REVIEW – Ghost Recon has always been a franchise that felt to me that it could never find its footing after the first game and its expansions in the series. The combat was brutal, one shot one kills, and required large amounts of planning to succeed in the mission. Subsequent entries tried to add to the series by providing a cinematic storyline, or by being super high tech soldiers such as in Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 1 and 2, plus Ghost Recon Future Soldier. In the end, it took around another five years after Future Soldier to come back to a bit of semi-realism with Wildlands, which was a fine game, with a few interesting ideas.
Now after two years Ubisoft is ready to release the sequel to Wildlands, and unfortunately, the title of it is pretty apt: Breakpoint. It might break faith in Ubisoft.
Wolves hunt in packs
The story of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint takes place four years after Wildlands, and on a fictional island called Aurora owned by Jace Skell. An Island that is supposed to be leading the charge to create a brave new world, or as Jace calls it World 2.0. The island is owned by him, but he loses control of it, as it gets taken ower by a PMC called Sentinels led by former Ghost now turned the leader of Sentinels – Cole D Walker. You play as Nomad leader of the Ghosts’ mission to find out what happened to a missing freighter near the island. The entire mission fails right out the get-go, and almost everyone dies, only a small handful of people live, and have to retreat to a hideout maintained by rebel forces.
The way the plot is handled is interesting, as it is like a fun little detective game, the player has to collect clues, to progress in the story besides the main missions. In theory that sounds great, but it ends up making look the main character pretty dumb, as there are some narrative twists that the player can see a mile away. Also uncovering the clues mainly result in the cutscenes stopping, and then pressing a button to connect the dots together, and getting a bit of XP.
The voice acting is horrible across the board, there is only one exception that is Jon Bernthal who is able to elevate any scene he is in. Everything is stilted and looks horrible in terms of direction for the cinematics. There is audible dead air between lines being read by the main character, and the NPCs, and it is just painful to listen to them talk about important objectives and plot points. If you are here for the story well, that is a bit of bad news. The worst thing is about the story is that Wildlands had interesting mini-bosses with the cartels, and the videos plus collectables surrounding them were intriguing, and they were voice-acted better. Here everything is propped up as a mystery, or things to collect to expand the lore of the Island, but it just does not engage with the player as the previous game.
Ode to my gear score
When Breakpoint was revealed I was hyped. The reveal trailer and subsequent trailers showed a lone Ghost in the jungle trying to survive the elements and being hunted by an elite private military force. There were no signs of gear scores, or level gating, or even just bullet sponges enemies. Then after playing the game for many hours the gameplay just crashed and burned for me. The survival mechanics are tacked on, and feels like a copy of the recent Monster Hunter game where you can prepare at a Bivuac by cooking, stretching, or even drinking to gain more XP, more physical resistance, or even more stamina. The injury system has little bearing on combat (as the AI is not the smartest), because you always have unlimited bandages to fix yourself up, and there is also health regeneration (unless you suffer minor or major injury), but those can be sorted out with the bandage.
Yes there is the part when using the bandage looks you into an animation, but the AI is so dumb that you can just run away, or go into a building and patch yourself up. The AI is bad and seems to be a downgrade from the Wildlands era, which is odd, cause Ubisoft does know how to create competent AI (especially in always online games) – as we have seen in Division 2. Here they do not flank, do not have any tactics, they just run around, or stare in front of them to get shot. They do try to find cover every now and then, but there is no coordinated effort to take on the player. Especially if the player runs away from a base, and the enemies follow you can basically kill them.
Playing stealthily feels a bit pointless, as after the initial reinforcements nobody tries to reinforce the base. Unlike in Wildlands where units would appear from other locations here after awhile it fizzles out and the base can be only be taken out. Running around and headshotting the enemy is easier than sitting ducks trying to snipe them from afar – cause then most of the base has an easier time finding you. The only exception to this is the drone and robot enemies. That is where the gear score comes in.
The gear score in this game is mostly needed for the robot enemies. Plus the enemies will kill you easier if you have a low gear score. However human enemies die easily with headshots, so if you are patient you can tackle any endgame base with lower gear scores. The game does dole out loot pretty quickly so in 10 hours you can be around at level 100, and that’s just by going around and doing random bases rather dealing with the main story.
I do not mind loot or gear scores, or RPG-lite elements in videogames, hell I loved it in The Division 2, but the problem with Breakpoint is that there is no rhyme or reason to do such a system here. The skill system is fine, and it is fun to play as a class, but I find it hilarious that as part of a special forces unit our main character has to get better gear to have more stamina. There is also no option to climb any mountains, as in using a mountain climbing axe and ropes. You can, however, roll down a hill after running a bit down a slope which is just the most comical thing ever.
Large vistas, and shiny bases
The game is large, but therein lies the problem once again with this game. It is not fun to play on the map. The island feels like a mix of three or four different biomes mixed together for one big PUGB or Battle Royale game, cause compared to The Division 2 there is no level design here. It feels like a patchwork of randomly generated jungles and samey looking industrial bases. While Wildlands did have similar looking bases it did not feel like it as most of those bases were elaborate, or felt distinct in some way.
The graphics and sound design are good, and most of the guns have a great impact on them. There are rare instances when the graphics take a hit in the quality, but that is only when looking down from a mountain or from a chopper.
Yet even if the map is big, and looks pretty, it just feels like a waste, cause most of the activities are samey, and there is barely any visual distinction in the game. At least in Wildlands, there would be giant mausoleums, or a concert for a Cartel member, or just in general something that does not make this game look and feel like a free to play game in the end. Everything feels like a downgrade from the previous game which is a shame cause Wildlands was a fun game to play.
Ubisoft, in the end, needs to dial down the large open world concept. In The Division 2 restraint was shown with actual level design, quest design, and it is a blast to play, with a competent AI. Here it feels like half the team wanted to make a survival game, but ended up with a frankenstein of a game. It feels tiresome to play after many hours, and while there is a long content map ahead I note sure if I want to stick around for it.
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+ Lots of weapons and gear
+ Great sound design
+ Large map…
– …with too much repetition and emptiness
– Worse story than Wildlands
– Worse AI than Wildlands
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Genre: Tactical shooter
Release date: October 4, 2019