Ghost Recon Breakpoint is not only a tactical shooter that knows what it means to be a tactical shooter but also a title that understands the open world is a part of the gameplay experience as a whole. Ubisoft's Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon franchises have always been at the forefront of the tactical shooter genre, at least in the triple-A space, and while support for Rainbow Six Siege has been going strong for four years now, the studio has been trying to update the Ghost Recon side in some big ways.
An overhaul of the Ghost Recon franchise came in 2017 with the release of Ghost Recon Wildlands, which moved away from the futuristic setting that the series had come to adopt and back toward the modern warfare that was established with the original games. Coupling that with an open world setting and a fixation on stealth and preparation, as well as a revamp of close-quarters combat, revitalized interest in the series, especially as it differentiated itself from the pack due to being hyperfocused on how players infiltrate and choose to complete their mission objectives. Ubisoft Paris is continuing that philosophy in Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
We spent two hours playing Ghost Recon Breakpoint at E3 2019, and during our hands-on preview, we learned quite a bit about the upcoming sequel which takes place after the events of Ghost Recon Wildlands and sees Cole D. Walker (played by Jon Bernthal) become the villain. Walker leads a group known as the Wolves on the island of Aurora, which the Ghosts are trying to invade. We played two missions in our demo, the first of which was an infiltration mission on a compound. But before going straight into the base, our four-player team needed to scout the area and plan ahead. This is at the forefront of Ghost Recon Breakpoint's gameplay. While players can certainly alert the base and go straight in for a run-and-gun playstyle, that would be counterintuitive to what Ubisoft is trying to accomplish here.
Using drones, each player was able to scout the compound, identify enemies along with their enemy types (heavy, sniper, rocket launcher, etc.), and even find where the VIP is being held. After that, the sniper took out the enemy snipers while everyone else began to slowly move into the compound, first cutting the fence open and then taking cover positions. While Ghost Recon Breakpoint can be played solo, co-op play is much better, and working closely with your teammates is vital to completing the objective, especially without dying. This can be done by reviving players, identifying which targets to take down, and using each others' equipment.
Incorporating an open world into a tactical shooter like Ghost Recon Breakpoint will be interesting to see unfold. From a regular gameplay perspective, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is on the right track - the weapons are weighty, the enemies are intelligent (and sometimes difficult to defeat), and the level designs are more complex than ever before - but there are some concerns as well. One thing, in particular, was how the mission objective went from finding and securing the VIP to simply searching for batteries around the compound. It wasn't exactly a rewarding ending.
Plus, a common issue amongst story-based games, even shooter titles, is that, during co-op play, players are put in the shoes of the main character in cutscenes. So while the Ubisoft dev playing with us was Nomad (there are four characters in Ghost Recon Breakpoint: Nomad, Vasily, Fixit, and Fury), whenever we entered a cutscene, everyone was Nomad, despite their characters not changing at all. It's a minor annoyance, but one that doesn't jive well with the rest of the game. And seeing as Ubisoft Paris heavily emphasized Ghost Recon Breakpoint being story-based and having more cutscenes than ever before, this is an issue that may become a nuisance over time.
But in addition to these points, there were a number of other things we learned about Ghost Recon Breakpoint in our hands-on demo:
- Before jumping into combat, players can deploy the Biouvac - a makeshift camp - which allows them to manage classes, equipment, perks (such as stamina boosts), craft items, and so forth. It's a temporary menu in-universe, and it's quite useful, especially if players are moving from mission to mission quickly. If you're low on ammo and bandages, using the Biouvac to restock is absolutely necessary.
- Players need to be mindful of their stamina levels as well as the open world. If you're low on stamina and trying to run down a hill quickly, you'll injure yourself. And players with semi-permanent injuries will limp around until they can heal themselves properly. So when traversing the open world, don't jump off a steep ledge assuming you'll be fine when you land. You won't be. (In fact, in our demo, one of the players had their character injured right from the beginning. He tripped trying to cross a street without getting shot at.)
- The new cover system is immensely helpful. When trying to hide in the fields and avoid being spotted by a helicopter or shield yourself from oncoming fire, Ghost Recon Breakpoint's advanced cover is a player's best friend. It adapts to your surroundings, wherever you are, and when in the fields, players can go prone and blend into the environment.
- Even though there are classes, players can use every piece of equipment and weaponry with any class they want. Furthermore, classes can be swapped at the Biouvac at any time.
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint's new drones - which include the Azrael, Malphas, and Andras drones - are very much deadly this time around, and taking them out will require the entire team to work together. Whether that means using EMP grenades, rocket launchers, or team firing is up to the players.
- Two factions will be available in Ghost Recon Breakpoint at launch. One of them, the Homesteaders, was revealed at E3, and we got a very brief taste at what the Elite Faction missions will entail in the final game. Overall, they amount to side quests in the overarching story.
In the end, there's a lot to look forward to with Ghost Recon Breakpoint. If players enjoyed Wildlands, they'll love this installment. And while there were some glitches and gameplay issues in our playthrough, including one player routinely dropping out of the game, Ubisoft has plenty of time to work out all the kinds. Playing pre-alpha builds is par for the course for E3, after all.