After the relatively grounded and realistic setting for Ghost Recon Wildlands, its sequel Breakpoint has base jumped straight into near-future techno thriller territory. Gone is the real world setting of Bolivia and an escalation of the war on drugs – perhaps this was a bit too political for Ubisoft, in retrospect? – and in comes a mission to a remote fictional island where technology has been turned from good to evil.
Your mission to Auroa, the large island home of Skell Tech and all its varied R&D research and production, was triggered when the island “went dark” and a US military ship was sunk nearby. The beta test that ran over the weekend dropped players into the start of the game, where your mission goes spectacularly wrong and your convoy of choppers is simply knocked out of the sky.
Auroa has more than a few notes of Jurassic Park as you explore the island, with a forested mountainous landscape that’s had futuristic roadways carved into it and industrial and tech facilities dotted all over. And then there’s the parallels to Lost, though not quite as tropical as that TV series’ island setting and with the promise of multiple biomes. The Lost vibe comes more from to the threat of smoke monster attacks… I mean, drone swarm attacks.
That’s right, the island hasn’t just had a power failure, but has been taken over by terrorists led by one of your own, Cole Walker played by Jon Bernthal, taking drone technology that was designed to help the world survive and turning it into clouds of murder machines. His heel turn from loyal soldier to leading a breakaway rebellion from within the Ghosts and capturing an island all comes across as being a bit Outer Heaven, but it provides a refreshing tonal shift from Wildlands, giving you enemies that can put you on the back foot and, on occasion, force you to merely survive.
Recovering from the helicopter crash, you stagger out with just a pistol to hand. Those searching for you at this point aren’t much cop and easily dispatched, but you soon see the real menace of the highly trained traitor Ghosts taking out your fellow soldiers. It’s a good thing that some of your command has already made it to safety and found common cause and shelter with the local militia that seek to defend and/or escape the island.
At their hideout in the caves of the mountain Erewhon, you get the opportunity to reflect on some of the changes that Ubisoft have made from Wildlands’ formula. In terms of progression, weapons and gear now have power stats that give a Division-y feel to progression – you still drop enemies with a few bullets and there’s no sign of any bullet sponges to deal, though tougher enemies and drones might change that later on. The character levelling now works in a more obvious fashion with straight up skill points that you can spend on a branching skill tree. This comes alongside four new player classes that determine a battlefield skills and is upgraded through feats like close up stealth kills or using the Batman-esque smoke bomb escape of the scout-like Panther.
Meanwhile, Erewhon might as well be lifted from Monster Hunter, with a narratively nonsensical weapons store and a bivouac that you can sit down at and prepare with some rations for the mission ahead, giving you a light stat boost for an hour, just sadly without the same Palico song and dance.
Head out into the huge island of Auroa and the territorial layout of Wildlands’ map has also been put to one side. You might have to fight Walker’s lieutenants to get to him, going by the mission board, but they don’t hold sway over particular regions when viewing the map. Another big change is that the game defaults to no longer simply directing you to the next objective point and will have you taking a few bits of information, cross referencing the map and go explore it for yourself. You can revert to the more conventional waypoint, but the way that the HUD likes to hide away and present you an unsullied view into this world also shows the kind of game that Breakpoint wants to be.
It really wants to have that survivalist element, but the beta didn’t really reveal that side of the game. It intentionally put it to one side, with just the first two missions that act as tutorials included, but you could wander off in search of secrets or more enemies to fight just as well. Even then, the new stamina and traversal systems, the new injury system that can hamper your movement, and just that feeling of really being actively trailed never really emerged. My meandering ended when I didn’t break line of sight to a surveillance drone quickly enough, the Wolves almost immediately closed in and cornering me on the side of the mountain. It was an ignominious end.
This was really just the small taste of what Breakpoint’s original reveal promised. Through the few hours spent with the beta, I never really felt like the tables had truly been turned on me, that the Ghosts had truly gone from the hunters to the hunted. Given how successful Wildlands was, I can imagine that Ubisoft will want to build up to that through the full game; it’s an intriguing proposition either way.