When I think of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, I can’t help but be reminded of cinema in several ways. The first thought that comes to mind is that, just like a lot of modern movies, the exciting or interesting parts were revealed in trailers or previews well before the actual release date. The second is that the game evokes a particular movie title that I could use to define it – “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”; there’s some good stuff, there’s a fair bit of bad stuff, and my word there is definitely a lot of ugly.
Set on the fictional island of Auroa, in an archipelago some several thousand kilometres from Auckland (you won’t forget it after you hear that uttered several times in the first half hour), you fill the shoes of Nomad, squad leader of a team of Ghosts sent to investigate some shady dealings that have taken place on the island. Home to Skell Tech, a haven for futuristic technology and world-changing innovation, the island and its operations have been overrun by a former Ghost named Walker, and as your team arrives at the island you’re thrown into the deep end after your choppers are shot down by the island’s defence system. From there on it’s a stock-standard story of betrayal and rescue with forgettable characters which will likely have you skipping through cutscenes as fast as possible to get through. If you’re looking for a game with a rich narrative experience, leave your expectations at the door.
Of course, skipping a fair bit of the dialogue then opens a bunch of side-quests and secondary missions that half the time I didn’t even know I was doing (or why I was doing them). A lot of them revolve around finding weapons or intel about the island, locked behind fortresses of enemies that will put you down in an instant especially playing on solo. In fact, the game is quite cruel for solo players – messing up stealth or setting off alarms can trigger enemies to call in backup, and there’s nowhere to go. I died a lot of times on my own simply because I couldn’t run from a firefight and had no cover to protect myself. Pairing up with another player turns the experience into something completely different – you get more tactical and craftier with your approach and can back each other up in firefights. Having Jake over my shoulder with a sniper rifle while I ran in all guns blazing made light work of what was otherwise a difficult task.
Having said that, most of the time the weapons we were chasing we would end up cashing in for parts or resources, as there is seemingly no end to the guns and equipment you can find within the game. The gunplay is fun to a degree – matching your loadout to your playstyle and finding the right gun for you is something the game does well. There’s a ton of customisation that can be done to the weapons including upgrading their skills and bonuses, and you can also equip attachments that change their capabilities too. At certain points though you end up digging through a plethora of weapons that you just want to dismantle as it becomes ridiculous searching for the exact right one – and the same can be said for the equipment too. The better your loadout is, the higher your player level is – but there is something concerning when a beanie can offer you more protection than a tactical helmet.
Perhaps this is why the game was more exciting when it came to focusing on the PVP element of Ghost War, which we covered earlier in the year – it was fast, fun and tactical, but most of all it was controlled and refined. Even though the campaign gives you an open world to go out and do what you want, it feels bland and uninspired. Driving physics are ridiculous, traversing the island on foot is a veritable nightmare, and the amount of times I thought I could jump from a cliff and use my parachute only to plummet to the ground made me wonder why I even unlocked a parachute in the first place.
At its best, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the kind of game you’d jump into when you want to go around and shoot the shit, to put it lightly. It feels like a lesser Grand Theft Auto; but in place of standard characters you get spec-ops guys, and instead of a sprawling metropolis you get an island that you can die on just by rolling down a hill. The menus are clunky (and annoying when you open it every time and it loads the map, instead of the last page you were on) and the controls aren’t much better either. Rendering times sometimes become ridiculpus (several times I had Jake laughing in my ear because it looked like our car was coasting across water) and other times map objectives and beacons would just disappear completely and would have to be re-tagged. And don’t even get me started about the online-only stuff – I left my character in a safe spot, walked away to go to the bathroom and came back to the title screen.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
With so much promise in the lead-up, Ghost Recon Breakpoint falls flat of reaching its goal in satisfying expectations. With a lot of things to do but no real reason to do it, the game puts up barriers such as strange loot systems, a subpar plot, an extreme solo difficulty and a requirement for online play. If you can convince your friends to get a copy and play with you, your experience may be better – but chances are you’ll find your time better spent elsewhere.