A couple years back some friends and I dove into Ghost Recon: Wildlands and it was great. We had a lot of fun with its open world design that allowed us to pretty much do what we wanted. Even when we probably shouldn’t have been going into certain areas at lower levels we did anyways. So when we heard about the follow-up game Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint we were already onboard to dive in once again as Nomad and his crew for Xbox One this time around.
As a follow-up to Wildlands, Breakpoint changes up the formula a lot with the fictional island of Auroa as the stage set four years later. In this new adventure, Nomad and 31 other Ghosts are sent to investigate why the high tech libertarian island has gone dark after the sinking of a naval ship off the coast. What Nomad didn’t expect was the nasty surprise of a swarm of drones that take down all of the choppers as they approached. Soon you find yourself with nothing but a pack and a pistol as you survive to make the best of a bad situation.
Breakpoint takes a decidedly apparent turn into survival territory as you find yourself and the Ghosts hunted down by a highly trained faction called the Wolves. Lead by former Ghost, Cole D. Walker, reprised by actor Jon Bernthal, these Wolves are a major threat to everyone on the island of Auroa including the surviving Ghosts. If heavily armed humans weren’t enough to deal with you have to deal with various types of enemy drones that either call in reinforcements or tear you to shreds themselves in no time flat.
So what’s a vastly outgunned Ghost to do? Why befriend the locals and grab a few friends while you’re at it for starters. This is where players make their first visit to the main hub area Erewhon. This is your one stop area for kicking off the main story and getting basic essentials like weapons, armor and consumables like grenades. In a slightly different turn Erewhon also serves as a much of Breakpoint’s crucial plot progressions with your character actually talking this time around with sort of a BioWare inspired dialogue options from time to time. This was actually totally unexpected as I went in pretty blind to this game other than the desire to play it.
After years of playing non-speaking characters in shooters, it’s kind of refreshing to see one that isn’t made by the B’s to have choices spoken in what feels like wholly genuine for both your character and the NPCs throughout. If you are playing with a group of friends, I also like that each cutscene is shown to you with your character and not just the person that triggered it similar to Wildlands. The downside is that players have to communicate with each other beforehand as some cutscenes can be manually triggered even when someone is in the middle of combat as I learned to hard way. It is possible to for players to do things out of order which result in an interesting substitute if players were to go after Walker sooner than intended.
Breakpoint for the most part does not hold your hand outside of incessant flashing tutorial prompts anytime you sneeze in the direction of an unexplored feature of the menus or gameplay elements. That aside players can choose to explore Auroa as they see fit be it land, air or water as they progress with the story and side objectives. One of the features that I found interesting is the option to find locations on your own with only clues to pinpoint where you need to go on the map. This is the way that Breakpoint is supposed to be experienced according to the developer and for the most part this way is more akin to my playstyle of exploration first which I enjoyed. Fear not for those that like to get right into things as there is a Guided mode that is enabled by default to make quests and other items of warrant easier to find.
The one thing that Breakpoint seemed to have no end of is gear and weapons with its decent array of assault rifles, designated marksman rifles, shotguns, pistols, sub machine guns, light machine guns and sniper rifles. Add to this the various pieces of gear that are broken up into the five areas of protection; head, chest/vest, gloves, legs and boots and you have the recipe for a loot spree. Much like Wildlands, Breakpoint has signature items dispersed across the map in everything from heavily fortified bases to residential areas. But they took things a step further and added other incentives such as Skreds (in-game currency), collectibles and gear to make it worth your while.
Now normally I welcome new gear and better weapons but not to the point where I’m changing both faster than partners at a mixer. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only enemy drops were the major source of new gear but they only add to the congestion. The downside to this design is that you have to constantly adapt so you never really get a feel for each weapon. This means you either stick with a weapon until you get a better version of it or go with whatever is highest. From a design standpoint it does have a purpose of sorts though that can be apparent right from the beginning as you spot your first batch of those darling Wolves who can drop you faster than you can utter hello.
In Breakpoint every weapon and piece of gear has a gear score attached to it right from the start of the game. To cut to the quick of it the total of all your equipped gear and weapons averages out your character’s overall gear score much like the endgame of The Division. As I found out you can somewhat quickly rise up in gear score by constantly switching out or holding out in favor of desired bonus stats like I did. Ultimately, it acts as a gauge of sorts to help you make the informed decision to attempt certain missions, instigate Wolves or various drones like Behemoths that are way above your survivability rate.
Now it is possible to actually beat a Behemoth, toughest enemy drone in the game, or clear a Wolves occupied bases with an insane amount of planning and more than little bit of “we’ve been through tougher” mentality but it can be done. I’ve even stealth looted a Behemoth testing ground with a buddy without being spotted at all which was absolutely terrifying since it was a 100 levels above mine. The loot at each Behemoth zone usually is worth it though often resulting in blueprints and skill points as well as various resources.
The nice thing is that these locations are spread out across the entire map instead of progressively harder zones like in Wildlands. This gives players the freedom to explore and find things at their own pace. There are even quests that have recommended gear levels before you should attempt them. To keep things interesting though there are several enemy ground and aerial patrols to be alert for. Getting spotted by a chopper isn’t nearly as bad as being spotted by an Azrael drone and having your mini-map disabled by and having Wolves on your positions in seconds. This reinforces the survival aspect and makes utilizing your chosen class to its fullest potential.
Classes are perhaps one of my favorite parts about Breakpoint especially when grouping up with other players. As of launch there are the four classes; Assault, Field Medic, Panther and Sharpshooter that players can specialize in. Luckily you are not limited to this choice as a single skill point each in needed to unlock the other three. The good thing is that each class has its own special ability and gear to make them unique. The Medic for one can remotely revive downed teammates or in a pinch themselves with its Healing Drone. For the stealthy the Panther can use a spray to temporary cloak themselves from drones or use a smoke bomb to get the drop on foes and disappear with Cloak & Run. The more direct player will favor the Assault class with its increased health and its ability to take less damage and reduced recoil with its True Grit technique. My personal favorite next to Panther is Sharpshooter which is the recon specialist with a Sensor Launcher that when properly fired can tag enemies all at once across a large area. Its Armor Buster technique is also a must have for when going up against drones like the Behemoth or heavily armored human targets.
If things aren’t working out one way players can visit various Bivouacs across Auroa to change their class as well as replenish ammo and buy things like grenades and Syncshot drones that you can’t craft if you’re short on resources or the required skill from the vast skill tree. Whither you play alone or with friends the Syncshot drones are a godsend and are a pseudo replacement for Wildland’s four-person squad mechanic. They are also extremely useful as a full team can take down 12 enemies, drones excluded, at once. These are practically overpowered but you can only use 3 at a time and have a limited max amount of 7 to carry after skill upgrades.
Another element you have to contend with is the environments and your personal limitations. Going back to the survival theme there are several mechanics such as stamina and injury to take into account. To offset these adverse effects you can gather resources and then craft various timed rations that can do everything from increased damage resistance to reduced stamina costs and fatigue resistance. There are also rations that buff things like handling, throw range and reload speeds. Outside of fatigue and stamina, I often found myself constantly overlooking the other categories until I got into a groove of using them.
Breakpoint is ultimately designed with co-operative play in mind where even a few friends can use their abilities to full effect. This will eventually culminate in prepping players for the yet to be released raid later this year. This of course is assuming your gameplay sessions don’t run afoul of some of the many glitches and bugs that Breakpoint unfortunately suffers from. In my time with Breakpoint, I’ve died from fast traveling on someone as they deployed Bivouacs as well as being unable to switch weapons or consumable for several minutes to the point that only fast traveling to the nearest camp seems to break the glitch just to name a few of the major issues. This doesn’t even cover the network disconnects that I’ve experienced while playing with friends.
Breakpoint at times though does feel a bit more polished than Wildlands with its character models and acting as well as the plethora of locations you get to explore. For my review run I was playing on an Xbox One X, which looks great in 4K with beautiful lighting effects and environments. Things like explosions are fun to watch as they are to cause as well. With an open world sandbox such as this draw distance is always something that I look for and Breakpoint does not disappoint be it via drone or helicopter. There’s something rather soothing about flying low over the water and watching the wave crests as you explore the outlying islands.
On a smaller scale, Breakpoint features some graphical textures issues with pop-ins as you are driving along the main roads most noticeably; although it does feature a decent character creator with other visual options available in the world or via the shop in Erewhon with in-game money. Other customization options can only be earned by completing missions and unlocking Battle Rewards to entice players to explore the island more or compete in Ghost Wars, Breakpoint’s 4v4 competitive mode.
Why I dabbled in both the 4v4 Elimination and Sabotage modes of Ghost War they didn’t really appeal to me. Sabotage is your standard objective based pitting two teams in a game of plant and disarm with a bomb. Elimination is the closest that I will ever get to enjoying a battle royale mechanic as the Shrinking Combat Zone makes remaining players converge in a match’s late stages to break drawn out stalemates which are as intense as they are boring at times.
The one thing that is seemingly unavoidable is the glaring presence of micro transactions that was quite absurd to gaze upon. At a glance it appeared there wasn’t anything that you couldn’t buy short of a beat the game instantly pack. While some of them may prove useful, I chose to simply ignore them, like many other games offering similar options, in favor of actually enjoying the experience as intended. I won’t add anymore that hasn’t been said so instead I’ll focus on what I did enjoy despite technical issues throughout.
Having played past titles like Future Soldier, The Division and even Assassin’s Creed it’s easy to see the many features that were integrated into Breakpoint to expand upon Wildland’s infrastructure. Many of them work like being able to build up your character’s traversal capabilities, or unlocking and equipping useful perks to compliment a wide degree of playstyle. Others element like utilizing rations didn’t feel entirely integrated into the experience making their existence somewhat forgettable to me is ultimately purely at the player’s discretion if they hold merit to their enjoyment of the feature.
Did I enjoy or do I continue to enjoy my time with Breakpoint is ultimately the only question that really matters in the grand scheme of things and to that effect my answer is yes. Yes, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint does have issues, some we may hopefully see fixes for as time goes on, but in between these there is genuine fun to be had here. While single player is often the most stable experience in Breakpoint it still doesn’t hold a candle to the shared experiences that are forged when playing with friends. There are no shortages of moments like “well that just happened” or “omg that guy just ate that rocket” to be found throughout the island of Auroa. So for those venturous enough to survive the dangers of Auroa then grab a few friends and check out Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint today for Xbox One.