Here's another open-world live service looter shooter game from Ubisoft. Were you really expecting it to be revolutionary?
That pretty much sums up the entirety of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint. While I initially thought that it was fairly fun and said so in my preliminary review, the full weight of the grid and repetitiveness of it all had yet to fully set in. The main functions were still fun in those first few hours and it was well before I realized that it had nothing more to offer.
As the hours went on, I could feel the gameplay slowly draining my soul by having me do the same things over and over again while constantly tempting me to go to the storefront and give in to the microtransactions in order to relieve the mental ache that the grind was putting me through. It's as if I was staring into an abyss of the kind of games that the big publishers want to produce endlessly that do nothing but drain and consume both one's soul and wallet like the Skeksis do in The Dark Crystal. I felt as if I was observing the fate that should await me if I ever find myself in gamer hell and nearly went mad at the sight but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the sequel to 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands. In it, you play as a Ghost known as Nomad whose team is sent to an archipelago controlled by a company known as Skell Technology which is renowned for their advanced drone technology. Unfortunately, soon after you arrive on the archipelago, you discover that it has been taken over by a private military organization lead by Nomad's former friend Cole Walker and his elite soldiers (The Wolves) who control the island with an iron grip. It's up to you to rescue a few key people throughout the island so you can take control of the drones guarding the island and escape while thwarting whatever plan Cole has in store.
The plot and characters is where Ghost Recon Breakpoint makes its first notable blunder. Just about every person in this game isn't so much a character as they are devices to move the plot forward. They don't really have characteristics or personalities outside of their assigned roles and by the time the story ends, you'd be hard-pressed to tell anyone anything about these characters. They're very quickly introduced and propped up as being important people with the player hardly having heard about them before. They are then just as quickly forgotten about or killed off with little ceremony before moving on to the next supposedly important character which ultimately makes the story far less compelling and the stakes even lower.
The only time the plot ever gets interesting is when it focuses on Cole Walker who's played by Jon Bernthal. He has pretty much made a career out of taking one-dimensional tough guy characters and turning them into something more profound and his role in Breakpoint is no different. His character is a charisma machine and has undeniable chemistry with Nomad and every other character he interacts with. The complicated and tragic relationship between the 2 is the only reason to pay attention to the plot as it drives you to get through the main story missions just so you can see these 2 characters interact more onscreen. It's just depressing that the rest of the game wasn't up to par with this part of the story.
As mentioned in my preliminary review, the core concept of the gameplay is rather fun. The gameplay loop always starts with you scouting out the base or compound that has your objective. Then, you mark your targets with your drone before deciding to sneak, kill, or blast your way to your objective. None of these options are inherently wrong with each method providing its own drawbacks and benefits. This kind of gameplay is what Ubisoft has come to specialize in and it's always fun to do for a while. What I didn't realize at the time of writing that was that this was literally all you do here.
Scouting a base and deciding how to best go about sneaking through it is fun and all but it becomes dull when you've done it for the 20th time against enemies that all look the same with the same weapons, weaknesses, voices, and banter over and over and over and over again. The objectives themselves aren't much better as they almost always amount to you having to rescue someone, hack a computer, take pictures of something, or blow something up in an endless mind-numbing loop. The only time the gameplay really comes to life is when you have to take down a Wolf Commander as The Wolves typically have better gear and make for a more challenging obstacle. Unfortunately, the way you go about this is pretty much the same as every other mission and the commanders are so unmemorable that at times, you'll kill them and not even realize that you have killed them until you look at your objectives.
There is also a gear system which, to be frank, is completely pointless. They don't make the missions any easier as the enemies' levels are always scaled to yours. The weapons and gear are almost always the same items with a higher number slapped on them with maybe a few extra perks. They're functionally the same and seem to have been made to give the player the illusion of progress as opposed to actual progression. That is, until you get towards the end of the campaign as the more sinister reason behind the gear levelling system becomes far more apparent.
Based on my experience, if you just do the story missions in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, you'll hit somewhere between level 120 and 130 in your weapons and gear loadout. However, in order to have any chance of beating the last few missions, you need to have a gear set that reaches level 150 or greater. As a result, you only have 2 ways to proceed: continue to grind through the side-missions which all play the same as the main missions or fork out real cash for better gear which is clearly what they want you to do. It's a pretty gross move on Ubisoft's part and is a prime example of how microtransactions can ruin a single player experience and it even puts Middle-earth: Shadow of War's Shadow Wars to shame. At least that game had the courtesy to let you finish the story before it required you to dive into its loot box system. It was at this point that Ghost Recon Breakpoint essentially broke me.
To add insult to injury, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is an absolute technical mess. The graphics are a bit bland and look more than a little out of date but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Characters will sometimes stop talking mid-sentence before moving on awkwardly to the next one. Plus, voice audio constantly desyncs with the characters' lip movements in cutscenes and often, gunfire and other sound effects just won't trigger. At times, the grass didn't load in and instead, looked like giant green squares on the ground. Sometimes, I would hit a button on my controller and Nomad wouldn't respond. There were even instances when Nomad fell and the falling animation kept playing endlessly until I eventually reset the game. None of these problems were exactly game-breaking but they definitely provided a frothy layer of poop flavoured icing on top of an already discounted month-old cake.
In the end, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint is just a mess. Between its technical issues, repetitive gameplay, subpar gear system, and sinister microtransactions; this is probably the worst open-world live service game so far. Hopefully, its technical issues will be patched soon but the base game will still remain one of the most soulless experiences that I've played this console generation.
- + Jon Bernthal's Cole Walker is compelling
- + Scouting out a base before attacking or sneaking around it is satisfying
- - Incredibly repetitive gameplay
- - Loot system repeatedly uses the same weapons over and over again
- - Loads of glitches / microtransactions