Everything on paper ahead of the launch of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint suggested that this was going to be a game that I was going to love after having such a great time with Ghost Recon: Wildlands and admiring the new refinements to The Division 2. Throw in a main villain voiced by and bearing the likeness of Jon Bernthal, many will know as The Punisher from the NETFLIX series, and the ingredients for a great game were all there. Sadly, what was released was a complete mess of ideas that failed to blend together in any entertaining fashion. Breakpoint was quite simply…. broken.
There really is no beating about the bush here, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is a bloody mess with bugs, glitches and failed concepts that do more to showcase its own failing than coming together to elevate the game beyond just a sequel to Wildlands. I suffered so many problems playing this title for review from hard crashing of the game to multiple game freezes and even the complete corruption of my save file which resulted in Ubisoft simply telling me to start all over again with a new game and still hitting all the bugs I experienced on my first attempt to play through the game. Frustration and bewilderment were pretty much my only real emotions whilst playing.
The story is perhaps the strongest yet for the series with the worlds biggest name in combat drone technology, Skell Technology, raising one too many eyebrows with which countries and armies they have been supplying their technology too. The company has taken over the island of Aurora (a completely fictional setting following the negative reaction from using Bolivia for Wildlands) and following the loss of the USS Seay, an American cargo ship, under suspicious circumstances and the complete loss of communication with the island, the US sends a taskforce of Ghost Recon teams to the island with two missions, find out what happened to the USS Seay and re-establish contact with island to find out what is happening. On approach to Aurora all the Ghost Recon helicopters are taken out and you as the player, find yourself playing ‘Nomad’ who survives the crash and sets out to complete the mission.
I do have to say before I do go into just what Breakpoint gets so very wrong, that it actually does quite a few things really well. I love that for Breakpoint, they moved to try and give it a far more tactical feel, where the feeling of being caught is very real from the very moment you crawl from the crashed helicopter at the start. This is what I felt was missing from Wildlands, the feeling that you are the best of the best undercover special forces soldier but with Breakpoint taking it to a new level, it was really satisfying being in the world and having this element as a focus of gameplay worked really well in the Closed Beta and to an extent, in the full game. I really loved how the island is constantly under surveillance from drones and patrolling helicopters so at any time the alert that one is heading your way requires you to hide or use the new “ground camouflage “ where you go full prone and cover yourself in the mud and dirt of the ground to blend into your environment to avoid detection.
I also really loved the fact that the whole island is available to explore and it is a massive playable area which if you use the Exploration mode of game experience, the first of the many Ubisoft game series borrowed systems that Breakpoint uses and first seen in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, makes you have to go and explore the island to find objectives, locations and discover side quests. The gunplay is also really enjoyable, refined from Wildlands and with some help from Division 2, moving from close range and long range with the sniper rifle was quite satisfying for me. I relished using my scope, binoculars or drone to assess a location before moving in so I could plan a strategy and adapt my tactics according to the threat ahead. There are things that Breakpoint did well.
But sadly, what the game does get right is very quickly overshadowed by everything it gets wrong. Even before I get to the technical issues that plagued my time through the game, Breakpoint suffers from the classic “so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should” approach to bringing in systems from other successful Ubisoft titles. Now I have said in previous Ubisoft game reviews that when they do bring in such systems that have worked well in other games to compliment another game, that is a genius idea. The problem with Breakpoint and doing it is that instead of careful integration of these mechanics, here they are slammed together to neither enhance the experience or do anything really new because they are so immediately recognisable.
The most obvious one is easily just how much of The Division 2 has been used as the foundation for Breakpoint. If you have played Division 2 you will know that the map is sectioned off by using Enemy Levels to both warn and prevent a player with too low a level from venturing into an area that they are clearly underpowered for. Breakpoint uses the same ‘Gear’ system to give your character a power level which has the knock-on effect of turning it away from being a tactical shooter and instead a looter shooter because every enemy encounter and every location you discover and visit will throw new armour pieces and weapons at you. Rather than dropping something cool, it is a system that merely increases the score of an item incrementally so you can get the same version of the assault rifle you are using multiple times only with a slightly increased score value. This is so over used that it just becomes more of an annoyance then having any particular wow factor when finding or picking up a new gun or amour piece. It is a system that suits Division games and far less so the Ghost Recon games.
I also really hated the Division style Hub area of ‘Erewhon’, a secret base for the local militia set inside a mountain because it absolutely kills the biggest element of the story, that you are on your own. The strength of the narrative is that you the player as Nomad, are the last able-bodied Ghost on the island battling to complete the mission and to rescue and find any other survivors of the Ghost team. Instead the moment you enter Erewhon you are presented with multiple other players in the game which straight away nullifies the whole “lone survivor” mechanic as you could simply get this ‘army’ together and head right into Skell HQ to take down the bad guys. Wildlands did the whole co-op element right; it was you in a squad of four Ghosts and if playing solo the other members would be AI controlled or could be replaced by your friends instead. Now Breakpoint still allows co-op play and believe me, this game is far more fun when played with friends, mostly so you can share your pain and have a laugh when the game does its janky stuff, but right away you literally have a potential army of players available which breaks the logic of the story narrative.
The janky stuff is really what tears Breakpoint down and from launch to even now, it is plagued with too many broken elements and bugs that kills the game experience. For me, the game can freeze when bringing up the map or just trying to enter a dialogue scene which by itself also has the annoying thing or removing any headgear and weapons from the dialogue scene for some strange reason before returning them once completed. The game would also crash on me at times whenever I tried to use the bivouac shelter system where you can pitch up tent and craft health items and even cook food to boost attributes. Facial animations in dialogue scenes are painful to sit through and the game throws so much information on you with the option to pin main and side missions that you want to complete with a map so bloated with additional information that it is easy to lose track for missions can be taken on.
The enemy AI is so woeful it really is rather tragic, with patrolling enemies dotted all over the place that you just cannot walk for more than five minutes without encountering enemies either standing by vehicles or patrolling. So often you can find a patrolling group either walking in a straight line as they would in Far Cry or even just literally standing next to each other so all you need to do is equip an assault rifle or SMG, line up your sights on one enemy and just pull the trigger and move sights to the right in order to wipe out the whole squad. When tackling something like a building or oil/gas refinery, the AI can become even more ridiculous as I could simply set up position in a sniper tower, take out a guard which can alert every other enemy to come and investigate and simply pop your head out of cover to take them out and crouch to break line of sight with none of the enemy even coming up to the tower to search for me. I even upped the difficulty level hoping it would provide more of a challenge but the shockingly bad AI just made it far too easy to cheese your way through.
I did like the idea of the Wolves, former Ghost operatives now rogue who are constantly hunting you down and is just a clone of the Mercenaries system from Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, yet they never actually feel like a threat despite having all the abilities that you can unlock with the quite overwhelming skill tree that tries to merge together all the familiar four classes of soldier but limited which of the many perks you can unlock to only a few useable at any one time. Another feature that could have been brilliant but undone by the mess of it all.
At this point it really is difficult to find anything to really recommend Breakpoint as something to go out and buy right now. I have no doubt that given time, Ubisoft can get it playable because it is something they have proven that they can do, but this is a game that should never have released in this condition and is sadly a case of trying to throw so many different game systems together which only result in diluting anything remotely recognisable as a Ghost Recon game and instead creates a mutant Division 2.5 ‘Bond Villain Island’ game. Too many things are broken and far too much of the fails to achieve what they thought it would leaving a boring, frustrating and buggy experience that it should never have become after having all the elements that could and should have made it a must have game for fans of the series.
To stamp the above home even more, at the time of finalising this review, the news broke that as a result of the huge failure of Breakpoint’s release, Ubisoft has confirmed that it has now delayed ALL of its 2020 line up starting with ‘Watch Dogs: Legion’ in order to allow the teams extra time to put more polish on the titles in order to avoid another Breakpoint situation. Breakpoint is so bad that an entire year’s schedule of games has been delayed.
Pretty much says it all really and sadly I can only end by saying do not buy Breakpoint, give it a few months to allow the team to fix the bugs and work on quality of life updates for the game, go back and play Wildlands which is what I did and had a great time with friends, mixing it up with playing the new content for Division 2. Breakpoint should have been better, but it dropped the ball and it dropped it hard!