Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. Gamers familiar with the previous title will notice similarities in gameplay and for the most part will feel right at home in Breakpoint. Moving away from the real world location of Bolivia and fighting against drug cartels, Breakpoint takes place in the fictional location of Aurora just off of New Zealand against former comrade and turncoat Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. Walker, portrayed by Jon Bernthal. The familiarity makes it easy to jump back into things, but is Wildlands the better game?
The story begins with the elite military operative Nomad crashing landing on Aurora. This is where Walker has gone rogue and taken numerous former Ghosts with him, creating an extremely dangerous faction called the Wolves. Ghosts are the best of the best, and Walker was one of the top Ghosts so naturally this is a dangerous organization the player is facing up against. Bernthal does a good job as Cole Walker, but the idea of the traitor elite solider and hunter becoming the hunted plays out in a predictable way.
The gameplay of Ghost Recon Breakpoint is largely the same third-person run and gun action as its predecessor. Aurora is enormous and there are plenty of missions to keep players busy, both story missions and side quests. Turning off guided mode does add to the immersion, since the plot has the the character stranded on an unknown island so not having a zillion markers on the minimap makes the experience feel more authentic. In exploring Aurora the player does need to be careful since there are drones constantly on patrol that will open fire the second they see you. On the plus side, these drones may have killed off the wildlife in Aurora, creating an absence of hyper-aggressive animals Ubisoft titles are known for.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint does some things well but has some features that don’t hit quite hit the mark. The biggest point of contention is that an internet connection is always required, making it impossible to pause the game in a middle of a mission and put the console in rest mode (PC users may not have this problem). Ghost Recon Breakpoint is best enjoyed with other people in your squad, but by the design the campaign mode can be experienced and enjoyed solo. Most consoles are probably perpetually online so this isn’t going to effect most players but not having an offline option for single player seems like a poor design choice. On the plus side, during the release weekend there were no issues with the server that was experienced on our end. Another feature they added was the injury mechanic. The idea with this is apparently trying to add an element of realism where if the player is injured they end up limping until they can find a place to take cover and apply first aid. The idea can be appreciated but the implementation results in an annoying game mechanic.
The biggest problem with Ghost Recon Breakpoint is that it’s a game where the relevance of its very existence is questionable. Ghost Recon Wildlands still appears to have an active player base and The Division 2 is relatively new and still receiving new content as part of the “games as a service” model. By putting an emphasis on equipment level, skill trees and collecting random loot, Ghost Recon Breakpoint actually feels like an amalgamation between those two games, which if it existed by itself would be fine but in the context of those other games’ existence it feels like more of the same. During one of the online sessions with some friends, one of us gave it the nickname “Destivision.”
All that being said, Ghost Recon Breakpoint can be enjoyable. Aurora is a gorgeous location which makes exploring the massive island a joy. The gameplay is typical of most Ubisoft titles over the past two or three years; the run and gun mix of action combat and stealth takedowns is enjoyable as ever, but doesn’t do much in terms of innovation. There are several story missions that can be tackled at the player’s leisure along with countless side missions. The bivouac is a new feature which acts as a campsite for the player to add temporary buffs to their character while planning strategies for the upcoming missions. This title is fun on single player but the greatest enjoyment comes from playing with friends online. Part of this is derived from the camaraderie of completing missions and taking out the bad guys with friends. The other piece of enjoyment comes from their lamentations when part of the team decides to swim five miles to a far away island while one person looks for a boat or when the same teammates decide to repeatedly blow up the escape vehicles the sensible team member found when the far away island that was swam too has enemies that are over 100 equipment levels more powerful than the players. Either way, Ghost Recon Breakpoint can be a blast when played with the right people.
Aside from some glitches with some water textures and face textures during cutscenes, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a great-looking game, especially when the landscape is viewed from helicopter. The game mechanics are responsive and behave exactly how they should. The menus are optimized for mouse and keyboard, which is great for PC, but on console the thumbstick moves the cursor much slower than a mouse ever would so it’s strange they didn’t optimize the menus for controller input on console. And now to address everyone’s favorite game topic: microtransactions. If a player has money burning a hole in their pocket there is no shortage of in-game items you can blow real world money on. Many of these items are cosmetic but there are some blueprints for weapons tucked away in there. This writer wasn’t going to spend his earnings on those to find out if the blueprints fall into “pay to win” territory but it may take some of the grinding out. Some “time-saving” content was available for purchase but taken down between the pre-order early access period and general release, though it may return at a later time. Whatever your thoughts on microtransactions happen to be we’re not going to attempt to change your mind, but this game has a ton of them, although during our time with the game I never felt the need to buy any.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a good game overall. The biggest complaint is that it generally feels like a mashup of other recent Ubisoft shooters and even with some attempts at forging its own identity, it seems like a game we’ve already played recently. In spite of this, there’s quite a bit of fun to had and people who can’t enough of Wildlands or The Division 2 would likely find the same excitement here. If expectations are tempered for a familiar game that is derivative of previous contemporary titles, there’s a lot of fun to be had on Aurora in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, but players expecting something drastically different and new will be looking a long time on the island.