Five Hours With Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is here, or is it hiding in that bush over there? Whatever the case, Ubisoft’s latest addition to the Tom Clancy video game canon is here with plenty of loot to find and bases to assault. Breakpoint brings a lot of improvements over 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. Cool character creation, tons of weapon customization, an actual villain. But it’s also rough in other areas, less of a delicious action milkshake and more like a gritty military sludge.

I’ve played around five hours of Breakpoint today, waking up and diving right into the action. On the one hand, it’s a surprisingly chewable and chill action game. On the other, I feel like I’ve been here before. Breakpoint isn’t a game out to shatter the mold; instead, it wants to slide comfortably into it. That’s great if you’re looking for some tactical action but if you’ve played a military shooter before, then you’ve basically played Breakpoint. No amount of user-interface overhauls or big name actors can change that. I’m in for a long haul but here are some initial thoughts.

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Maybe We Won’t Start A Diplomatic Incident This Time?

Okay, the bar is admittedly low here but 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands had some serious problems with its setting and villains. Set in Bolivia, it focused on a Mexican cartel that somehow took over the country and transformed it into a narco-state. It was sleazy and racist, with caricature Mexican gangsters traipsing about a Bolivia that wasn’t much like Bolivia at all. It was so bad that the country of Bolivia filed a complaint to the French embassy (publisher Ubisoft being a French company, of course) and considered legal action.

Breakpoint opts for a fictional setting: the island of Auroa, which has been taken over by former “Ghost” operative Cole Walker (portrayed by Jon Bernthal.) It’s a sort of tech-libertarian paradise where a company working on automation and drone technology was eventually seized by Walker and his cohorts. It’s generic, but I’ll certainly take that over the shitshow that was Wildlands. And hey, it’s nice to have an honest to God villain this time around.

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Ghost Recon Has Been Taking Notes From Destiny and The Division

While not a full-blown loot shooter, Ghost Recon Breakpoint leans further into that direction than its predecessor. There are a variety of weapon rarity levels, and you have an overall gear score based on the quality of your equipment. Taking on Walker has a recommended gear score of 150 or higher, and much of your time is spent not only on story missions but slowly upgrading your character’s power. This is a bit different from Wildlands, which was far more focused on letting you choose the weapons you like and going from there. Don’t expect to get too attached to your gear in Breakpoint. I was upgrading, swapping out, selling, and disassembling tons of weapons and armor right from the beginning of the game.

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Normal Mode Is Pretty Easy

If you’ve played plenty of shooters, don’t expect Breakpoint’s normal difficulty to offer much of a challenge. While there are tougher enemies—Walker leads a platoon of spec ops “Wolves” who love to hunt down the player—it’s nothing you can’t handle with a marksman’s rifle and some well-placed shots. All your weapons can be suppressed, and Breakpoint hands you a precision rifle in the first mission. If you can aim and click your mouse, the early game (and presumably much of what’s to follow) will seem straightforward.

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The Structure Is Different

Wildlands built itself around a core loop where players would do a few odd jobs to gain access to a high profile cartel lieutenant who they’d confront to gain more intel on their leader, El Sueño. It was a little bit like Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. Very loose, not tons of story. Here are some bad guys, go take them out. Breakpoint splits activities into different paths: a main story path, missions for Auroa’s various factions, side quests, other events like high level raids. This means that you can focus directly on the main story if you want. There’s less screwing about and trying to unlock new missions. It gives Breakpoint a welcome momentum that Wildlands didn’t have.

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I Might Be Able To Fight The Final Boss Right Away?

You can immediately tag a mission to confront Walker right from the start of the game. The main tasks are to interrogate enemy officers for intel on his location and to, if you can, level up your gear to the appropriate level. I’m not entirely clear on how this all works, and it’s possible that officers don’t show up until certain story beats. However, the idea of a playthrough that ignores all the intrigue for a mad dash at the villain is really exciting. Chances are that it doesn’t work that way, but I would love for it to be possible.

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All Games Should Let You “Pin” Objectives 

To help players manage their various tasks, Breakpoint allows them to pin up to three objectives to their interface. For me, this has meant a pin for my main story task, a pin for one side mission, and final pin marking the location of a nearby weapon blueprint. It’s as simple as going into your pause menu, hovering over a mission, and tapping spacebar. Super useful, easy to reference whenever you want, and great for tracking Breakpoints’ numerous distractions.

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You Don’t Need To Wear Ugly Gear

Breakpoint’s focus on swapping out gear means winding up with some mismatched looks. If you find yourself walking around with half a ghillie suit and a crummy flop hat, you can hop into the menu to change your appearance at any time. You’re still mostly limited to tacticool gear, but if you don’t like a particular pair of pants all you need to do is select a new look. If you have better looking gear, simply transform the higher quality stuff into something easier on the eyes.

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There’s An Exploration Mode

Lifting a page from Assassins Creed Origins and Odyssey, Breakpoint has a guided mode and exploration mode. The first places a marker on your map leading directly to your objective, the other asks you to decipher clues and peruse the map to find where to go next. It’s a neat touch for customizing your gameplay experience, even though I think it’s better to play guided in this case. Breakpoint’s map isn’t always easy to traverse; knowing exactly where to go speeds up an otherwise slow process.

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Something’s Up With The Graphics For Me

I’m playing Breakpoint on PC and while everything runs smoothly, there’s some strange stuff going on with the graphics. It’s hard to explain but there’s either some depth of field stuff going on or a filter applied to things out of focus. Whatever the case, it’s given backgrounds a pixelated look that’s honestly distracting me. It’s not affecting my aim and I can soldier on without many problems, but I’m hoping that a few tweaks in the options will get rid of whatever the hell is going on.

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This Could Take A While

Five hours or so isn’t a lot of time with a big AAA video game these days, but I’ve been focusing on the main story quest and was dismayed to see that the statistics screen said I’ve experienced 0% of the overall story so far. Maybe it’s a bug or a factor tied to the fact I’m playing a Ubisoft-provided review code before the game is supposed to be available in my region. Or maybe Breakpoint is that huge. I’d be more excited if the story wasn’t a standard behind-enemy-lines tale. Breakpoint s okay so far, but the prospect of untold hours of scowling soldiers and moody Jon Bernthal one-liners is daunting. All in a day’s work, I guess.

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About the author

Heather Alexandra

Staff writer and critic at Kotaku.