If you’re thinking about sitting down to play Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, I hope you’re comfortable. It’s going to be a long ride.
Ubisoft is no stranger to epic open-world games, and its latest release is no exception. Set on the island of Auroa, Ghost Recon Breakpoint throws you – quite literally – into the game after your helicopter comes crashing down. You’ve been sent there on a mission after a military ship vanished in the area, and with your and your comrades’ helicopters crashing down, it’s clear something is amiss.
Home to Skelltech, a forward-thinking tech company known for making serious advancements across a breadth of products, it seems the company isn’t as pure as their public-facing exterior would have you believe. It seems they’ve been taken over by a private military operation and their resources are now being used to create advanced war tech. Bad news for you, as you’re the one who has to fight against it all.
To be honest, nobody’s playing Ghost Recon Breakpoint for its storytelling. But that’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. The island of Auroa, as varied and vast as it is, provides a believable backdrop for an otherwise far-fetched story, and it’s easy to get invested in its various narrative strands. But really, they’re just a way to segue from one gameplay sequence to another, and that boils down to mostly one thing: sneaking around and shooting a lot of enemies.
I absolutely don’t mean that in a derogatory way, either. Sneaking around and shooting enemies in Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a hell of a lot of fun. With a map as big as this, and a range of vehicles and weapons at your disposal, there’s no right or wrong way to approach a mission. As long as you survive, and you achieve your goal, anything goes. If you’re playing on the hardest difficulty, stealth will be your best friend. Expect to spend a lot of time in cover, carefully sniping enemies with headshots to clear your way through an area. Breakpoint’s normal difficulty expects the same of you to an extent, but it’s not so unforgiving that you can’t take a few shots.
There’s also an ‘arcade’ difficulty, which is Breakpoint‘s easiest mode. It allows for much more casual play, allowing you to run into areas, at least early on in the game, all-guns blazing and not worry too much about taking damage. Of course, you will face harder enemies that still require a bit more strategy – but it’s a welcome addition to the game, allowing for more playstyles to be considered. Not everyone enjoys slow and calculated stealth, and arcade mode is for those people.
There’s no penalisation for choosing an easier difficulty, either, and in fact, Ghost Recon Breakpoint‘s looting and gear level system actually feels more relevant on easier difficulties. Taking a leaf out of The Division‘s book, Breakpoint packs in a hell of a lot of loot, from guns to bullet-proof vests, to hats and boots. Each piece of equipment has a ‘gear level’, a number representing how ‘good’ that item is. You’ll be given an overall gear level based on everything you have equipped. That gear level gives you an idea of your capabilities within the game; you’ll often find yourself in areas with a higher recommended gear level than yourself, so it’s an indication that you perhaps shouldn’t be there just yet.
On arcade mode, this works pretty much as intended. The higher your gear level, the more damage you do. But on normal and hard difficulty, it loses some of its relevance. After all, the Ghost Recon games have always tried to be about realism. As such, bullets do a realistic amount of damage regardless of what level your gun is – and on all difficulties, a headshot always kills.
Even still, finding new loot and higher-quality weapons and equipment is always a boon. Ranked by colour, the rarer an item is, the more extra ‘perks’ it will have. A bog-standard vest might just offer you an increase to your defences, but a rare vest will also offer you, say, a boost to your stamina recharge rate, among other things. It makes looting worthwhile, which in turn makes exploring the gorgeous island of Auroa worthwhile.
Because Auroa, as massive as it is, really is a sight to behold. Ubisoft games, to me, have always pushed the boundaries of what we expect from an open world game in terms of visuals. Their worlds are always beautiful, varied and simply stunning to look at. Ghost Recon Breakpoint‘s Auroa is no different. The map is huge – overwhelmingly so at times – and packs in just about every type of region you can imagine. There’s dense forests, small seaside villages, snowy mountain ranges, big cities – and just about everything in between. It begs you to explore it, and it pays to do so. Despite being so big, it rarely feels barren. You’re never far from something to collect, or some enemy to take down. Breakpoint never leaves you feeling bored.
And should you find yourself between tasks, you’ll be grateful of the game’s built-in photo mode. The vistas on show in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint are breathtaking, and often you’ll just want to stand still and soak it all in. Taking a helicopter to the skies is a delight in itself, not only as one of the most convenient ways to travel around, but because the views you’ll soak in are simply phenomenal.
In terms of actual mission content, Breakpoint packs in a hell of a lot. While it’s true the game’s final mission – its ‘boss’, if you will – is available from the start, you’d be a fool to rush straight there. In order to prepare, there’s a huge bevy of missions to get you there, not to mention a tonne of side missions. Even if you decide to simply stick to the game’s main missions, it never feels linear. There’s often a handful available at any one time, and it’s entirely up to you which one to complete, and how you go about it.
As we’ve seen in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with exploration mode, Ghost Recon Breakpoint gives you the option to turn off mission markers. By default, ‘guided mode’ plays out much like you’d expect an open-world game to play: the location of your current mission is marked on your map, and it’s simply a case of heading towards it. But turn guided mode off, and you’ll get no such markers. Instead, you’ll have to rely on descriptions from NPCs in order to find your way to a location. For instance, you might be told something is “on the north of the island, near a big lake”. You’ll need to use your map to pinpoint the correct area. It’s like a beginner’s guide to orienteering, and if you have all the time in the world to soak in everything Ghost Recon has to throw at you, it’s absolutely the most enjoyable way to play the game.
But even if you have guided mode turned on, you’re never simply running from one mission marker to another. For one, with a map so huge it can take a bit of planning to get there. Unless you’re in a helicopter, you can’t simply head in a straight line to it; you’re likely to be thwarted by impassable mountain ranges, or areas way above your gear level where sentient tanks are waiting to blast you to smithereens. Even when you do reach a marker, it’s never ‘mission complete’; many missions require you to collect intel to piece together your objective. That might mean talking to people in the area to ask about a location, or looking for computers or documents with useful information.
For the most part, I’ve been playing Breakpoint solo. It’s perfectly serviceable as a single-player game, which is most welcome for loners like me, but it’s safe to say that its enjoyment is heightened when shared with others. With another player, or a couple of players, by your side, it allows you to have more fun with the game, allowing you to approach missions in different ways. For example, on entering an area filled with enemies, one player can be a dedicated sniper with another sneaks on by. Or someone could act as a distraction, leading enemies away from the mission area. Not to mention the fact that mounted guns in helicopters and vehicles can actually be utilised when there’s another player in tow to drive. They’re a sad waste in single player.
But whether you’re playing solo or with friends, it’s safe to say that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint tries to be as engaging as possible. It’s never a passive experience; from its story to its realistic graphics and its mission setup, it aims to pull you in and embrace you fully in its world. And for the most part, it succeeds with flying colours. Even its soundtrack, subtle when it needs to be but rousing and bombastic when you’re in the midst of a firefight, helps keep you hooked in the action.
There’s a handful of things that let the game down, however, most notably its bugs and glitches. I’ve fell through the map on occasion, and got stuck in the environment a couple of times. Once, my legs sunk through the ground and I was sure I was in quicksand; not the case, I was simply glued to the spot by an unfortunate game bug. The AI sometimes lets down the realism, too. I’ve had a couple of enemies run right up to me – literally so their face is in mine – before deciding to act, and others who try wildly to run into a wall, as if trying to get to Platform 9 ¾. Perhaps they’re simply driven mad by the stress of war.
No glitch has been game-breaking however, and while they may pull you out of Auroa and back to reality for a few moments, it’s hard to let them spoil the fun. Even if you do end up having to restart your game in order to continue, you’ll never lose much (if any) progress, thanks to the game’s generous autosave.
The odd glitch aside, it’s hard not to be impressed with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. With a gorgeous, massive world that begs you to explore, enjoyable gunplay, an extensive amount of loot and weapon upgrades on offer, and a surprisingly enjoyable narrative, it’s the type of game you can get lost in for days. Throw in the fact that its difficulty options allows Breakpoint to be tailored to suit practically any playstyle, and it’s hard to find any real faults with it. If you’re a fan of open world action, Ghost Recon Breakpoint needs to be high on your list.