Ghost Recon Breakpoint Review: How Ubisoft Killed Ghost Recon

Ubisoft's thrown-together mess of a release has run the franchise into the ground thanks to a non-existent sense of direction and incredibly poor quality control

The last entry in the series, Ghost Recon Wildlands, was a solid third-person shooter that turned the franchise's trajectory towards a co-operative, open world experience.


Though its combat and story were a bit generic, Wildlands succeeded in delivering a campaign with a unique and "modern" presentation style and a large game world filled with things to do and stuff to blow up with friends (or your AI partners). It was a bit bare-bones at launch but over time, Ubisoft added plenty of free improvements and content to turn Wildlands into a decently popular title.


When Ghost Recon Breakpoint was announced, fans were excited to see how the next iteration built on Wildland's foundation. Boasting John Bernthal of The Punisher and The Walking Dead fame as the antagonist for the sequel, as well as promising gritty and more realistic combat, Breakpoint had all the makings of a classic. Hype swelled as the title neared release; after all, Wildlands was a solid game, and with a few years of improvements and polish, alongside a bigger focus on narrative thanks to Bernthal's involvement, what could go wrong?


It turns out, everything.


Ghost Recon Breakpoint is pretty immediately offputting right from the get-go. Clunky menu design that's clearly "inspired" by Destiny and even Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed entries fails to capture the ease of use and cleanliness that makes those menus popular.


The very basic character creation tool has you customize your character in a helicopter with poor lighting that makes all of the faces look extremely poorly modelled (and even in good lighting, they aren't exactly great). The female face options to choose from in particular are comically bad. There are also few customization options available, which kind of defeats the point of choosing a character in the first place.


Getting into the beginning of the game, Breakpoint's lack of polish and spotty graphics become apparent. Certain aspects of the game look lovely - some of the smoke and explosion effects, many parts of the environment, and your character's detail and animations are excellent for the most part. Other aspects, not so much; the rain effect for example is rough and seeing the rain drops hit the ground you'll notice the engine is just projecting two poorly rendered sprites of rain impacts back and forth onto the surface of everything.


Even parts of the engine that do look good aren't consistent - smoke effects can look wonderful, yet smoke from the campfires that mark fast travel points looks horendous and was clearly thrown on top of the background as it moves opposite the environment when you approach it. Draw-distance, even on the Xbox One X, is extremely weak for a modern title and masks far away parts of the massive map in a haze, with textures popping in as you approach in a jarring and ugly way.


Glitches are prevalent, from characters popping up out of thin air to enemies getting stuck on their surroundings and full game crashes. It's abundantly clear Ubisoft should have delayed the project by at least a few months to apply the polish necessary for a major release.


Gameplay-wise, Breakpoint does sport a variety of improvements over Wildlands.


Movement and combat is snappier and smoother in Breakpoint, guns feel much more responsive and satisfying, and vehicle handling is much improved (although it's hard not to be, as it was pretty horrid in Wildlands).


The third-person perspective can be zoomed in for aiming, or you can choose to aim down your weapon's sights to change the perspective to a first-person view, which is much snappier than it was in Wildlands and does a good job of combining the pros of both third-person and first-person perspectives.


As is standard at this point, you're equipped with binoculars and a deployable drone that can mark targets and important areas. These are vital tools if you'd prefer to take a stealthy approach, though you can opt to go in guns-blazing if you'd prefer. You also don't have to worry about AI teammates this time around - you can play co-op with friends or matchmade allies, but if you'd like to play solo, you aren't forced to play with AI companions. Despite this, Breakpoint requires you to always be online and connected to their servers even though little is gained from their online functions unless you're playing co-op.


For stealthy players melee executions are surprisingly vicious and effective, and you can grab enemies to use them as makeshift shields or interrogate them (though the interrogations are incredibly weak and frankly just silly). Silencers can be equipped to a variety of weapons and of course will come in handy - the rather poor AI also aids you in your stealthy approach as they can be quite oblivious.


When shit does go sideways and hostiles are on alert, the comically bad AI becomes even more apparent.


Enemies will regularly abandon cover and simply walk toward you, shooting at your position without any regard for their own health. Although some will employ smarter tactics and use cover properly or attempt to flank, most will simply walk toward you and attempt to overwhelm you in sheer numbers. The game will throw tons of enemies at you at times, opting for quantity over quality in terms of difficulty, and it can become quite annoying when playing solo to have foes coming out of the woodwork to swarm your position like a pack of mindless zombies.


When foes aren't simply clambering toward you, they'll often get stuck on terrain or hide behind cover and refuse to move, even after you've moved to flank them or they're no longer in a position to shoot at you. Somehow the AI in this game is way worse than in the previous Ghost Recon entry - they could have simply left it untouched from the last game and it would be a lot less noticeably bad.


A variety of gadgets aid you in battle, from traditional fare like mines and frag grenades to EMP grenades and a sync-shot drone for stealthy takedowns (essentially the sync-shot mechanic from Wildlands but with a drone instead of an AI teammate taking out the other target). They can be quite effective and aid different play styles, and each of the game's four "classes" offers perks as you complete objectives for that class, as well as a special ability, though the abilities aren't anything unique nor do they add much to the game.


You have four segments of health but in Breakpoint's "realistic" approach, when you take damage there's a chance of sustaining injuries. Mild injuries can be quickly fixed with medical syringes, but major ones will cause you to limp and even force a kind of "last stand" mechanic which restricts you to only using your pistol and severely limits your movement. Bandages, which take a long time to apply, must be used in this instance. Rather than adding any realism it simply adds an annoying mechanic into the mix, especially when you get shot in the gut yet the canned animation shows you applying bandages to your arms and legs every time. Realistic my ass.

This focus on "realism" that was touted by Ubisoft pre-release is flimsy and weak at best.


The afforementioned injury mechanic is accompanied by a stamina meter that gets depleted by sprinting as well as descending hills (even ones that aren't very steep). Moving downhill will quickly drain your stamina meter, causing you to fall and hilariously tumble down the hill like an idiot. Nothing says you're part of an elite military unit like alerting nearby troops to your presence by tripping and falling down a hill, which you'll likely do mroe than once.


The survival aspects crammed into the game are similarly stupid. Your stamina bar is slowly limited by extensive exertion, getting injured, or playing for extended periods without resting your character. This can be easily negated however by simply taking a sip of water from your refillable canteen (seriously), resting at a bivuouac (why they had to pick such a stupid name for a campfire, I have no idea), or consuming rations.


The survival mechanics are simply tacked on and odds are, you'll barely notice them. It's like many of the mechanics and aspects of Breakpoint were thrown in by executives that have seen other games with certain elements and said "hey, we need to add this in!" and the programmers begrudgingly obliged, but made those elements trivial so as not to alienate casual gamers.


Speaking of elements that don't fit in a Ghost Recon game, loot plays a major factor, as do other core "games-as-a-service" offerings, like having a "hub" area and even raids (which weren't ready in time for launch and are coming in the near future).


The hub area lets you interact with other Ghosts and NPCs that give you objectives and such, but it really feels at odds with what Ghost Recon has always been about. The hub also points out how many Ghosts are apparently on the island yet oddly you don't see them anywhere except for the hub, unlike in games such as Destiny or The Division where you see other players going about their own business in the game world. The lack of interaction outside the hub completely defeats the purpose of the always-online model and makes it feel very devoid of life.


Enemies regularly drop ammo and loot to pick up (luckily loot is automatically collected by running over it) and marked crates contain weapons, attachments, and even occasionally skill points to use on perks.


Weapons and gear come in today's standard coloured tiers, ranging from uncoloured common items to green, blue, purple, and finally gold tiers. The rarer colours offer more perks such as stat buffs, and weapons can be upgraded using weapon parts (found in the world or through dismantling other collected weapons) to better their stats. In a smart move, if you upgrade a certain weapon those upgrades apply to all weapons of the same type, so if your level 50 AK47 is fully upgraded and you find a level 58 AK47, you can swap to the higher level gun without having to spend any more parts on the upgrades you already acquired.


Weirdly, though you can dismantle armour, your gear doesn't have the same upgrade system and can't be boosted, likely a feature that was supposed to be included but was cut due to time constraints.


All gear and weaponry has a number to show its level which increases your overall character level, with some missions and areas marked with level recommendations (though you can attempt them at any time).


Later on, the high requirements for the last few missions just seem like a forced way of artificially extending the length of the game, padding it for no real reason. The side missions and objectives are even weaker and more repetitive than the main levels, so if you're the type that wants to attain 100% completion in every game, you're going to hate yourself by the end of Breakpoint.


For the most part, regardless of your weaponry level and the opponent's, headshots put targets down very quickly so the enemy levels really just affect the amount of shots it takes to fell drones or opponents with body shots exclusively, and of course how much damage they do to you.


Drones come in a variety of forms, with conventional flying drones equipped with small arms joined by tank-like wheeled drones, automatic turrets and missile launchers, and the massive Titan boss drone. Mostly they serve as bullet-sponges but at least they offer some variety to the repetitive gameplay loop.


The Wolves, which are the elite spec-ops forces you'll encounter, are more armoured than standard soldiers and have better weapons, but sport the same crude AI which makes them appear just as incompetent as the rest of your enemies. Besides some different outfits and such they offer surprisingly little to up the challenge - smarter enemies would have definitely been more fun to take on, but as it stands Breakpoint doesn't have any signs of intelligent life.

So far we've covered how Breakpoint is a rather mediocre title, but the biggest failure is in the game's story and presentation.


The Tom Clancy name in Breakpoint's full title is really just insulting to be applied to such a horrendous story. Despite its AAA budget and its developers solid track record, Breakpoint's story feels as though it was handled by an indie studio that hasn't played a videogame for the past 15 years.


The tired and cliche storyline is rife with cringey dialogue delivered by subpar voice actors (other than John Bernthal, who is utterly wasted here) who often overract their lines, just adding to the crappy writing. The plot has holes in it so large you can fit Breakpoint's oversized map through them, and it's about as interesting and creative as watching paint dry. The "twists" that pop up over the course of your playthrough are so painfully obvious a five year old could see them coming, and it's frankly shocking that Ubisoft would sign off on such a terribly written plot.


The basic premise is that a private island named Aoroa was taken over by a misguided megacorporation called Skell Tech (even the names they made up are painful). Skell Tech looked to create a utopia for the future of humanity with their advanced technology and drones, only for ex-military contractors brought in for security to take over the island for their own evil deeds.


While the story in Wildlands wasn't overly original, it was presented in a unique and well-put together manner. Here, a more conventional gaming presentation is used, but between the extremely poor dialogue, bad acting, shoddy facial animations, and incredibly weak plot, Breakpoint's story is laughably bad. John Bernthal does his best to create a compelling villain, but he's criminally underused and can't save the pathetic attempt at a story.


The PVP multiplayer mode, which essentially pits teams of four against each other in one of two game types, also feels tacked on and insubstantial. Matches are sloppy and dull and really offer nothing for fans of the series, and that's about the nicest thing I can say about it.


For Ubisoft's part they're at least acknowledging they made mistakes with Breakpoint, though they surely must have known how poor the end product was going to be received and opted to release it anyway. Losing a ton of money on the project has caused Ubisoft to delay virtually all of their upcoming releases to ensure their quality meets expectations, including the highly anticipated Watch Dogs Legion - as an unexpected bonus, those delays will mean that many of Ubisoft's upcoming titles will launch on next-gen consoles, so at least there's a silver lining after all.


The Verdict


Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a generic and incredibly weak entry in a once-renowned franchise. The laughably bad story and voice acting throughout is a disgrace to the Tom Clancy name, and even the solid core gameplay can't save the game from its own cobbled together systems that do more to annoy players than they add to the experience. A litany of bugs and a complete lack of polish just further shows how rushed and thrown together Breakpoint is, and as a result, the once popular franchise is all but buried.


Why Ubisoft would try to convert Ghost Recon into a bland games-as-a-service project when they already have a vastly superior online third-person shooter in The Division 2 I have no idea, but hopefully this failure will force them into re-thinking their "turn everything into a games-as-a-service model" plans.


Pros

+Solid core combat and smooth gunplay

+Cool third-person perspective paired with aim-down-sights system

+Co-op can provide some fun chaos

+Solid helicopter controls and improved driving mechanics


Cons

-Horrendous plot and characters

-Poor voice-acting and cringey dialogue

-Tons of glitches and graphical bugs

-Supreme lack of polish and poor presentation

-Tacked on elements that offer nothing and even detract from the experience

-Loot and games-as-a-service systems that have no place in the series


The Final Score: 5.5 / 10


If you really like crappy games, pick up your copy on Amazon.ca

Or on Amazon.com

Have a suggestion for a rant? 

The Rant 2020. All rights reserved. A BD60 Production.