A rather quick follow-up to 2016’s Wildlands, especially in the sense that another Tom Clancy adaptation, Rainbow Six Siege, is still being supported with no sign of a sequel, Ghost Recon Breakpoint represents an enjoyable but familiar time so far.
With a beta currently underway until the 10th of September, Ghost Recon fans who pre-ordered Breakpoint have had their chance to dip their toes into the game early ahead of its October release. As expected, it’s nowhere near the full package: Ghost War PVP isn’t playable in the beta, and there are just a few story missions to get a taste of what’s to come, which you can already tell is going to be anchored by a great performance from Jon Bernthal as the big bad.
Most of my time with Breakpoint so far has been spent messing around with the limited possibilities available, such as unsuccessfully parachuting over and over again and trying to play it like The Phantom Pain but with less character. It’s a closed beta, so scant content is to be expected, though some tweaks to the main experience have left me scratching my head.
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t spend many hours with Wildlands, but what I did play was tactical, bombastic fun with a gigantic map. While Breakpoint still has that, it’s now also a looter shooter with survival elements.
Many comparisons were made to The Division when Wildlands was first announced, though they proved to be entirely different beasts when the full game launched, albeit with the undeniable Ubisoft open world DNA. The Division was intended to be something people put serious hours into to get a shinier beanie, Wildlands released as sort of an antidote to that, like a more serious Mercenaries game — ‘member those gems? Now, though, the similarities are far more obvious.
Players can look forward to earning a piece of gear and then swapping it out for something with better stats a few engagements later. I’m all for a decent loot pool to keep you invested in progression, but when you end up compelled to swap your boots out often, it can often feel like you’re looking after a Sim. What’s weirder is that almost all enemies I encountered were level-less soldiers who fell to one-shot headshots, two or three to the body. Perhaps I’m missing something or perhaps the beta is intended to be an easier, more inviting time for newer players, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was wasting my time by swapping equipment around.
It ultimately feels out of place for a Ghost Recon game — those who were galled by Wildlands’ drastic overhaul will be even more so by the pivot in Breakpoint. I’ve poured plenty of hours into both Division games and appreciated them for what they were. When I played Wildlands, it was for tactical fantasy escapism, yet Breakpoint is trying to crowbar in a system that neither suits it or is necessary. It would be another matter if the hunt for loot was incentivising, but it feels particularly humdrum here and not well executed.
The implementation of survival mechanics is also just odd. Your Nomad’s stamina will drain below its maximum the more you run around, leading you to take a sip out of your water canteen,which can also be refilled in rivers, every so often. You can also visit a bivouac to give yourself a slight buff by doing an activity before you set off again, such as eating food or doing stretches, though I’m yet to notice a particular need for any of it.
Though not a part of the beta, a raid will also be coming to Breakpoint in the future, making the shift to a looter shooter even more pronounced. Speaking personally, I have little time for day-consuming raids, especially when they’re in a game that should focus on its own strong suits rather than borrowing from others. Just give me Mercaneries with extra room for role-playing.
To Breakpoint’s credit, it’s doing quite a lot of things right, too. From the beta, the depth of customisation is superb with currency regularly being thrown at you to buy whatever you want. My Nomad is one very cool dude who probably drinks beers through his nostrils and has hats for every social gathering.
It’s also great fun to pair up with a random player or three to mess around in the world, which is really just about the only thing you can do once the beta story missions are done. Synchronised shooting is still great, as is rampaging or sneaking through soldier encampments thanks to satisfying gunplay (snipes especially) and the options of approach available to you.
The story, though, is where Breakpoint may shine the brightest. From what I’ve experienced of it so far, Bernthal’s Walker is bound to be a fantastic, daunting villain, he and his troops taking over a remote island by the name of Auroa and leaving the Ghosts decimated by drone technology. He only pops up a couple of times in the beta, but whenever he does it feels like an event. It’s a shame, then, that Nomad sounds like H. Jon Benjamin putting on a serious voice.
Breakpoint is undoubtedly going to be an enjoyable game when it releases this October, though will it retain the same dedicated playerbase as Wildlands when so much of its post-launch content looks like it will be something completely different to what was expected? We’ll just have to wait and see.
A beta key was provided by Ubisoft for coverage purposes.