Ghost Recon Breakpoint has out for almost a week now and in that short space of time we’ve already seen plenty of dogpiling. Disappointed players and critics vocal in both their anger and hope that this latest Tom Clancy game isn’t beyond redemption.
Right now, Breakpoint sits on an Opencritic average of 58%, while Metacritic’s split platforms have 57/100 on PS4, 59/100 on PC and 64/100 on Xbox One. Our own review came down a bit harder, but the industry consensus is not a bad score – it’s above average, right? Still, it’s hard to argue with fans wanting better from Ubisoft and the Ghost Recon franchise in 2019. So what seems to be the headline issues here?
The use of in-game purchases in any AAA game will always attract scrutiny, though some have gone as far as labelling Breakpoint as “pay to win”.
Most games that use microtransactions – especially shooters – often limit real money purchases to cosmetics only. We’re talking character skins, emotes, and other ways to alter the appearance of your in-game avatar. Breakpoint, on the other hand, lets you spend cash on any item, be it a new piece of gear, a gun, or an attachment. These items that can have a noticeable impact on how you play.
Ubisoft has already removed some of the more controversial “time-saver” boosts though players can still be tempted into taking shortcuts, buying items instead of grinding for in-game currency.
That’s on top of the £60 they’ve spent just to access the game, or considerably more if they splashed out on the Gold or Ultimate editions. If Breakpoint were free-to-play or launched with a budget price tag, the backlash wouldn’t be as fierce.
Loot and progression
Monetisation aside, Breakpoint has some strange design issues that can be pretty hard to square. At its core, the team at Ubisoft Paris has taken the Wildlands model, lopped some parts off, and stuck on elements from other popular games and genres.
The most inescapable of these is its approach to character progression, inspired by looter shooters such as fellow Tom Clancy title, The Division 2. Downing enemies and completing missions will throw plenty of new gear at you to experiment with, sell, or break down for parts. Breakpoint even displays an overall gear score, individual items being colour-coded to reflect their rarity. This is combined with a familiar XP system, rewarding you with skill points that can unlock new perks and abilities.
On one hand, it seems like a natural fit, especially when you look at other open world games. Showering players with rewards triggers an addictive psychological loop that definitely made me feel more engaged with Breakpoint, as if my progress actually matters.
However, there’s a hollowness there too. This isn’t Destiny, The Division, or Borderlands: the numbers on your gear will gradually increase though their impact on the game is hardly felt. Not when you can still go toe to toe with enemies that vastly outrank you and still come out on top.
Open world games of this size are almost always riddled with bugs – it’s an unavoidable truth. Savvy day one buyers will still often bite the bullet, tempering their hype with the knowledge that they’ll have to wade through a game’s technical issues until a post-launch patch comes down the pipeline.
Even with that baked in tolerance, Breakpoint can be fairly egregious. Occasional loss of audio and borked character animations are one thing, but the frequent pop-in of enemy patrols gets pretty tiring.
Travel too quickly within Auroa and Breakpoint will need several seconds to play catch up, if not longer. It can drop a platoon on your ass where there was previously an empty building, road, or patch of wilderness, which is genuinely laughable.
But wait, there’s more!
Breakpoint has plenty of other problems. The core shooting gameplay, while mostly solid, fumbles in the way it handles cover mechanic and adaptive shoulder switching.
Its repetitive missions can drag, too. They mostly consist of bouncing between checkpoints, Ubisoft Paris banking on emergent open world gameplay to help create player-driven stories. It’s a sound idea though you’ll quickly find yourself easing into that same of groove of sprinting between objectives in the quickest most hassle-free way possible.
It’s a shame as the developer has included an “Exploration Mode” here that could have been an excellent pillar around which to build the rest of the game. Instead of being guiding by markers and arrows, this acts as more of an orienteering exercise, forcing Ghosts to read maps and their surrounding environment to find where to go. Instead of doubling down on this interesting approach Ubisoft has made it optional and, sure enough, the other players I encountered had immediately switched it off in favour of Breakpoint’s virtual handrail.
There are so many ideas at play here, some of them genuinely good, yet all mashed together in a mediocre slurry that’s hard to stomach at times – again, just check out our review. Much like Wildlands, we expect Breakpoint to evolve and maybe even transcend its launch day woes, but right now it’s fighting an uphill battle.