Ubisoft’s latest addition to its Ghost Recon series has ambitions of being deeper than it is. It’s full of zeitgeisty topics, from the role of big tech in society and the near-deification of “tech bros”, to the treatment and abandonment of soldiers by uncaring political regimes. It’s all wrapped up in the tactical shooting the franchise has become known for, plus a smattering of RPG-like character development and crafting. In practice though, its ideas feel ill-explored, while mechanically it proves scarcely an evolution on its predecessor, Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
Breakpoint is set on the fictional island of Auroa – after Wildlands caused an international incident with its portrayal of Bolivia as a corrupt state, the developers have wisely stuck to an imaginary canvas this time – where tech entrepreneur Jace Skell (think Martin Shkreli meets Mark Zuckerberg) has established ‘World 2.0’, mixing real and artificial environments to create a libertarian, deregulated state. Unfortunately, it’s been taken over by former Ghost operative Cole D. Walker (Jon Bernthal via capture performance, continuing to carve a niche for himself as the go-to for gun-toting hardman roles), with Skell’s shadier weapons developments captured and turned against the rest of the world.
You enter this semi-manufactured environment as Nomad, leader of a Ghost Recon squad shot down on approach – and from the moment you take control, Breakpoint starts revealing its poorer choices. While your Nomad is customisable, the personalisation options are odd, with each face template given a name as if it were a different character. Dither through and you’re eventually dropped on the island itself, where survival is paramount – but not so important that the game doesn’t immediately give you a handful of sidequests that you’re in no way positioned to pursue.
Instead, you’ll have to slog through a lengthy, poorly paced intro of avoiding Walker’s private military goons — known as Wolves — while locating survivors from your team, which in turn sends you into the arms of an underground community of former World 2.0 residents staging a resistance against Walker. It sometimes feels as if Breakpoint‘s narrative is torn between wanting to tell a story of militaristic survival or remixing Far Cry 5‘s “villagers vs invaders” tale.
Once you’re free to explore, Breakpoint starts to show glimmers of the series’ past highs. Auroa is a delight to explore, taking advantage of the fictional location and a mix of man-made biomes to deliver varied environments, while gifting players a significant array of tactical abilities to unlock as you level up. Customise your build just right, and you’ll be a stealth killing machine to make Solid Snake weep.
However, it’s all sullied by mixing in Destiny-style loot shooter mechanics — albeit with inconsistent rewards. Weapons or armour don’t really matter here — if green arrows indicate something is better than what you currently have equipped, you may as well switch straight away and dismantle the previous gun or vest for crafting parts. It’s not uncommon to finish a mission, pick up a supposedly powerful new item, then find a shop is already selling something better. And if the rewards don’t matter, then the missions leading to them lose importance too – although anything unrelated to the Wolves tends to be uninteresting anyway. Having to manage all this mediocrity by navigating an often unintelligible mess of sub-menus is a further insult.
There are seeds of greatness in Breakpoint, but for many players, wading through everything in the way won’t be worth the effort