Review – Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
I usually give Ubisoft credit for being one of the bigger developers who will frequently put out new IPs. Typically their first attempt always falls short of their grandiose promises, but they typically follow it up with a good sequel. We saw this happen with Assassins Creed 2, Watchdogs 2, and The Division 2, just to name a few off the top of my head. Wildlands was the first Ghost Recon to go open world, so I expect its follow up to be much better. Unfortunately, I can’t lump Breakpoint in with the other successful sequels because every step forward Ubisoft took, they took two steps back.
You play as Nomad, a Ghost sent on a mission to investigate the island Aurora, which has been taken over by a militia called, The Wolves. Lead by your former partner and Colonel, Cole D. Walker uses his “Wolves” to obtain the advanced drone tech being made on Aurora. You’ll need to track down Cole, as well as avoid being assassinated by The Wolves, while uncovering the motivation of your former Colonel’s actions. Teaming up with the locales who fled into caves and islands, you’ll uncover the motivation, and devise a plan to take down the oppressive militia.
The story itself is pretty weak and generic, and has been done a million times previously. A rogue military officer starts a militia to fix the worlds problems by any means necessary, yadda yadda. Couple that with the semi-futuristic setting of drones, nanobots, and military grade robot tanks and combat tech, and you have a story that even Tom Clancy would call “played out”. There is one redeeming factor, however, and that is Cole D. Walker, played by the fantastic Jon Bernthal. To give Ubisoft some credit, they at least featured the villain more than they typically do, and Jon at least brings his magnetism to the scenes he is in.
Unfortunately, most scenes that flesh out Nomad and Cole’s back story are cut in awkwardly using flashbacks, sometimes even right in the middle of a conversation. Main missions are often bloated fetch quests, taking you on a tour of the island searching for key characters. Finding clues to their whereabouts or interrogating NPC’s for information about their location. You then read through the clues and “solve” the riddles to uncover the next location to go visit. Side missions aren’t any better and the rest is just filler to go find better weapons and upgrades for a pointless gear level system.
In between missions you’ll visit your main hub where you’ll be greeted with all the main ally characters to get missions from, upgrades, and of course. . . shop with microtransactions (more on that later). Since Ghost Recon is now an always online game, you of course have random real players roaming around in this hideout. Even though you and your small team are the only soldiers who are living (besides the locales), but who cares about story continuity, right? You’ll rest up here, craft here, start and receive missions here,so it’s pretty much your standard hub area.
I’m typically the person who is okay when a story is generic or just non existent as long as the gameplay is great, but Breakpoint doesn’t even deliver that. The general gameplay is decent I guess; it functions well and offers a decent variety of ways to tackle outposts. An addition that I actually like is being able to use dirt and mud to conceal yourself while prone. However, animations and how the character reacts to the world often ruins gameplay that could be good. Breakpoint uses an automatic cover system where you’ll suck up to cover that is around you. This often doesn’t feel natural, gets you stuck to things you don’t want, or it just straight won’t work on some objects.
The general movement feels sluggish from character movement to the vehicles. The vehicles, outside of the helicopters, feel really bad to drive. The physics are very strange, almost as if there is a strong magnet constantly pulling you back to the ground. Doing jumps off mountains or hills feels awkward as you can’t get any good air time due to you dropping like a bag of bricks. I very rarely ever used a car unless I had to. Otherwise I only used fast travel between camp sites or helicopters. This was also due to the fact there is a group of enemies or an outpost every quarter mile. It becomes tedious and with the bad physics you never know if running into enemies or objects will spontaneously combust your vehicle.
For some crazy reason, someone at Ubisoft thought it would be a good idea to wrap the gameplay with a gear level system. When I think of Ghost Recon, I think of relatively realistic guns and gameplay. However, when I’m replacing my tactical helmet with a beanie because it has a higher gear ranking and stats, it pulls me out of all realism. How do the cargo jeans give me a stealth bonus, but the ghillie suit pants don’t? You’re constantly fiddling with your inventory just in case the new Sniper Rifle you picked up has slightly better stats. This slows down the already boring game and creates more inventory headache. Yes, let me customize my weapon’s magazine, grips, sights, barrels, and such for additional stat bonuses. But why am I spending scrap and XP points to unlock pointless bonus stats?
I call the stats pointless, because for the most part, they are. Headshots are still one shot kills even if you’re level one and the enemy is one hundred and sixty. The only thing it effects is body shots to them, or damage they deal to you. What this does is create an annoying difficulty spike whenever the robot tanks come into play. You can easily take out an entire base full of guards with well places sniper shots and stealth insurgence, but then run into a bullet sponge when the robot arrives. It provides an uneven experience, and if you weren’t a fan of The Division, then you’ll be really annoyed that they shoehorned this into Ghost Recon.
Survival was supposed to be a pretty big addition into Breakpoint, but it seems it has be stripped back pretty significantly. Perhaps I remembering the reveal wrong, but it seemed like survival was going to be far more important. All it’s boiled down to is an annoyance with the stamina system. Running too long fatigues you and each time you completely drain your stamina, a chunk of it gets blocked off. You can recover this by drinking water or resting at a camp fire. You can pick up various flowers to craft other medical supplies, but I never found the need to.
The system was either stripped or it was half baked and unfinished. Either way it’s just another inventory annoyance. Also, why does it drain stamina when I’m sliding down a mountain side? Mind you, I’m not stumbling down or trying to stop the slide, I’m only sliding down and it’s eating my stamina. Once the stamina runs out during a slide, you go into a full barrel roll down the mountain causing damage. It’s just frustrating.
There is an entire character skill system with four main classes that provide a special and various buffs depending on your gameplay style. You then unlock skill points with each level up to spend on various upgrades. Some of these are passive and others will need to be equipped in one of three skill slots. I enjoy this system because it does give you variety and tangible upgrades that are noticeable and useful. Plus, you’ll only access this after an upgrade or after a few upgrades, so it’s far less annoying unlike the constant gear changes.
Let’s talk about the shop now. Outside of collecting weapons and gear from missions, you can access the shop and buy things. There are items that are purchasable with the standard in game currency, but I never felt the need to purchase anything from this store since it never offered anything better than what I already had. However, there is much more to the store when it comes to the items you can buy with premium currency, aka real money. Every aspect of the game is purchasable: XP boosts, level boosts, skills, weapons, gear, vehicles, cosmetics. Everything. This store also pops up in your normal pause menu, within the settlements, and even when you’re in the middle of nowhere resting at a camp fire. The game even jokes about making sure you check out the store the first time you talk to the lady who runs the damn store. I’m already at the store, why are you pushing me to look at the freaking store!?
The visuals are really the best thing about Breakpoint and even here it is hit or miss. At times it can really impress when you’re in a dense forest area and all the vegetation is moving realistically to wind. It is densely packed with good detail and nice lighting effects. The way roots and vines wrap around trees and sprawl through the grass and bushes is a nice effect.
However, some textures can be pretty off putting, graphical bugs are frequent, and the draw distance isn’t all that hot. You’ll often see in the distance a car full of people, however, the car is invisible and you just see the people floating there until the car renders. Far off vistas can looks really blocky and/or muddy depending on the terrain. Besides the main cast, character models range from decent to borderline last gen.
Other than Jon Berenthal, there isn’t much to praise about the voice acting or sound design. Unlike the visuals, not even the main cast can get away from the bad writing, which often leads to stilted performances. When talking to enemies or NPC’s with intel, they don’t even say anything about the intel. You interact with them and they just say “I’ve told you everything I know”, and your mission updates. During conversations they sometimes let the player decide on how to answer, but it doesn’t matter and the character says the same thing. There also isn’t any radio chatter or any radio stations for music so long rides are just quiet and boring. The weapon sound effects and general ambient sounds within the world are decent, but nothing standout.
There really isn’t much else to say about Breakpoint. It is a potluck of various Ubisoft games that is not only half baked, but is downright worse than the games it borrowed the ideas from. The one unique thing Breakpoint tried to bring to this Ubisoft circle jerk was survival elements, but it wasn’t fleshed out and barely used outside of being annoying. This title was utterly disappointing. Oh, and as a side note (since Ubisoft treated this mode like a side note), the 4v4 multiplayer mode is rubbish and a massive waste of everyone’s time.
Natural environments impress with dense vegetation and some decent lighting. However, certain character models, textures, and far away effects can be bad.
Breakpoint offers a nice variety of gameplay styles, but the bloated stat system, half baked survival aspects, and lack of polish hinders it. Ground vehicle navigation is a pain.
Some of the most awkward voice acting and writing in a AAA game I have seen. Various world sound effects, weapons, and explosions are decent. Soundtrack is pretty much non-existent.
Breakpoint is a by the numbers generic open world action game. It feels like a hodgepodge of Ubisoft games and loses what Ghost Recon is all about. But its worst sin is that it is just plain boring.
Final Verdict: 4.5
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
Reviewed on PC with i7-9700k, RTX 2070, and 16gb RAM at 1440p.
A copy of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint was provided by the publisher.