Imagine a backpack, if you will. You’re going hiking so need to fill that backpack with some supplies to take with you. Water bottle, first aid kit, a change of clothes maybe, spare boots, food, map, compass, power bank, phone, maybe a tightly rolled coat for when it gets wet or a bit chilly. It’s getting full, but you’ve got a bit of space in there.
So why not pack a Bluetooth speaker? Not essential, but nice to have. Reckon you can squeeze a Switch or your laptop in there? OK, we’re getting silly now. What you now have is an overbearingly heavy, bloated backpack that’s bursting at the seams. Now replace backpack with Ghost Recon Breakpoint and you with Ubisoft.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a mishmash of good ideas and clear project bloat, where too many elements approved and thrown into the mix. If you caught our Review in Progress, then you’ll have read that there is fun to be had when exploring Auroa, but that fun is often set between times of slowly slogging through a map absolutely dense with content and tons of enemy patrols. You are a soldier trapped behind enemy lines and it makes sense to have to be careful of going around as you are being hunted, but at the same time, Ubisoft just seems intent on making things feel like a slog.
Most objectives in campaign missions, side missions, and faction missions will be kilometers away. No doubt it was envisioned that players would traverse the huge landscape, discovering secrets on the way, taking out patrols and bases, ideally doing so with a squad in co-op. The thing is that Auroa is a pain to navigate unless you’re in a helicopter. Vehicle handling isn’t great whether on-road or off, and you’ll find yourself crashing into an obstacle or getting stuck on a rock. When walking your character is liable to falling over on tricky terrain and as a result losing some stamina, which can be fixed by resting or drinking water. It’s like the design goal was to make the player feel that the soldier is not having a good time at all. Thematically it makes sense, but it sure isn’t fun.
Yet there are areas of the world that are striking and nice to look at when you get to them. The incorporation of World 2.0 gives some nice sights for you to take in, essentially blending the rugged nature of the islands with near future tech. If Auroa was more fun to navigate, it would be a very nice open world game to just explore, but free exploration isn’t the name of the game here.
As I said you’re being hunted and so you have to watch out for patrols and helicopter and drone flyovers. To be honest they’re not hard to avoid; you’ll hear or see on your minimap an incoming drone and have plenty of time to go prone and apply some camo, wait for the enemy to fly over, get up and dust yourself off. If you do get spotted, the sheer weight of enemy reinforcements racing to your position will push you to run away or be torn apart. Then again your character isn’t to be trifled with either.
One of the bloated systems in the game is the action RPG style gear score, something which doesn’t actually make that much of a difference at all. True to previous Ghost Recon games, almost every enemy can be killed with a bullet to the head regardless of level. With my gear score was at 38 I decided to tackle a mission that had a recommended gear score of 150, expecting a huge challenge. The aim of the mission was to take out three logging drones in different locations and all of them were guarded. Each time I snuck up to the area, chucked a few grenades at the drone, made sure it was destroyed then ran away. Mission accomplished.
Any enemy I had to take down was offed easily enough as well, despite the huge disparity in gear score. So what purpose does it serve outside a placebo of progression? There is even a separate levelling system to unlock new abilities that makes much more of a difference. In this case, the gear score system was one of those unneeded things in the backpack.
Obvioulsy microtransactions feed into improving your gear score, but all I can say is don’t bother paying real money. You’ll earn more than enough in-game currency – Skell credits – to buy gear that you don’t really need. Plus the world is littered with weapons that are typically better ranked than what you have.
The bloat carries on into the menus. The objectives board is just a mess of photos to indicate different types of mission, which you then click into to find secondary missions and intel. It’s just such a slow and ponderous system I’m surprised it managed to get through so many layers of quality control, especially when game menus in other Ubisoft games are so clean.
Having been introduced as a post-launch update for Wildlands, online PvP mode “Ghost War” returns. With two modes, six maps, and leaning on the game’s four classes, it’s not the broadest competitive shooter package out there, but makes for a solid diversion from Breakpoint’s wolf-dodging, open world antics. Especially if you have three friends to squad up with.
Online battles are tense, team-based skirmishes set against large swathes of Auroa’s landmass. Regardless of the objective at play, victory hinges on tactical awareness and being able to grapple with Breakpoint’s cumbersome gunplay, and there’s some clever ideas such as the battle royale-esque ring that closes in and forces a result. With exclusive rewards up for grabs, Ghost War gives fans an incentive to dip their toes in, yet doesn’t feel completely essential to the experience
– Jim H
Exploring Aurora, the AI can be either ruthless or dumb. When spotted by a drone they will descend on you and take you out quickly, but other times their awareness is bafflingly lacking. In one mission I managed to land a helicopter on the roof of a building in the centre of the base and no one noticed anything amiss until I started taking enemies out with a sniper. This wasn’t some little helicopter either, but a military grade one that can fire missiles. The awareness is all over the place, leaving you guessing as to whether you’ll encounter a competent opponent or a soldier who is on his first day at boot camp.
Yet there are moments when it all comes together. Scouting out a base using your own drone to tag enemies, looking at different routes in to get in close, or sitting from afar and taking people out with a sniper, carefully making sure they’re in areas that won’t be spotted. It’s at these times where Breakpoint is entertaining and, dare I say, fun. You forget all about the difficult to traverse terrain and silly AI in these moments when it clicks and can see the vision Ubisoft was aiming for. Sure, the missions do get repetitive, but there’s the feel of some classic Ghost Recon gameplay.
Then the bugs hit. In one mission I walked right up to an NPC I had to rescue, only for enemies to literally pop into existence next to me and start firing. In another, a friendly NPC I needed to talk to took ages to spawn in. At another point, my character’s gun turned invisible so I couldn’t aim at anything. Other times the game froze for a little bit even though you could move the camera. Bullets sometimes go through structures and deal damage even when it doesn’t make sense, and there’s just a lot of pop-in on PlayStation 4. Draw distances can also not be long enough, as evidenced when attempting to take out a drone from afar – I had marked it with my own drone, yet when looking through a rifle scope there was nothing there. Speech can just cut out mid-sentence in cutscenes and there are some glaring errors in the subtitles.