STAFF REVIEW of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint (Xbox One)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint Box art Tom Clancy has, arguably, one of the most popular IP stables in the history of gaming. Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon are all iconic series that push adventure and excitement to entirely new levels. The latest installment, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, provides us with a diverse adventure on the tropical island of Aurora. It goes without saying that Breakpoint has very big shoes to fill, given that it’s predecessor, Wildlands, was a wonderful game. Does this trend continue in Breakpoint or do the hopes of this latest Ghost Recon game go up in smoke? Lock and load because we’re going to tackle the latest Ubisoft game in the Tom Clancy series.

Starting things off, you’ll notice that this game has a gigantic day one patch, so to save time on the install I’m suggesting you take your console offline (if you have the disc version) and install the game, and then bring the console online and then download the patch. If you’ve got the digital copy, my condolences. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint follows the adventures of Nomad and Walker. If you haven’t played the connective mission in Wildlands that gives you some background insight into the relationship here between the two, I strongly suggest you do so, otherwise you will essentially be jumping into a story that is partially told already and things may not make sense. In Breakpoint, Walker has essentially formed an army of ghosts that are called the Wolves. These characters travel in packs (just like ghosts), wear protective gear that makes them harder to kill (again, just like ghosts) but use the same tactics you would (for instance, flash bang an area to blind your opponent before going in guns blazing). You will find that these enemies practically require precise head shots to drop them (or a helicopter rocket fire is another great way).

Walker has structured his Wolves just like you would expect any other military bad guy to do so. Of course, Walker is at the top, but below him are a few select Wolves called, Alpha Wolves. These are your sub-bosses that unlock the main boss Walker. It’s a structure that we have seen before in the past and allows for nice organization of missions, and it’s here on your mission board where you can dive into everything Breakpoint has to offer. Like Wildlands before it, Breakpoint allows you to tailor your mission selections so you can work on what you want, when you want to. If you want to prolong the 28 main story missions, then dive into over 25 side missions and explore some of Aurora’s best kept secrets, or tackle the faction’s missions and help the Homesteaders reclaim their island.

I’m not going to dive into the story too much, but if you don’t want to play the mission in Wildlands, here you go; Walker felt betrayed by the CIA and the country he swore to protect. He leaves and joins a private military group (Sentinel) and basically becomes the general of the army. This army became employed by Skell Tech, a company on the island of Aurora that is fixated on creating a Utopian society. Free from disease, poverty, hunger and violence, Aurora was supposed to be a paradise. Until that is, Skell Tech partners with Sentinel and their technology is used to create drones of incredible power and lethality. It is this very tech which managed to sink a ship that was headed towards the island, and that’s where Nomad and his ghosts are brought into the picture. They depart with several helicopters from a carrier that’s sitting offshore and are on their way to investigate the island and figure out what sank the ship. This is when the helicopters are attacked and are torn out of the sky by hundreds of these tiny drones. You survive the crash (got to have a main character to play right?) but the status of your own crew is MIA and presumed dead. What does this mean? This means get ready for a solo fight.

In Breakpoint, you’ll tackle this adventure alone. Personally though, I miss the team. While the AI was a times “less than efficient”, when you combined them with the drone and decided to play the game from a tactical position, it made Wildlands incredibly fun. You don’t have that here. Rather than use your drone and team to sync up your shots, now you have these sync shot drones which are a pain to use. Normally, you would think you could just mark enemies from your drone like last time. Nope. Instead you have to spend a slot in your utility wheel and equip a sync shot drone and then target your enemies through your scope, not your drone. This becomes quite cumbersome and detracts from the gameplay that we had before. This is sadly, a step backwards for me, but what’s even more regrettable is that this isn’t the last step either.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint offers you a central location which acts as your “hub” if you will. Here you will find various individuals that can deal with missions, a store that allows you to buy items, weapons, etc. and locations for PvP actions in Ghost War. This mode pits two teams of players against each other and can get really intense if you’re not in a group relaying information to each other. It’s here that you see that this Ghost Recon is trying to be almost like the Division game of Ghosts. Where Wildlands had its own unique identity, you feel that they literally tweaked some mechanics of Division and just stuck them all on an island. To me this seems lazy because it loses the feel of what a Ghost Recon game should be. Rather than develop on the Wildlands identity, it feels like Ubisoft took everything they had from Wildlands and literally just threw it all in the trash. Unfortunately, there’s more broken about this game than good and there’s very little “Ghost Recon” and quite a bit “Tropical Division”.

One of the qualities of Breakpoint is that it allows you to pin up to 3 missions that you want. They can be any kind, just mix and match however you want. The problem here is that when you’re looking at your character and you have your missions pinned to the screen, there is well over 40% total coverage which blocks and inhibits your field of view, ultimately leading you to have tunnel vision as you can’t see your peripherals very well. This could be solved by backing the camera a little further away rather than close enough to do a colonoscopy. This clustered view continues onto the map as well. When you call up the map, you’ll notice how it is divided into several regions. These regions will range in difficulty and character level, but like your field of view in the game, become so overly populated and crowded with information that you would literally pay someone at Ubisoft to code in a map filter, but sadly you get none.

This means that when you go and look to where your mission objectives are, you have tons of little circles of all various meaning that are sprinkled throughout your view and finding out where you have to go next can be quite challenging. The best way I’ve found to help quickly identify the area(s) I need to go to, I turn in the game to face my objective, call up my map, and then move the cursor in the direction I’m facing. Otherwise, I’m zoomed all the way out trying to find what little circle is my next objective. It can be challenging at times. I wish I could say this was it for the problems folks, but there are other issues I discovered with the gameplay as well. Multiple times I found that vaulting over an object when there was another object on the other side led to my character being frozen within the vaulting animation (so basically my character looked like he was falling with his arms in the air) and I was unable to move. I tried crouching using the 'B' button but that didn’t work, I tried running but that didn’t work and I even tried vaulting with the 'A' button, but that didn’t work either. You know what did work? Completely shutting the game down and restarting it.

There’s another gameplay bug that ties right into the new leveling system of Breakpoint. Now, you have the option to select various classes, and each class unlocks with it, its own perks that alter the game in unique ways. Each one of these classes can be ranked up by going through the various stages of the class by doing various challenges. For example, in the Assault class you may have to kill 3 enemies within 20 seconds of each other which you’ll have to do 5 times. Well on Level 8 of the assault class, you have to kill over 20 enemies with an assault or shotgun without reloading. I killed my first guy, second, third, and worked my way up to 15 and then old habits kicked in and I reloaded. My counter then reset to 1 instead of 0 and now I can no longer advance my class. I tried things such as switching classes at a bivouac and then switching back after a kill, but no such luck. Apparently now, if I want to go for level 9 or 10 in the Assault class, I have to start a brand-new character. Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

While we are on the topic of gameplay, the cover system in this game is downright horrible at best and non-existent at its worst. Trying to get into cover will find you fidgeting constantly with your character, and God forbid you wish to shoot someone while you’re in cover, you’ll find that your aim (when you peek around corners, not over boxes) that your sights are half covered by your cover and find yourself trying to lean further out which eventually will break your cover and leave you exposed. I would rather see a snap-to system where you can enter and exit cover with a button press, that way it would be more manageable when you’re playing to effectively utilize cover. Other bugs that pertain to gameplay involve going into prone position, and when you lay flat you fall straight through the ground (I have a clip of my character doing that, it’s pretty interesting), having mission characters unable to move or talk to you which prevents you from completing missions so you have to restart them, and so much more. With all this talk about bugs, glitches, and disappointment, I figured I continue the tradition and talk about something that really gets to me. Breakpoint requires you to have an online connection to play. No offline playing for anyone.

Outside of the gameplay bugs and glitches, Breakpoint fails as well with the weapon customization. 7 years ago, Ubisoft unveiled a system to modify aspects of your weapon and show any/all benefits/bonuses in real time, and it had a tremendous amount of customization options. Now fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find nothing but a shell of what it used to be. Why was this included this way? Here’s the more important question: who at Ubisoft looked at this and thought that this skimmed down version of weapon customization was a good idea? This shortsightedness may go unnoticed for so long until they decided to go and put their entire inventory of EVERYTHING behind in-game purchases and real currency. Are you impatient? Don’t want to tackle a Behemoth to try and gain a weapon blueprint? Ubisoft is here to offer you a way you can bypass all the grinding and just become “instant soldier” by giving Ubisoft more of your money.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s character customization is broken down into a few areas. For starters, your gear score becomes your best friend. This is taken from other games, but if you’ve never experienced it, your gear score is a summary of all the gear you have equipped (clothing and weaponry). There are also various typical tiers of items that range in colors of value such as white, green, blue, purple and yellow. Each weapon can be broken down for components to upgrade, or it can be sold for credits at the store. Your character can carry 300 points of inventory, and one gun counts as 1 point. When you dismantle a weapon you gain components, and like you’d expect, if you dismantle a high-end weapon, you get high end components. One issue I talk about later involves the gunsmith itself, but while we’re talking about weaponry, if you want to be able to max out your weapon’s potential, you’ll need to invest skill points into the MK2 and MK3 tiers of the skill tree which are immediately on the right hand side.

What is the skill tree you ask? The second aspect of your character is your leveling system. In the next menu over from your inventory is your player skill tree. Here you will unlock the 4 classes (Assault, Panther, Sharpshooter, Medic) and be able to branch into numerous trees from a central hub. Each one of these classes have their own unique item and ability. Assault carries with them gas grenades and their skill of True Grit which offers healing of your character with every kill. The Medic carries a medkit into the field and has a unique skill of a healing drone. Panther class is equipped with a cloaking spray that can make you invisible from drones for 60 seconds and has a skill called cloak and run. Finally, your Sharpshooter packs a sensor launcher that is basically a recon grenade that outlines enemies in range, with their skill called armor buster, where you get 3 rounds of increased damage and penetration (this is VERY nice to have when you go against a Behemoth). You gain skill points through leveling up your XP level and finding them in chests. Once you hit XP level 30 though it stops as that is the cap (for now). Some skills in the tree are equipped automatically while others have to be equipped to gain their benefits. You can equip up to 3 skills so make sure you chose wisely for how you enjoy playing. One of the perks allows your mini map to highlight nearby resources for collecting. This is a great bonus as you can see resources for crafting, but again, is relatively pointless and let me explain why.

In Breakpoint, your Bivouac becomes your temporary base out in the wilderness, and it’s here that you can equip perks, buy things at the shop (because it magically appears at every camp somehow?), but the two options that are interesting are the garage and the crafting. The garage is nice because you can request vehicles be delivered whenever you are at the Bivouac and when you leave, poof, they are there! This is convienient and all, but if we’re honest with each other, once you start getting the attack helicopters for 54,000 credits, this will be the only vehicle you request, ever. So basically your “Garage” option is just a way you can summon a helicopter. Now to crafting that’s essentially useless. There are recipes that your character can use to make various consumable rations that do things such as increase damage resistance or increase your stamina, etc. These types of rations have 3 tiers with their effects being greater and lasting longer in the other tiers. You can also craft consumables such as frag grenades, rocket launcher ammo and more. However, as you play Breakpoint, you’ll realize that this is one of the most pointless features in the game.

When you take on enemies at bases, or even checkpoints, you’ll quickly realize that enemies drop ammo and explosive consumables almost constantly. Plus, when you are out exploring and come across a small group of soldiers by a car, or buy some vehicle, you’ll also come across many resources there as well. If you didn’t want to deal with gathering resources, you can always save money by obtaining a perk that decreases the cost of consumables at the store at your main hub base which will enable you to buy more for less money. What this means is that with the abundance of ammo and consumables I can’t see really any point to waste on these rations. Sure, you can gain some damage resistance, but if you’re sniping from 500m away, it’s not like you’re going to need to take less damage.

Ok, things are getting a bit negative, so why not dive into some positives? Breakpoint’s island of Aurora is absolutely beautiful. The dynamics and contrasts of environments that can be found on the island will be some of the most impressive sceneries you’ll ever see in gaming. Waterfalls crashing, fog rolling in through the forest while the sun shines through as you catch all the individual rays of light popping through, and even the character models in the cut scenes look amazing. Ubisoft has done an outstanding job delivering more dynamic environments in a beautiful presentation. Couple of issues though. First, during the cut scenes sometimes the focus of the character is off, so it looks out of frame for the scene. Second, can someone at Ubisoft PLEASE IMPROVE YOUR MOUTH MECHANICS. I don’t know what has to happen, but sometimes the mouth moves, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it doesn’t even look like they are speaking the words of the voiceover. I’ve seen better work on old dubbed Kung Fu movies. The environment is this game’s saving grace, and if I may make a suggestion, get to the highest point and just sit there and look at your surroundings and take in every bit of it as it’s truly breathtaking.

Breakpoint does offer some type of comedy throughout the game. For example, apparently people of Aurora think it’s wonderful to put almost every chest in the game on the roof of buildings. Very rarely will you ever come across a chest on the ground, so be prepared to look for ways up. While we are talking about loot, these chests contain things like weapons yes, but you’ll also find boots, pants and other articles of clothing. Yes, you can get through a massive firefight, navigate your way to a chest only to pull out some boots as your reward. This also goes for enemies, on top of collecting ammo and explosive consumables from enemies, you are rewarded with items such as pants, boots, and honestly, I’m not trying to take a dead guy’s boots to wear, and it’s kind of morbid if you think about it. Plus, with the microtransactions you can just buy your guns, and not have to fight Behemoths for blueprints.

Now, I know you’re probably reading this and think “wow this guy must not like the game”, and you would be wrong. I’ll say it, Breakpoint is broken. I think for a full retail game, it’s unpolished, underdeveloped and inexcusable for the poor choices in its development. It’s an incomplete game, and what is there is full of gameplay glitches, numerous bugs and game breaking moments that really make you wonder why you paid your money for this. Despite all of this though, I love every minute that I play. I know these issues will hopefully be addressed in upcoming patches, but for now despite all these issues, the core of Ghost Recon Breakpoint still delivers an amazingly entertaining experience. While it’s far from perfect, it’s not far from fun, and in the end, if a game is fun, then it should be played and enjoyed right?

There's honestly so much to list, I would need a database.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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