Archives by Day

August 2021

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 10, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint is an entirely new adventure, putting players back in the boots of the Ghosts, an Elite US Special Operations Unit. But this time they are stranded behind enemy lines, facing their toughest enemy to date.

Buy Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands was a big change to the series' formula. The linear structure of past games was ditched in favor of an open-world that was always online. Classes were discarded, and the game embraced a sandbox approach to everything. It worked well in roping in more players who might have been scared off by the straightforward older titles, and it also kept fans who saw the new approach as a challenge rather than a big setback. Instead of simply refining things, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint aims to upend things again, this time with very mixed results.

Breakpoint is set in a realistic future where tech entrepreneur and idealist Jace Skell has purchased the island of Auroa to continue his company's work without the interference of governing bodies. What started as an altruistic endeavor has transformed into something more sinister due to a security firm staging a coup within his company. The Ghosts become involved, but en route to the island, they suffer heavy losses from a drone attack. You take on the role of Nomad, one of the few Ghosts to survive the attack, and for the first time, you come into the mission alone and woefully underarmed.

Addressing one of the concerns from the previous game, the story in Breakpoint is a completely serious affair. There's no chance of you jumping into a car and hearing a DJ blast out tunes or tell lame anecdotes disguised as jokes. Audio logs that make the villains sound stereotypically goofy are gone, as are the unintentionally hilarious speeches from the main villain. For the most part, this is a by-the-numbers military tale.

The side effect of that decision is that the story is mind-numbing. We've seen the misuse of technology tale before. Jon Bernthal plays his role as Cole Walker wonderfully, but there isn't enough here to make you care about the guy and his betrayal to the team. The same goes for just about every single person you meet in the game, who may as well be caricatures of similar characters in similar titles. When you consider the number of cut scenes you have to go through, it's a shame that no real effort is spent on making you care about the game narrative.

You're jumping into familiar territory if you've already played Wildlands. The island of Auroa is divided into 21 different sectors, and there aren't any restrictions about where you can go or how you get there. You can walk, but you'll likely grab a bike, car or helicopter to traverse the terrain instead of enduring the long load times that come with "fast traveling." Every enemy encounter can either be resolved with stealth or going loud, while the realistic shooting mechanics mean that headshots always count as one-hit kills unless you encounter someone with a helmet. You can invite allies to your game so you can run around with a four-person posse. The game also marks the return of the leveling system, so getting kills can help you unlock abilities and gear, like carrying more ammo or giving you a parachute. You traverse the island and pick up clues to unlock the next major combat area and its missions.

Breakpoint also sports a number of additions that arguably make the game better than its predecessor. Items you want to pick up don't require a button press, as you'll automatically grab anything of importance. Lay prone, and you can quickly cover yourself in dirt or snow to add some camo to yourself. Your investigative techniques include interrogation, so the desire to shoot everyone in your sight is tempered when you know that you can glean important info if you let your enemy live just a tad longer. If you're playing co-op, you can carry your downed partners to reach safety.

If the game had stopped there, then this would feel like a solid sequel that fans would be excited to play. However, there are a few other major changes that produce mixed results. The first big change is the return of classes, which include assault, field medic, panther (stealth), and sharp shooter. They grant extra perks, like deploying a healing drone or the chance to have three rounds of armor-piercing bullets. The "true grit" ability feels arcade-y since you're fighting to refill a meter that reduces your recoil and lets you absorb more damage.

As mentioned in previews, the title takes on a bit of the survival genre with the fatigue and stamina factors. That's what you might think, since you can drink water, gather crafting ingredients, and set up camp. Truthfully, these things don't mean much when you're playing, since you don't have to worry about hunger, sleep or thirst. Water restores lost stamina, and food triggers temporary boosts that don't seem to impact the gameplay.

The other thing that was emphasized in previews is how alone you are. Unless you're playing with others online, your adventures are solo affairs, since you don't even have AI companions. Their presence is missed because you won't hear friendly banter, but the game's reliance on drones means that you can still pull off things like synchronized shots. It also means that you'll do all of the piloting, so if you love having the AI drive to a waypoint while you handle the guns, prepare for disappointment.

That feeling of loneliness, which is further emphasized by cut scenes, is shattered once you make it to the homesteader base, where you'll see plenty of other players gathering around, accepting missions, or shopping. The base's existence only seems to bog down the game, as the layout is confusing enough that leaving is an adventure in and of itself. A large marker is needed to show you how to return to the action.

The last major change has to do with your plentiful gear. Unless you're camping out in one spot for prolonged periods of time, it doesn't take much time before you encounter a chest with a new gun or piece of gear or you down an enemy and get the same loot. It gets to the point that you won't stick with one gun or piece of gear for long, and shopping at the hub store seems pointless since you'll get something better in the field soon. However, each piece of gear raises your power level, and while that seems useless since everyone can die with a headshot, it makes a difference when fighting off drones. It also acts as a temporary deterrent to heading to the boss straight from the beginning of the game, since you might not feel too confident taking on an enemy encampment when they're ranked at 150 and you're in the lower double-digits.

The result of these major changes is an experience that isn't Ghost Recon anymore. You can still plan your missions and choose stealth or a pure gunfight, but those moments of joy from having a plan come together take a backseat to opening a chest or killing a random enemy and finding a new piece of kit that needs to be worn immediately. This is now comparable to Destiny but with a more grounded setting and less fantastic guns. If you wanted to be harsher, this is The Division but in a less urban setting and with one more co-op player in tow. In short, this entry traded in its unique points to become another looter shooter.

If you can live with the title's transformation from tactical co-op into looter shooter, you may not be that forgiving about the bugs and design issues. There were several times when the loading times felt longer than usual. Some areas where you fly a drone or speed through the environment caused hard locks for the PC. When gathering intel, you can only parse one piece of information, even though you have several options in front of you, and it can be argued that the decision was done as a means of artificial padding. Interrogation is laughable, as you'll somehow glean all the information you need from enemies, even though they haven't said anything. The same goes for when you ask civilians for information, and it becomes even more laughable when you ask in a calm voice after having just engaged in a firefight.

Perhaps the most annoying issue of all is the position of the camera in relation to your player. When you begin, your character is lined up squarely in front of the camera. It doesn't take long for the character to shift so that he or she is to the left, similar to the Resident Evil 2 remake. Give it a few more steps or a camera shift to show you taking cover or examining something, and suddenly your character is on the right side of the screen. The button used to switch shoulders doesn't work most of the time, and while jumping in and out of cover can usually fix it, the technique is inconsistent enough that shoulder shifts aren't guaranteed. For a game with a third-person perspective and a heavy reliance on not losing your targets, this constant shift is more than annoying. You become susceptible to unnecessary hits due to the finicky nature of the camera.

Aside from the always-on co-op mode, Breakpoint now has the PvP mode Ghost Wars. With two teams of four pitted against each other, you'll try to win two out of three rounds in two different game types. Sabotage is reminiscent of Counter-Strike, as you have one team trying to plant a bomb and the other trying to diffuse it. The other mode is a standard team deathmatch but with some battle royale thrown in; a circle of radiation constantly surrounds and constricts the area, forcing everyone into a fight instead of simply hiding out. The modes are mere distractions, considering how the main campaign has always been the main focus, especially with raids now in play. However, the mode offers its own leveling system, which nets you some new guns and other items that can be taken back into the campaign. There's a good chance of Ghost Wars having a dedicated player base instead of going unused.

Sadly, as expected from many Triple A games nowadays, there are microtransactions, but the implementation is perplexing. You use real money to buy Ghost Coins, which let you buy cosmetic items, guns, gun blueprints, and gun parts. Ghost Coins can also be used to buy Skell Credits, the same currency that you find in the field, and that can be used to buy the same items, albeit at a level that's not as flashy or powerful. While that might seem like you can pay to get a big boost for either the campaign or the multiplayer, the game's own loot loop is designed in a way that you're always coming across something better, so that shiny new gun you paid for might be completely overpowered and obsolete in about 15 minutes. It also becomes useless for multiplayer, since every weapon is normalized, so the big perks in solo mode are negated for the sake of fairness. In short, unless you're aiming for cosmetics, spending cash for microtransactions is a fool's errand.

The presentation is all over the place, and the audio is hit-and-miss. The soundtrack doesn't really exist, as the title mostly relies on ambient noise for immersion. There's some music during action sequences, and while it works as general action movie fodder, few people will notice it. Sound effects are fine, and the same goes for the voice acting. Some roles are done well, while others sound like generic action movie characters with tough-sounding gruff voices that spit out military jargon. Dialog lines start repeating quite early in the campaign, which isn't a good sign.

There may be some lengthy load times if you fast-travel from one biome to another, but the graphical details can make you forgive that issue. It's impressive to watch your character get gradually covered in mud or snow or see it melt away during a run or rainstorm. Other games can't pull this off, and the density and constant motion of the vegetation make the environments feel alive despite the lack of civilians. The details can be overlooked when you notice a constant fuzziness near said vegetation or a general pixelated blur that appears when you look at a screen or a bottle label. More concerning is the fact that everything else in the game fails to impress. It might be because we've seen so many other open-world games from Ubisoft, but this large and diverse world doesn't feel that special. The same goes for the character models and animations, which look good but don't look much different from other Tom Clancy titles.

On the PC, this means that you'll need to do a ton of tweaking to get the game looking good and running steadily at 60fps. We're using a Ryzen 5 2600 with a Geforce RTX 2060 on a 1080p monitor, and the game struggled to stay at 60fps unless we were running on the "High" preset. You can tweak everything to get better frame rates and a better presentation with this kind of rig, but the game needs bigger and beefier hardware to run at a level that PC players expect. For the most part, if you could dial in a setting to make Assassin's Creed Odyssey look and run well, you can apply that knowledge to Breakpoint.

Despite everything mentioned in this review, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is still a fun game when everything is working well. Thanks to the very long-term support that Ubisoft provides for its games, there's little doubt that the crashes and other oddities will be patched over time. The gameplay remains a highlight of the series, even with all of the directional changes being made. With that said, the mashup of these different ideas has resulted in a game that has become rather generic instead of something special and different. There's a good chance that the game will improve in the next few months or a year, and at that point, players can easily jump into the game and enjoy the hell out of it. At launch, however, Breakpoint makes sense if you want to get into a looter shooter that isn't full of fantastical weaponry or you aren't playing The Division 2 anymore.

Score: 6.5/10

More articles about Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint
blog comments powered by Disqus