Surprised by the angry hum of a drone as it passes, you drop to the floor, covering yourself with wet mud and earth. After the drone leaves, hushed voices nearby approach your position. You're being tracked. This is what it is to be hunted; nowhere is safe on this island. But they won’t find you unless you want them to - after all, you are a ghost. You check your mag, attach the silencer and line up your shots. They don’t stand a chance.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is the latest in the series of military tactical shooters and like most of its brothers in arms it has dropped its simulation components in favour of a more action packed cinematic feel. Developed by Ubisoft Paris, the 11th game in the long running franchise is the sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, and feels very similar to its predecessor in that it takes the series' third person shooting to an open world.
You undertake missions in a huge sandbox while behind enemy lines. Meanwhile another group of elite soldiers is tracking you, led by a familiar face.
The game is set in 2023 on an exotic yet technologically advanced chain of Islands called Auroa, run by billionaire Jace Skell. Skell is a Tony Stark/Steve Jobs type genius who is creating advanced technology and drones, which have somehow gone out of control. Your elite unit is sent to investigate but your chopper is immediately shot down. You are then relentlessly hunted with by an ex Special Forces unit with the same training as you. These guys are packing advanced technology and seemingly limitless resources and troops.
The most dangerous of these hunters are called Wolves and a man called Cole Walker, played by The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal is leading them. Walker is a friend to the main character and a previous ally who has turned on you and the government.
The game is picturesque, with the lighting and shadows really adding an extra dimension of beauty to an already stunning world. There are also beautiful vast expanses of trees and environments to explore; I especially loved hovering over the mountains in a helicopter, as parts of this world are breathtaking and going on foot takes forever. Still, after a while some areas begin to look samey. The environment begins to feel less like a real world and more like a selection of loosely connected game areas.
The detail on the player character as well as Jon Bernthal is fantastic but everyone else doesn’t look anywhere near as good, with background characters looking a bit dead behind the eyes. Some character animations look pretty basic for a current generation game. There is also some detail pop-in which can be quite jarring and distracting, especially during the cut scenes.
Even in single player you are not totally alone as you have more items and high tech gadgets than the lovechild of Batman and James Bond. With a drone of your own, EMP grenades, a rocket launcher, night vision and heat vision you have a deadly arsenal at your fingertips - and that’s before you get to the gear and guns.
Breakpoint employs some light looter shooter elements with gear having levels and some items having useful effects - like adding to stealth or experience gain - but it never feels like it makes much of a difference. You collect weapons and gear from fallen soldiers and weapon caches, but can also buy them in shops or find blueprints in the wild.
Gunplay is solid and satisfying with weapons feeling tight and responsive. You can also tinker with them and make them more effective by adding attachments like scopes, extended clips and fore grips to further customise your death-dealing device of choice.
Enemies have varied difficulties, which as you can imagine makes higher leveled foes more dangerous, but thankfully unlike The Division or Destiny this doesn’t mean they will absorb ungodly amounts of damage. Headshots generally take someone down, which means you can survive if higher-level patrols spot you as long as you’re quick and accurate.
There are also some light survival elements. While resting in bivouacs you can craft items such as rations and plan your next op, which will give you buffs for a limited amount of time. For example, eating a meal can make you more resistant to injury and preparing your weapons can make you more accurate. It’s a good idea on paper but I never felt it was that useful or went far enough, as none of these things are required to survive.
You can also become injured, which slows you down and limits your maximum health. However this is almost pointless considering how easy it is to fix with either a quick jab with the syringe or, if you have the time, infinite bandages which also patch you up but take a lot more time to apply. You also have regenerating health so it really doesn’t feel like a survival game. Death also isn’t much of a loss, with me respawning a grenade's throw away from where I died previously.
Enemies aren’t generally too challenging unless you are surrounded, but drones can easily tear you apart and it’s best to avoid them or take them down carefully while they patrol the islands. Breakpoint really shines when you opt for slow, stealth based approaches and picking off adversaries with precision while avoiding overhead surveillance. Using your drone to scout and mark targets then sneaking in and silently killing foes feels awesome.
The game features a great progression system and skill tree with a massive array of perks and upgrades which while daunting at first, allow you to shape your character to suit your play style and tactics. Most of them are useful and some grant passive buffs while some unlock more gadgets.
There are more than a few times when I’ve become stuck on environments or been unable to aim down the sight, which makes my sniper rifle useless. I’ve had some occasional stutters and frame rate drops which while isn’t awful, but I expected better. The third person perspective isn’t always smooth as I often could get stuck on cover or my character would have difficulty in indoors spaces which is frustrating when you are running from enemy troops or when your cover is blown.
Breakpoint is definitely improved vastly with friends, allowing you to coordinate and work together. The option of co-op play is also available, allowing you to work together and carry your progress into your single player campaign. PVP also gives you the opportunity to duke it out against other players and test your skills. However, because other players can buy weapons, experience boosters and skill points, matches will often feel unbalanced.
If your internet connection isn’t too reliable you may note that Breakpoint is an always online game even when you are playing single player, meaning you can lose connection suddenly and be kicked out of the game.
Unfortunately at launch Ghost Recon Breakpoint was riddled with micro transactions. These allowed the player to spend real world money on in-game currency, used to purchase cosmetic items as well as experience boosters, weapons, crafting materials and even skill points.
This not only gave you an advantage when facing other players, but due to the looter aspects this could be addictive to some people. According to a statement from Ubisoft to website PCGamesN , these so-called Time-Savers have only been removed "for now", so it remains to be seen how this affects the game going forward and if they will be implemented in future updates.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a solid shooter with a massive world, engaging plot and cool gadgets. Jon Bernthal is fantastic and the most compelling character in the game. Breakpoint’s strongest moments are when you are stalking targets through the wilderness and dispatching platoons quietly and skillfully like some murderous Batman. However it’s not quite enough to overlook the game’s shortfalls.
Breakpoint suffers from being a jack-of-all-trades; it just feels rushed. Its weak loot system, under-developed survival elements, light RPG mechanics, bad menus, the blandness of the world - not to mention the very grubby initial use of micro transactions - let down what could be a great game.
However, the foundations of Breakpoint are sound, and hopefully with a little love and a lot of patches, this could become a fantastic shooter.
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 , PC
Price: £49.99 / Gold Edition - £83.99 / Ultimate Edition - £99.99 / Wolves Collectors' Edition - £149.99