FIRST IMPRESSION: Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Find out what we think of the newest addition to the Ghost Recon series, Breakpoint.
9.7
out of 10

“I am more proficient at death than you are at life. I am a Ghost.”

40 seconds. That’s all I need. That gives me enough time to place charges inside the entrance, refill my ammunition, and secure the outpost overlooking the back door.

Time to get to work, because in exactly 40 seconds that convoy just breaking the horizon will be pulling up, and I want every one of those fuckers dead.

I stand up, exiting from the perfect camouflage the low brush had offered, and that which had come in handy when sneaking up on two guards playing around with a motorbike, and speaking way too loudly and openly about their disdain for this hell hole called Auroa.

Quickly, I slide down the steep terrain while keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the convoy winding it’s way ever closer towards the tiny cluster of Skell-occupied buildings. It is imperative that the explosives are set in the right position, so as I approach the main doors, I look for anything that can increase the death radius. No fuel cans, dammit.

Wait. What about the convoy itself? If I set the explosive on the outside of the main doors, there is a chance I could detonate them and not only flush the enemies out of the building, but take out the convoy at the same time. But that would mean finding a new vantage point to pick off any stragglers, as they probably won’t go pouring out the back door with this revised plan.

Ok, no time to waste. Just set the damn charges.

It’s so quiet you could hear a bee fart. I don’t like it. Only a few minutes ago I had watched half a dozen armed Skell troops heading towards this location. Why can’t I hear them talking? Are they even there?

Just set the fucking charges and get on with it! That bloody convoy is only about 15 seconds away now, get moving.

The sound of tyres on soft mud cuts through the silence, coming to an abrupt stop as the first truck reaches the compound. I count 4 in the first vehicle, and 3 in the next. The third vehicle does something unexpected, and continues driving past the rest of the convoy, and disappears over the hill behind the compound. That just made my life easier.

Now to get the timing right, if I blow the charges now, the four man squad will be done in an instant, but the smaller squad will remain unharmed. Even if their vehicle catches fire, they will have plenty of time to move away to safety, while the black smoke from burning bad guys wreckage obscures my view. I had better wait for them to walk past the first vehicle, giving me the best chance of taking out all seven at th-  Oh Fuck Shit! A Sentinel drone just spotted me.

Ok think. If I blow the charge, any unharmed enemies will quickly relieve me of my life, as the drone will have finished scanning me, but if I shoot it the enemies will attack me before reaching the explosives.

It’s now or never.

Like a surgeon, I remove a can of Cloaking Spray and douse myself in it. The drone loses sight of me. I pull out the detonator. 3, 2, 1…Boom.

The explosion tears through the first vehicle and the unsuspecting troops, triggering a larger explosion as the fuel tank ignites, the fireball is enormous and swallows the occupants from the second vehicle before they can turn and run towards cover. The Sentinel drone goes on alert, and spins rapidly around to see what the source of the loud noise was. One shot, my rifle may be something more suited to penetrate helmets, flesh, and bone, but today it will do just fine in disposing of this pesky flying killbot.

Now it’s time to clear out this compound, and gather intelligence, without worrying about a convoy sneaking up on me this time. I make it about three steps before an attack helicopter comes within range, and begins to get eyes on me. I’m screwed, there is no way I can make it to cover before it sees me. And what’s this? The third vehicle has reappeared, and right in time to get a lead on a Ghost running around their base of operations.

No more chess game, this time I unleash hell, and all the while to some really intense atmospheric music.

Hands down one of  the most impressive things about any of the Ghost Recon series is being able to make the game play the way you like it to. The situation I just described took place over the course of less than one minute, and in that time there were curve balls thrown my way, fast decisions that needed to be made and very methodical shooting and movement in order to get out alive.

Here’s the kicker. I didn’t have to do it that way at all. I could have easily stealthed my way inside, silently killed any enemies in my way and secured the intel. That just isn’t how I felt like playing at the time, for that minute of the game I felt like more of a nail biting mission and it’s so simple to create that for yourself.

We were one of the lucky ones that woke up a few days ago to an email invitation from Ubisoft to play the Beta trial of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and needless to say, all other projects and articles were put on the sideline to make room for this play test.

Let’s be clear about the beta first and foremost. Ubisoft has given beta testers access the game over a few days, and we were only fed the first few portions of the main story, as well as some side missions and items to collect. After a short amount of play time, a prompt is shown saying that we will have to play the full game to continue with the missions, but that we were free to explore Auroa and take down some of the Skell forces.

I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with how little of the story we get to experience, but I do want to point out that this is called a beta test, not a demo, so I was kind of under the impression that we would be given a pre-release build of the game, and not something with these cordoned off sections and redacted story.

The prospect of exploring this huge island in the Pacific, Auroa was very exciting. The map even showed some ominous looking smaller islands off the coast, nothing a few minutes at the stick wouldn’t fix. Adding to the excitement was the awesome friendly helicopter parked just outside the central headquarters we come to know as Erewhon. But, what they didn’t tell us is that the beta doesn’t allow you to explore freely. Nope! Instead, if you do what I did and jump into the chopper and beeline across the map you will most likely not be able to turn around fast enough when the killer fucking drone swarm eats you out of the sky!

That’s right, not only is it not an open world in the beta, but the map doesn’t show any definitive lines or markings as to when you will be heading out of the play area. So that was a bit of a disappointment, but at the same time it also acts as a compliment to the games allure, as I wouldn’t care about these beta confinements if the game wasn’t so damn good to play.

We won’t dwell too long on visuals and textures and ray tracing and blah blah shoot me now. Why not you ask? Why write a fucking review if you don’t plan on diving too deep into critiquing aspects of a video game? Because it’s a beta, dumbass, and beta means not finished yet, and by no means are the developers finished with this one yet.

It is breath taking from the moment you begin the game, and rather than start with a long cinematic opening they let players customize their character’s look which is always something I like to take a bit more seriously when you know a game will be featuring your character design in any cut scenes and Hollywood action movie shots. For this play test I went with a hulked up dude that looked the part, beard and all, but I can see the comical value in creating a rather unusual looking profile to the same effect.

PC players have been praising the quality of the design and the incredible detail, and unfortunately on Playstation 4 that was definitely dialed back. This was noticed very early on when a less-than-convincing rain effect appears as nothing more than white dots and streaks on the ground, with no visible drops falling from the sky. This seemed like a massive oversight for something with this much attention to detail.

Don’t take that as a slam against the current beta build of Breakpoint, as I said, PC players have been quite impressed with the frame rate, weather effects, and graphics as a whole. All I am saying is that for console, you really won’t get the same experience as PC players, so don’t be expecting much of a step up from Wildlands visually.

The audio is also not something to get too wrapped up in with the beta, as there will be a multitude of fixes and improvements to come. It is satisfactory at the moment. Some notable audio assets within the current version of Ghost Recon Breakpoint are the player sounds, especially breathing. What makes this particular thing stand out is just how believable it is, especially after sprinting for an extended period. Not only does the breath become more strained, and desperate as your lungs begin to burn, but that shakiness and slight rattle you hear. It may seem small to most people, but I was pretty impressed by the detail in that regard.

It’s story time. What is the premise of Ghost Recon Breakpoint?

Well, to be really lazy, and avoid over explaining, here’s a snippet from the game’s wiki.

The game is set in the year 2023, four years after the events of Wildlands. The story takes place on Auroa, an island in the South Pacific owned by billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Jace Skell. Skell is the founder of Skell Technology, a blue chip company producing drones for commercial applications, but the company has also found success as a military contractor developing cutting-edge equipment for the United States government. Skell purchased Auroa with a vision of turning it into a hub for the design, research, development and production of artificial intelligence and drone technology. The island is made up of a series of individual biomes including marine estuaries and wetlands, arboreal forests, snow-capped mountains and active volcanoes.

Faced with mounting evidence that its products are falling into the hands of corrupt regimes, Skell Technology starts coming under increased public scrutiny. When the company is implicated in an assassination, the United States government decides to investigate further only for Auroa to cut itself off from the outside world. Nomad, the leader of a Ghost Recon fireteam deployed to Auroa, finds that former Ghost Cole D. Walker has gone rogue. A private military contractor named Sentinel has occupied the island under Walker’s command while Walker himself is leading a team of soldiers calling themselves the “Wolves”. Armed with cutting-edge weapons and equipment, the Wolves have commandeered Skell Technology’s drone production as part of a self-appointed mission to safeguard the future of warfare.

What the wiki description doesn’t touch on is exactly what your situation as Nomad is, and that while you may be leading a team of Ghosts to investigate the things happening on Auroa, your team is shredded by a swarm of drones while on approach. You crash, just about everyone dies, and you’re left to fend for yourself.

You’re not entirely alone however. There are some friendlies inhabiting the islands, who now take refuge from Sentinel, Skell Tech, and the Wolves. They have built a hidden sanctuary within the mountains, creating a community that you will ultimately be protecting.

The missions playable for the beta don’t uncover any big turn of events, but rather an introduction into the combat system, stealth tactics and light enemy threat in the form of simple tasks.

A couple of features that differ from Wildlands are the Skill Tree, and cosmetics. The Skill Tree offers more options for players to specialize in, catering to a wider range of play styles and preferences. This ties in very with the large amount of upgrades and perks that can be combined with your loadout to give each Ghost their perfect set of death tools.

All these upgrades and perks go towards creating a higher average gear level, with more challenging enemies requiring a higher gear level to make the fight possible. But what if you don’t want to be stuck wearing combat boots and a tactical vest? What if you prefer the plaid jacket and funny hat? Well, as luck would have it, Ubisoft has employed a feature which allows you to override your equipped gear with cosmetic skins. Of course, this is opening up the world of micro-transactions and the inviting the plague of cosmetic purchases into Ghost Recon Breakpoint. But, who gives a shit?

Bivouacs are another addition, which are small camps that allow you to rest, and make some more tweaks to your character. These include Preparations, Tactics, Craft, and Garage. Each time you visit a Bivouac you can select a different type of Preparation such as eating, hydrating, stretching, drone maintenance, and weapon review. each of these is a timed buff that will give you an extra advantage while active. For example: The eating activity will add a 20% Injury Resistance buff for 60 minutes, and you can switch that out to any of the others just by going to a Bivouac again. Depending on your mission, or the type of play style you want to utilize, each of these buffs can come in handy. Or, if you don’t have any particular mission you want an extra bit of grunt for you can simply keep adding the resources preparation which will give you an additional 10% XP to help level up faster.

You can also play around with your Tactics here, which are the various classes that have their own skill sets attached, and preset loadouts. The classes available to switch between, and customize as you progress are Assault, Sharpshooter, Panther, and Field Medic.

Crafting is fairly self explanatory, you gather resources around the map and use them to craft things like Sync Shot Drones, Frag Grenades, Syringes, and various Rations that provide further buffs in accuracy, endurance, recovery and more.

Garage? Well, I can’t provide any info on that due it being absent from the beta during our test.

It feels good to play Ghost Recon again, and to see some big steps forward in the menu-based game play such as customization, and a very large amount of settings that can be fiddled with. I mean it, like a crazy amount of settings.

The player movement is exactly what you would expect from Ghost Recon, it’s clunky and designed that way intentionally to force the player to be methodical, and to work with precise actions. As usual, it gets in the way of completing some rather mundane tasks such as opening a supply crate. God forbid you stand slightly to the side, or maybe turning like a fraction away, because if you do the prompt to open the crate will vanish, making you re position to try again.

What is surprising is that even though it can feel very rough, like steering a bus through a maze of honey, it becomes fluid while in the midst of a firefight, with all those little annoyances seeming to melt away, leaving you with the experience of being bound to your character. Ducking from cover to cover, taking those perfectly timed shots, and defeating overwhelming numbers.

It’s as if the character movement was developed with combat and stealth in mind, and not much though put into simple things like walking through a door without accidentally taking cover against neighboring wall. And don’t get me started on the driving, this has been driving me nuts for about 70 of these Tom Clancy games now. Why is it that you can program a thousand NPCs to have their own lives going on to observe, and in Ghost Recon Breakpoint Ubisoft got as far as using some very impressive audio files for the various sets of wheels, but for some damn reason it still feels like driving from Driver, the 1999-born series of criminal wheel-man games boasting “real car physics and damage”.

So please Ubisoft, for the love of god, you claimed to had cracked the code on real car physics 20 years ago, so why does my buggy come to a bone crunching halt if it hits a pebble?

Ghost Recon Breakpoint shows a lot of promise, and offers new things which is always refreshing. It warms our hearts to see a developer carry on a long winded series and add new features rather than rinse and repeat. There will be some obvious grind at times, but just like the dramatic little intro to this review suggested, the game play and overall experience of Ghost Recon Breakpoint is all about how you choose to play it.

We will be taking a very deep dive into the full game, and will add some updates to this review in due course, but for it’s current state I give this one 9.7/10 on the Loot Reviews Game-Likey-Meter-Thingy.

"A bigger map than Wildlands, a better story, it's just better."
9.7/10

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