In isolation, Ghost Recon Breakpoint has good shooting, which is the kindest thing I can say about it. No matter what weapon you use, be it a shotgun or a sniper rifle, Breakpoint can often cultivate the feeling that you are an elite special forces operative. It’s satisfying to slowly move through an enemy encampment, taking down target after target alongside your squad. In these brief moments, where nothing else interferes, the act of firing a gun can feel good.
Yet, it’s not what I remember most about Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Because when taken in conjunction with everything else that Breakpoint has — dumb as a rock AI, a useless loot and gear system, a one-note story, far too many microtransactions, and a host of bugs — the shooting is easy to overlook. Ultimately, Breakpoint is defined by just how bland it all is.
In one way, it feels like a parody of Ubisoft open-world games, but that’s not the impression it gives off in the beginning. Ghost Recon Breakpoint opens with you creating the protagonist, henceforth known as Nomad, and watching him or her get nearly blown to pieces after their helicopter is attacked by drones. Nomad was tasked with investigating Auroa, an island that is home to the Skell Tech corporation and has lost contact with the outside world. You swiftly discover the island has been taken over by a private army led by former Ghost Cole D. Walker, played by Jon Bernthal, who has plans that must be stopped. Outmanned and outgunned, Nomad ostensibly has to piece together what happened and figure out how to survive in a region where no backup is coming.
There’s not much to say about the story itself, which is serviceable in execution save for a decent performance by Bernthal as the antagonist, as well as an ending that is an insult to the very definition of the word. It is a very by-the-books tale, where tech leaders simply cannot believe anyone would use technology for the wrong reasons and where Nomad couldn’t see the rather obvious betrayals coming from miles away. The writing and acting outside of Bernthal is weak, though not helping matters was audio cutting out in almost every conversation.
Were Ghost Recon Breakpoint to lean hard into the theme of a soldier trapped behind enemy lines, perhaps I would enjoy it more than I did. It’s impossible for that theme to thrive, however, thanks to the presence of a social hub filled with dozens of players at a time. The cynic in me thinks it’s the perfect place to showcase one’s cosmetics purchased through microtransactions, of which there are many. In truth, I think it’s the first sign of how messy Breakpoint’s design is.
The addition of loot and gear is another such example. You will pick up countless weapons and pieces of gear on your travels, each with a number assigned to it that, combined with all of your other items, gives you a gear score. Newer items will have bigger numbers, but it provides no benefits besides giving you a way to track your progress. Certain items will include bonuses, such as a 10 percent increase to ammo capacity, but the effect is so minute that it may as well not exist at all. There is effectively no difference between your starting equipment and a level 100 set of gloves, and it’s difficult to care about the number going up for any reason besides the fact that the number goes up. This doesn’t extend to weapons so much, mostly because different types of guns do feel different from others in their weapon group, but you will still resort to picking the gun with the bigger number at the end of the day.
This all means that when it comes to human enemies, you can go into any area of the game and take out soldiers without having to worry about your gear level. Though body armour may prevent weaker guns from taking out an enemy quickly, everyone dies in a headshot anyway, save for enemies with helmets that require two. This does make the gameplay have an air of freedom to it, but that’s immediately pushed to the side because it reveals the pointless of the gear system in the first place.
The exception to this is unmanned drones, which are scattered throughout Auroa and have a recommended gear score next to them that shows roughly what level you should be at to take them on. They are exceptionally boring to fight, serving as bullet sponges no matter what your gear score may be. They are an artificial way to gate progress, and their existence serves as a reminder as to how poorly implemented gear and loot is.
Take away the gear system, however, and you’re greeted with enemy AI that is among the worst I’ve seen in quite some time. Enemies will standstill after their allies on patrol are shot directly next to them, or they’ll move between pieces of cover before forgetting that someone is attacking them. When assaulting a base, the best tactical choice in Ghost Recon Breakpoint would be to find a corner or some high ground, as soldiers inevitably charge up to you one by one. Several times, I’ve seen grunts jump off walkways and ledges to their death. The AI ends up making every mission a chore.
This is made worse by how repetitive it is to actually infiltrate and attack fortified locations. You’ll pull out a drone when reaching the outskirts of a base, sending it in to scout out enemy locations and objects of interest. From there, the biggest choice you’ll end up making is whether you want to snipe targets beforehand or charge in. Stealth is an option, but a poor cover system and an inability to move sideways while prone makes it far more difficult than it has to be. Again, this still manages to remain satisfying thanks to the overall strength of the gunplay itself, until you’re reminded of the AI again.
Actually getting to these bases is another chore. Despite Ubisoft’s long-held strength in designing large open worlds, Auroa seems designed to make you want to skip over it all. It is undoubtedly pretty, with a nice variety to the environments that, in a better game, would be worth traversing on the ground. But the simple fact is, getting a helicopter and flying to a mission objective is the easiest and best method. Land vehicles have a stickiness to them that makes turning feel awkward, not to mention their wildly inconsistent durability makes it uncertain as to whether hitting a small rock will result in an explosion. Going out on foot is similarly impractical, and can best be summed up with Nomad’s difficulty in walking down a hill without tumbling ass over teakettle. So, to the helicopter it is.
Tying into exploration is Breakpoint’s half-baked attempt at survival mechanics. This mainly takes the form of a water canteen, which you can refill and drink in order to recover stamina. Which you will lose a lot of thanks to all the aforementioned tumbling. In practice, you don’t make use of it often enough to justify its existence — I think I used it once, actually. Similarly, crafting gear, explosives, and eating food can all be done from the bivouac’s scattered across the island, but there’s no real need to make use of them since items are extremely cheap to purchase and the buffs you gain from food are minuscule. All told, you can get rid of any of the attempts at survival and you’ll change little about Breakpoint.
What does change it is the co-op multiplayer. Ghost Recon Breakpoint encourages you to engage in it all the time, as that is apparently how the game is balanced. It is not thanks to how easy it makes everything, but it does make it all the more enjoyable. Syncing up headshots, assaulting fortresses as a group, ambushing convoys — all the better to do with friends, and in some cases, strangers. Even the PvP mode, Ghost War, is fun for a while.
But every multiplayer game can be made better with friends, and there are better multiplayer games to spend your time in than this one. There are moments where Ghost Recon Breakpoint is fun, but it feels more like a mishmash of other Ubisoft games that have done what it’s aiming for better. There’s nothing distinct or original that gives Breakpoint an identity, and for that, it suffers tremendously.