We’re not in the Wildlands anymore, that much is clear. Breakpoint’s new setting of Auroa is a completely different beast to Bolivia. Where Bolivia provided a large connected landmass, Auroa is spread over islands; where you were hunting the cartels and corrupt officials in Wildlands, in Breakpoint you are very much the hunted. The open world might be similar in size, but Ubisoft has nailed the feeling of claustrophobia in Breakpoint.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint begins with a bang and quickly moves you from a position of power to being stranded and hunted behind enemy lines. Most of the Ghosts that were with you are either dead and those that remain are spread out across Auroa simply trying to survive. Your job has changed to a mixture of search and rescue and trying to make sense of what is happening on the ground. Early on it becomes pretty clear that the Skell colony has fallen and is now under martial law under former Ghost Recon operator, Walker.
The gameplay in general is very good. You can choose to go with the guided mode which gives you objective markers to follow, but if you want real immersion you go with exploration mode. In the latter you have to find clues to get the next step of missions and locations aren’t explicitly marked for you. Instead the description may say it is in a certain area north of a bay and east of another landmark. You can hide the HUD as well and use your senses to look for patrols and listen for any drones or helicopters flying overhead. The emphasis on exploring and survival is brilliant throughout, and I really recommended giving exploration mode a go – you can switch between the two modes whenever you like.
As you skulk about Auroa you’ll run into friendly groups that can offer you shelter, the first of these being Erewhon, a social hub where you can meet up with other players, buy and upgrade gear, pick up side and main missions, and generally learn about the world. While Erewhon is one of the main hubs of safety, there are various locations across the world where you can set up bivouacs (temporary camps). These offer similar benefits to returning to Erewhon, but without the social aspect unless you’re playing in a team.
As you can imagine, playing Breakpoint alone and playing with someone give totally different experiences. Personally, my chosen role is that of recon and sharpshooting from a distance. Playing this role solo takes time as you scout enemy patrols and outposts. Once that is done you’re evaluating the best approach to take people out from afar without alerting other enemies. Playing in a duo, as I have been with Jim, gives a different dynamic. Jim prefers a more gung ho approach, so I’ve adapted to covering him while he goes all Rambo. It’s a riskier approach, with enemies being pretty deadly at times. Other times, not so much.
Let’s go with the good side first. You absolutely feel a bit of panic when a drone or helicopter flies overhead, forcing you to go prone ASAP and apply camo. Failing to do so will see armed drones and a multitude of Sentinel troops coming for you from all directions. The best thing to do at that point is simply to get the hell out of there. They become hyper alert and will do anything to take you down.
Then there are the times when the AI will simply ignore suspicious activity. I might be schooling some Sentinel soldiers in the open, but our fight is straight up ignored by a patrol vehicle cruising by. This doesn’t always happen, but it feels inconsistent when it does. Or there was the time we witnessed a patrol vehicle mow into an on-foot patrol and just keep driving. You really must watch yourself when the enemy is alert to you, but there are issues with soldiers needing to be more generally aware of their surroundings.
One of the other issues is the multitude of menus. Sure, you can expect them, but coming from playing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey to Breakpoint can feel overwhelming. Odyssey also has a lot of data to convey, but it feels cleaner and easier to navigate compared to the borderline sensory overload of Breakpoint, as you switch between the map, the objective board, the customisation menus, the gear menu and so on. Personally I think the objective board could be displayed better, as it sprawls with different activities in too many directions and feels slow to navigate.
Customisation takes centre stage in Breakpoint, especially with the inclusion of a looter shooter style Gear score. Some missions are impossible to tackle until you’ve reached a certain threshold, so while you could try going for Walker straight away, you’ll likely be killed before getting anywhere near him. So you’re collecting all sorts of gear and weapons, some of which have additional benefits. Guns can also be upgraded by the gunsmith, for which you dismantle older weapons and use their parts to make your weapon of choice stronger. The sniper I’m rocking right now can take out most enemies I’ve encountered with one shot, though there are others who need a few rounds put into them before falling.
If you do want to raise the Gear Rank quickly then there are plenty of options to spend money – both real and in-game – on more powerful gear. Literally everything is for sale if you have Skell credits, the in-game currency. It is a balancing act because being able to buy certain gear to help with the in earned currency is fine but do you then want to progress quickly or upgrade your own weapons by finding blueprints or gear in the world. How you approach it is totally up to you, but the microtransactions feel largely unnecessary. Progression from finding weapons in the field is scaled well and you’re always finding more powerful gear.
It all looks great though there is pop in on the base PS4 version. There have been some glitches appearing as well. For example, in co-op at one point my experience and Jim’s experience unsynced so he was viewing me climb a ladder while I saw myself standing in the gunner position in the vehicle he was driving. There was also a moment where everything froze for a moment before letting us carry on.
First impressions of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint are a little mixed, then. The world is fantastically realised with plenty of activities to try out, whether going alone or with the added dimension of playing with others, but it’s not as refined and polished as it could be.