cole Walker, a former Ghost gone rogue as the leader of the Wolves. Weapon fire and explosions also pack a suitable punch.
Set several years after the events of Wildlands, you’ll again assume the identity of “Nomad,” who is dispatched to the island of Auroa after a cargo ship is sunk off its coast. Upon arriving, the helicopters transporting the military are taken out of the sky by swarms of drones, scattering the survivors and leaving you to unravel what went wrong. It’s a pretty standard story full of techno jargon and guns-for-hire gone bad.
Unfortunately, “pretty standard” can be used to describe most of what you’ll encounter in Breakpoint, from the story to the enemies, the mission structure to the loot-heavy gameplay loop and so on. None of it is inherently bad, and it’s not like we weren’t enjoying ourselves during much of our time in the world, but that sense of déjà vu is frequent and pervasive. It just feels like Ubisoft took elements from its other open-world titles and threw them into a blender to create this.
Probably the easiest influence to see is The Division with its colour-coded mission types and constant acquisition of “better” equipment and weaponry. Those things feel far more necessary in The Division, however, as the gear you collect in Breakpoint seems to have a minimal effect on your combat efficiency.
Here, high-level loot doesn’t appreciably increase damage given or decrease damage taken, and rarity amounts to small bonuses like earning more experience or reloading a weapon faster. That leaves increasing your gear score as the primary function of gathering loot and makes said score little more than another progress indicator.
Your primary indicator remains your level, and pretty much any activity that you do earns experience. Each time you level up you’ll earn skill points that can be used to unlock things like passive traits or abilities that you can slot in. It’s straightforward but effective.
While the fringy RPG elements aren’t great, enemy A.I. is downright bad, ranging from spotty to incompetent. If your location contains any kind of room you can enter or choke point you can cover the mercs will filter into it and get mowed down time and again. Also, any time you “vanish” from searching enemies they seem to immediately realize where you are and quickly re-engage, which pretty well defeats the purpose of evasion.
There is at least a lot of content in Breakpoint, offering dozens of various missions and a massive island to explore. While you can do so solo, the game is always online, allowing you to jump into co-op or adversarial multiplayer at any time. The former is the best way to experience the game, while the latter is largely uninspired with familiar modes and some of the campaign’s failings (read: inconsistent cover) ripe for exploitation.
It should be noted that server performance has not been great. We’ve been kicked out of the game with a variety of error codes when playing alone or PvP battles. Much of this stuff — the servers, the A.I. and perhaps the loot system — seems likely to be patched so know that the Breakpoint of 2020 might be a much smoother experience than its current iteration.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a prototypical jack of all trades, master of none, providing hours of largely forgettable enjoyment. Perhaps a more streamlined version will emerge post-launch, but for now it’s not nearly as good at what it does as The Division 2.