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There are no bad games anymore, only games with bad parts that never add up to a wholly good or bad experience. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is one such game. The latest in Ubisoft’s series of re-skinned open world games Breakpoint feels like the breaking point for a formula that ran out of steam and originality a long time ago. It’s time to start realising that less is more or else the water supply will be poisoned forever.
Set on the fictional Pacific archipelago of Auroa in 2025 Ghost Recon: Breakpoint sees players take control of Nomad – a leader of the fabled Ghosts spec-ops team. The Libertarian tech paradise of Auroa has gone dark and after the sinking of a United States tanker the Ghosts are sent in. After being shot down by the Auroan drone defense systems it’s up to Nomad to regroup with the surviving Ghosts and stop whoever did this. Along with finding the CEO of Skell Technology and Auroa’s benefactor, Jace Skell, Nomad must also find Skell’s rogue security advisor Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. Walker (Jon Bernthal). The catch is that Walker is Nomad’s former brother-in-arms. So far, so Ubisoft.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint follows hot on the heels of its atrocious (and kinda racist) predecessor Wildlands. The Bolivia-set Wildlands got a lot wrong what with its “Hoo-Ra!” imperialism, blanket stereotyping and dull world. With that said it’s gunplay, often the tightest and most satisfying part of Ubisoft’s adventure into the looter-shooter genre, was a dream. So it goes with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint but in fairness it learns a fair few lessons from its older brother. Unfortunate then that these lessons end up being in service to a game that can barely maintain interest in itself let alone those playing it.
The Ghost Recon series has, since it’s inception, been based around two core tenets: stealth and reconnaissance. Breakpoint does these two things exceptionally well. Players can go down the classic route of marking out enemies with a scope but why bother when Breakpoint gives you a drone? The little gizmo can whir over the battlefield allowing you to mark objectives, hostages as well as enemies so that you can plan the fight accordingly. As with all contemporary Ubisoft games from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey to Far Cry: New Dawn your options as Nomad are open and varied. Close quarter combat is as justifiable a means as long range sniping is. It’s just unfortunate that all the enemies, even on higher difficulties, seem to be made of wet paper.
Hit boxes have long been a point of contention in every game that involves hitting something from Mario Kart to Sekiro. It goes without saying then that for a shooter like Ghost Recon: Breakpoint to work the hit boxes need to be spot on and they are. The issue arises that the ability to tag an enemy with a DMR from 300 metres away almost always results in a one-hit kill. It takes away a great deal of the suspense and tension that a sniper like myself really looks for. Even the enormous mini-gun wielding brutes can be taken down in two shots – one for the helmet, one for the head – without raising an alarm.
That’s what a lot of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint boils down to: base invasions. It’s the same in nearly every Ubisoft open world game. If you’re not sneaking around a post-apocalyptic lake citadel, ancient Greek fortress or high-tech science campus are you even playing a Ubisoft open world game? Whether you’re going solo or rolling through it with a four man squad it makes little difference it’s pretty much the same each time. Not even Ghost Recon: Breakpoint’s star powered story makes much of a difference in the run of things.
Jon Bernthal is a magnetic actor. His one scene performances in the likes of Sicario or Wind River add so much grit and emotional texture to the film that they wouldn’t be the same without him. Likewise his performance in The Punisher stands head and shoulders above Tom Jane and Ray Winstone (sorry Tom, sorry Ray). Even so there’s only so much Bernthal can add to Ghost Recon: Breakpoint before you realise it’s the same shit but a different game.
The game’s main character, Nomad, actually speaks this time but it doesn’t compare to any of the Assassin’s Creed protagonists and it’s only marginally better than the silent Rookie and Captain from Far Cry 5 and Far Cry: New Dawn respectively. For all the war flashbacks and supposed guilt Lieutenant Colonel Cole D. walker brings with him they don’t add up to much. But that isn’t really the problem with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint’s story.
Drones come in many forms with many uses, not all of them evil. Of course in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint they are almost solely evil. The scientists at Skell Technology don’t seem convinced however, even though it’s their own drones keeping them prisoner on Auroa. Despite Nomad consistently chiding them on the fact that their autonomous robots are killing people the scientists never turn this argument back on Nomad.
Sure Nomad is using their drone to spot and kill the mercenary guards as well as Walker’s elite Wolves unit that are holding the island prisoner but Nomad is only one person in the American war machine. The United States of America as part of their “War on Terror” has been using unmanned drones for targeted strikes since 2001. It’s estimated that in northern Afghanistan alone over 200 people – only 35 of whom were intended targets – were killed by drones. Does Ghost Recon: Breakpoint mention that fact? No, it doesn’t.
Further Reading: Game Review | The Problem With The Division 2 Is Me.
Games don’t necessarily need to be long, complex political documents but if they want to situate themselves in a world where drone warfare is commonplace and not integrate the ethical quandary of using drones then maybe they shouldn’t situate themselves in such a world. Unfortunately when Ghost Recon: Breakpoint and, by proxy, Ubisoft refuse to interrogate these morally complex issues it doesn’t make the game more fun it just makes it more boring. Breakpoint does a lot of things well: stealth, shooting, scale. It looks gorgeous with Auroa’s high snowy peaks and lush forests. The enemy AI is tactical and smart making for some challenging firefights despite individual enemy’s physical weakness. But all of this doesn’t make a good game it only makes for some good parts of a game.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is too big for its own good. Like previous Ubisoft open worlds such as The Crew 2 and The Division 2 there’s plenty to do but not a whole lot of it is especially interesting. Excepting Walker the game lacks any interesting characters and it’s slim, under-cooked story suffers for it. Likewise it’s varied locations and enemies combined with its tactical, weighty gameplay can only do so much in the face of increasingly repetitive missions with only slight flashes of personality. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint wants the whole pie but it’s a Frankenstein construction of better, more successful slices from other pies that taste stale and half-baked here.