Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint Review – PC

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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint seems to be one of the most divisive game titles of 2019. A select few have found some real enjoyment with Ubisoft’s latest looter-shooter while just as many can’t express enough their utter contempt with the game, leaving the majority to straddle the proverbial fence. Personally, my teammates and I experienced some of our best co-op gaming moments of the year (so far) in Breakpoint, and when the game is working and stable I’ve found myself having just as much fun as any of the other cookie-cutter games in this genre; Division 2, Destiny 2, etc.

Best described as “Division 2 in the wilderness”, Ghost Recon Breakpoint creates a world of epic proportions filled with months of content that can be approached in both solo and team co-op, and much like real life you are going to want to bring some additional operators into the game. The game does balance most encounters for the number of people playing, but there are some major set piece missions in the main story progression that will quickly turn fun into frustration if you try taking on a small army by yourself.

Breakpoint wastes no time in getting started. After a brief opening movie that plays out more like a corporate investment video for an island utopia you find yourself being whisked away by chopper to that very island to investigate a disturbance. At this point you get to create your character using the by-the-number character creator, choosing gender, face, hair style, scars and tats, and finally a skill specification. Choosing from Field Medic, Assault, Panther, or Sharpshooter grants you some class-specific perks, but all classes feed into the same massive skill tree that you will slowly unlock over the next 80+ hours of gameplay. Each class comes with its own set of ongoing rank challenges that, when completed, will level you up within the class then give you fresh challenges specific to your class.

Once you reach the island a short in-game tutorial will get you as far as a hidden rebel base that serves as the hub/lobby for all players on your particular server. This is where you can shop, gather intel, and unlock new missions as well as setup your first of many bivouacs. These are campsites and there are dozens of them scattered about the world map waiting to be discovered. These offer you a fast-travel destination as well as a mobile base where you can shop, craft, access vehicles from the garage, and even activate Preparations; these 60-minute buffs that will grant you performance enhancements in a variety of areas.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is as open-world as it gets with a massive Objective and Mission page that divides all the primary and secondary missions along with objective-based missions for finding weapons, attachments, collectibles, blueprints, and these multi-faceted investigations that will have you gathering multiple clues from all over the island before finally resolving the mystery. Everything is color-coded on the map and you can actively track up to three objectives at any time.

As with all looter-shooters, Breakpoint is all about the loot and there are enough weapons (and enemy soldiers) on this island to take over the rest of the world. You can carry a primary and secondary weapon along with a handgun and up to six inventory items of your choosing that can be selected with a radial menu for quick-use. You also have five clothing slots for helmet, gloves, vest, pants, and boots. All of these items have a gear score associated with them that will all average out to create your gear level, which indicates your readiness for much of the gated primary content. Gear is also color-coded green/blue/purple with single/double/triple bars to indicate additional perks and ability boosts. There is so much loot in Breakpoint that you’ll need to resist the urge to pause and upgrade your loadout after every encounter, especially when you factor in the Gunsmith mods.

Gunsmith has been present in past Tom Clancy games and Breakpoint takes it to a new level by offering three tiers of upgrades for each weapon with up to eight upgrades per tier. Tiers 2 and 3 must be unlocked via the skill tree but even early in the game you can start modifying your arsenal to boost range, damage, reload speed, handling, etc. Upgrading is a bit like crafting in that you need components gained by deconstructing unwanted items in your inventory, which leads to those moments of indecision where you must choose to sell something for cash or tear it down for parts. You can also modify stocks, magazines, scopes and sights to fit your playstyle or combat situation.

If I had any criticism of Breakpoint it would be the sheer overwhelming amount of content and the lack of direction in how to approach it. Obviously, the level-gated missions will encourage you to explore the extracurricular activities around the island, which ultimately pays off not only in increased player level but in better gear, improved skills, and more toys like drones, vehicles, and aircraft. With a map this huge I will admit to using fast-travel to jump around, but when it comes time to move about in smaller areas the vehicle selection is second to none whether you are summoning something from your garage or stealing a car, truck, or chopper from an infiltrated enemy base. Most vehicles seat up to four so your entire team can go along for the ride and there is usually at least one gunner position, creating some fun mobile combat moments. And once you unlock the parachute you can even execute some aerial infiltration missions.

There are a lot of combat opportunities in Breakpoint. Almost everyone on the island is out to get you, and if you are spotted by a passing vehicle or a spy plane, drone, or enemy chopper an alert will sound summoning all sorts of soldiers and combat drones. It’s possible to escape their line of sight and if enough times passes they will lose interest. This makes stealth gameplay an attractive option, creating an almost puzzle-like atmosphere when planning assaults on any of the numerous bases, camps, factories, or any other enemy installation. You’ll need to prioritize targets, taking out overwatch snipers and anyone near an alarm that could summon reinforcements. If the base has turrets you might want to sneak in and sabotage the generator. You’ll also want to coordinate simultaneous takedowns with the sync shot ability and possibly make use of special drones you can lock onto multiple targets for multi-takedowns.

The freedom to play the game however you want and experience the majority of the content with no guidance can be a bit confusing for some gamers, but I personally found it refreshing to be able to ignore the next part of a story mission and go off and discover a blueprint or locate a new weapon mod. My team would be flying around the map on our way to our next mission location and spot something that looked interesting on the horizon. Next thing you know an hour has passed and we’ve taken control over a drone manufacturing plant. Even more remarkable is that with so much content I know in my mind that there are a lot of repetitious design elements at work, but every location is unique and every encounter unfolds dynamically based on how your approach the mission or encounter. Breakpoint feels fresh and exciting even after the 40-hour mark.

In addition to the seemingly overwhelming amount of PvE content Ghost Recon Breakpoint also has a competent multiplayer competitive mode called Ghost War that pits two teams of four in head-to-head action in a variety of events across several maps and game modes. Your home screen tracks all your important game data and stats and you are able to setup private games or just jump into random matchmaking. There are plenty of options for setting up your own game including picking parts of the map, time of day, weather, and lots more specific match settings. As of this review you have Elimination and Sabotage modes and five suitable scaled maps with everything being 4v4 and best of three.

As expected, playing with friends and working as a team will allow you to roll over just about any other people playing; especially when they are all going lone wolf. If you shoot someone they stay down until they are healed by a teammate, which means a lot of baited traps. The same goes for Sabotage mode where the enemy will camp near a bomb location and wait for you to try and set or defuse the device. Drones add a bit of tactical gameplay to the mix, allowing you to locate the enemy while you maintain a safe distance. Matchmaking is fast and fair for the most part, but honestly the multiplayer offering wore out its welcome after a few rounds on each map. It’s not that Ghost War is bad but more that there are so many other games just like this that are better or at least more established and robust.

I suppose we should talk about the elephant in the room; the nuclear crisis known as “micro-transactions” that has basically torpedoed critical and fan reaction to Breakpoint. My take on this debacle is simple – if you don’t like them then don’t use them. I have over 80 hours in Breakpoint and I’ve never once been tempted to even visit the store. The game throws so much loot at you just by playing the game naturally that you certainly don’t need to buy new gear or weapons. It’s all cosmetic skins anyway. Call me a purist but my MP5 should be gunmetal or camouflage. I’d have to shoot myself if I was carrying a purple shotgun; especially if I paid real money to do so. And yes, there are “time savers” for those too lazy to actually play the game they already bought. I found nothing in Breakpoint that seemed artificially padded or drawn out; just a whole lot of content that, when completed, will have you at the appropriate level to finish the main story path. If you want to pay to jump to the end of the game perhaps you need a new hobby.

Technically, Breakpoint can and does look stunning. Using a modified version of the engine that powered Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, you’ll be completely immersed in this expansive world of mountains, rivers, forests, coastal terrain, swamps, and so much more. Roads wind their way between locations offering up a thrilling driving component while rivers offer up a similar experience for boat travel, but nothing gives you a better look at the scenery than buzzing around in any of several choppers. You’ll see smoke drifting up from bivouacs, waterfalls cascading down mountains, mist floating across swamps, and snow swirling from the highest mountain peaks. All this combined with gorgeous natural light coming off the day and night cycles offer memorable golden hour moments and thrilling stealth operations under a starry sky.

That’s not to say all is perfect. There are numerous glitches that show up during co-op play.   You might find your teammate sitting outside a vehicle or even hovering in a seated position back by the tail of a chopper. One of my teammates had an invisible gun and only the suppressor was visible, hovering out in front of him. One character had all his gear visible in a pile after setting up camp; it looked like an episode of Hoarders. But these are all superficial hiccups; certainly nothing as frustrating as having servers crash or teammates spawning miles away instead of on your location during a fast-travel.

You’ll want a beefy PC to get the most from Breakpoint. I was reviewing on an i7 with an RTX2080ti and while the game was playable in 4K I ultimately had to lower the resolution down to 1440p for smooth 60fps with max details. The HDR lighting is visually striking, adding some extra realism to the experience with blinding sunlight and even that period of eye adjustment when moving in and out of interior locations. The level of environmental detail is exceptional with grass, bushes, and trees blowing in the breeze. From an architectural standpoint, every location was totally authentic from both a military and a futuristic society element.   Character animations were great, particularly the run and stealth animations and the way the guns and gear hang off the character. Even the way you carry your weapon was mirroring military training.

Sadly, the close-up textures, expressions, and lip-synch weren’t nearly as good as the rest of the package, although they did a great job capturing Jon Bernthal’s likeness and voice acting. There is plenty of dialogue in Breakpoint and it’s mostly fine and believably delivered whether it’s coming from a character or part of a radio broadcast or recorded message. The overall 7.1 sound mix created an immersive and living world full of environmental effects and the occasional bit of rousing score to punch up the suspense and action elements.

Despite my total enjoyment of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint I do have to admit there are a few hurdles it has to overcome, and no, I’m not talking about the easily ignored micro-transactions or the visual glitches or the random server crashes. Breakpoint’s biggest adversary is competition. You have a Destiny 2 expansion, a Division 2 expansion, a new Call of Duty game, and new seasons of Apex and Fortnite. That’s a lot of live service games all competing for your time and money, and for as much as I enjoyed my time with Breakpoint when given the choice I’d rather be playing Division 2. It just has that added bit of polish. Then again, if you have grown tired of space battles and urban warfare and want to get back to nature, Ghost Recon Breakpoint delivers one of the most stunning and realistic outdoor sandboxes you can explore on your PC this year. There is so much content here for you and your friends to explore, and you will want to bring friends. Just plan on investing a lot of time uncovering everything this game has to offer.

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