Ghost Recon Breakpoint is Ubisoft’s latest entry in the tactical shooter genre and a followup to 2017’s Wildlands. You take on the role of Nomad, a Ghost team leader. Ghosts are elite special operations soldiers sent in for the toughest assignments. This time you are sent to the island of Auroa to find out why the future tech hub has gone dark and to neutralize your former comrade Walker.
Walker is played by Jon Bernthal, who most people will remember from The Walking Dead and The Punisher. The rest of your squad from Wildlands also returns, but if anyone can remember their names without looking them up, I’d be stunned. They may as well not be present in Breakpoint for all the impact they have.
Your own personal Nomad
Your Nomad is customizable, but the options are fairly limited. You’ve got about 9 faces and haircuts with a handful of scarring options. It’s not much, but it gets the job done. Additionally, there are four classes you can specialize in: Assault, Field Medic, Panther (stealth), and Sharpshooter. You aren’t locked into any one class though. You can unlock all four and swap between them at your camps. Each one levels individually through small challenges like killing X number of Y with weapon type Z.
You can also equip an assortment of different items to help you in your mission. From grenades to sync shot drones that will shoot enemies for you, there are plenty of options to utilize. Unfortunately, the item wheel system is unnecessarily limited. You can only equip two throwable items at once alongside two support items. Add in your class item and the default med-pack, and you have just six items total in your quick use slots.
This really limits what you can do in the middle of a heated firefight, and swapping anything out of your quick slots requires heading into the menu – which does not pause the game in co-op. As a result, I didn’t even really use most of the gadgets on offer. They just weren’t worth the time and effort.
Light up your leveling
There are two leveling systems at play. First is a traditional, experience-based one that tops out at level 30. Each level will grant you a skill point to be used in the branching skill tree. From here, you can unlock passive abilities, like being able to carry more gear; additional equipment, like night vision goggles; or active perks, which must be equipped to give you bonuses to your accuracy or speed and whatnot. The second system is your gear score. This is based on the level of all your currently equipped weapons and armor. This caps out at 200 and is largely how your progression in the game is gated.
You are also able to equip time-based bonuses at bivouacs (your fast travel camps) which range from bonus experience to injury resistance. I never noticed them making much of a difference, so take that how you will. I’d probably recommend the injury prevention buff, as the resident military forces of Auroa tend to only shoot you in the right shin, leaving you hobbled until you place a bandage on it with an overlong animation. The bivouac also serves as a way to reset your stamina and as a remote shop and garage. How setting up a campfire lets you spawn a helicopter I’ll never know, but it’s there if you want it.
The Auroa archipelago itself is pretty and has basically one of every type of biome you would want to see. It’s large enough that, if you simply wanted to explore, you could likely get dozens of hours out of the game before realizing that almost every encounter is the exact same. It is also small enough that traveling from one end to the other isn’t too much of a bother.
A “tactical” mission
Missions are handled on the objective board, a four-pronged corkboard that tracks main missions, daily challenges, etc. This menu in particular really shows how much Breakpoint was designed for consoles first. You can’t scroll by moving your mouse to the edge of the screen, so it took me way longer than I care to admit to realize there were more missions off-screen. You have to click and drag to navigate, which is a small gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
The missions themselves all break down into two fazes. Go to location X to find information or clue Y, then go to location Z to either repeat the Y step or get a cutscene. Each step has a handful of soldiers for you to bop along the way.
At its heart, Breakpoint is a stealth-based looter shooter. There is almost no reason to be attached to any piece of gear you find, as you’ll get something better within just a few minutes.
If you play as intended, you’ll spend a lot of time using your personal drone to scout out enemy locations while you have buried yourself prone in the mud or snow so that enemies won’t spot you. You’ll sneakily crouch your way in so as to not generate too much noise. You’ll use wire cutters to silently clip through a perimeter fence to slip in like the very ghosts your unit is named after. In reality, however, none of that matters at all.
What separates Breakpoint from other contemporary looter shooters is the emphasis on more realistic combat rather than being RPG-stat driven. So unlike in other games like Destiny 2 or The Division 2, enemies above your level won’t simply absorb all your gunfire unflinchingly.
A bullet to the brain
A bullet to the brainpan is just as effective from a level 2 Ghost as it is from an endgame level 200 ghost. As such, much of the challenge of combat is simply how much damage you take in response. You can be taken down in as little as one to two shots from high-level foes. Unfortunately, the ‘one shot, one kill’ ethos of the game does not go both ways as it did in the Advanced Warfighter days. Enemies at your level or below seem to be equipped with pellet guns, as you can take an absurd amount of damage without much consideration.
Additionally, you are able to add a silencer to just about any gun in the game. This includes sniper rifles and DMRs, making any encounter a laughable affair. The game even seems to halfheartedly encourage this as an option from the very start. As soon as you end the first mission, you are given a new quest to find and kill Walker, the final boss of the game. They aren’t kidding either. You can simply go to where he is hiding (I won’t spoil his location here, but it’s exactly where you’d think). Headshot all his boys, kill one of the only enemies in the game that can’t be one-shotted, and then take him out with a single headshot.
I know this is feasible, because I did it. While not at the immediate beginning of the game, once the tedium of the repetitive mission structure finally wore me down, I simply walked into Mordor and took down his base. They recommend your gear level be at 150 for the mission, but I faced little resistance at level 100.
The only high-level enemies that will give you any grief are the robotic drones and behemoths, which need to be worn down by chipping away at their armor to reveal weak points. They are the only thing stopping you from steamrolling the entire island like the star of a one-man Expendables movie.
All this adds up to making the game way too easy even above standard difficulty. The game ends up being a slog if you are playing solo. However, where the game does shine is in its co-op.
Granted, almost any game is better if you experience it with friends, but Breakpoint adds a bevy of quality of life options that make the experience better. Matchmaking and sending invites to your friends are simple, if not quick. Proposing and accepting which missions your squad of Ghosts will go on is fairly straightforward.
Probably best of all is that as long as your squad has the same mission pinned, you all share progress. As long as one person makes it to the next objective or cutscene, everyone gets to see it. It sounds like a really little thing to highlight, but considering Monster Hunter: World botched its co-op system so badly in this regard, it’s a delight to have. Additionally, you can fast travel to within a couple of hundred meters of any member of your squad. With the map as large as it is and fast travel points sparse enough to be a pain, this was huge for fighting off the feeling that I was slogging through the campaign.
There are a few other neat additions, like being able to pick up your downed comrades to get them out of the line of fire before attempting to revive them. Considering that unlike Rainbow Six Siege, you are not able to move when downed, this could have been a really interesting risk/reward mechanic. Unfortunately, it is let down once again by the game being braindead easy.
Being an open-world game, Breakpoint naturally has its fair share of jank. Normally, I wouldn’t hold too much of that against it, but there were a handful of bugs that were frustrating almost to my breakpoint. Over the course of my playthrough, I experienced multiple freezes, some recoverable and some that made me force quit the game. I also had to deal with an unstable party system that would drop my friends for seemingly no reason. Those can be pretty easily forgiven, as most game launches are at least a little rough, but it gets worse.
Towards the end of my playthrough, I got a legendary assault rifle. Score! The only problem is that it defaulted to single-shot with the ability to toggle it to automatic. No problem right? All I have to do is aim down sights and press ‘X’ to switch the mode. Easy. Except that ‘X’ is also the launch drone button and that overrides the mode switch command. Hmm. Maybe I have to hold ‘X’? Nope. Any press of the ‘X’ key results in the drone being launched. Ok. I guess I’ll rebind these keys so that they don’t overlap. Haha. Just kidding. The key rebind system doesn’t actually work unless you reboot the game. So here I am, stuck with an awesome rifle that may as well be garbage until the next time I play.
That may not sound like that big of a problem, but the game takes ages to load on an HDD. At the very least I can move on to another gun, so it’s not like that was game-breaking, but it was a giant disappointment.
Have you finished those errands?
Truly the worst bug was the constant popping of a ‘mission complete’ banner for a tutorial mission – a mission I had finished in the first hour or so of the game. Every time I loaded in, Breakpoint felt the need to remind me of my triumph over the ‘find a weapon blueprint’ mission. Maybe it simply wanted to show me how far I’d come, but after about the 30th time I had to see this prompt, sometimes as many as three times in a row, it became a royal pain. What makes it worse is that it takes up a huge amount of screen real estate for several moments. If Breakpoint was more challenging, it could easily be the cause of the player’s death. I’m lucky that I never died as a result of it, because I probably would have walked away from the game altogether.
Us vs. them
The last thing to mention is the competitive multiplayer mode Ghost War. It consists of two 4v4 modes: Elimination and Sabotage. Elimination is a straight forward team deathmatch. Sabotage is an attack and defense mode based around one team trying to plant a bomb while the other tries to defuse it. Both serve well enough as a diversion.
Strangely, you can’t really kill an enemy here, only down them. This can result in some drawn-out matches where players constantly pick up their fallen allies rather than finish out the match. That’s balanced out somewhat by the fact that the revive animation in Ghost War takes about 3 months to play out. You can earn new gear, money, and experience playing this mode, so it’s not a total wash. That said, there are much better competitive experiences out there far more worthy of your time.
Honestly, the entire Breakpoint experience wasn’t terrible. As mentioned above, even a bland game can shine with the right people playing it with you. Unfortunately, most of our conversations while playing Breakpoint were reminiscing on how good Metal Gear Solid V was.
There is a lot of potential here. But with how many other great games are out there, it is really hard to recommend Ghost Recon Breakpoint at full price. Fortunately, it is available as part of U-Play+. Considering it won’t take you a month to be done with this game, a single $15 subscription is probably the way to go if you are interested. Some of these issues may be fixed as the game continues to receive support, but for now, I’ve reached my own breakpoint with it.