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Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint'

by Adam Pavlacka on Sept. 28, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint is an entirely new adventure, putting players back in the boots of the Ghosts, an Elite US Special Operations Unit. But this time they are stranded behind enemy lines, facing their toughest enemy to date.

Pre-order Ghost Recon: Breakpoint

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint releases next week, but based on the closed beta at the beginning of the month and the open beta this weekend, it might have a bit of a rough start. Though both releases had the "beta" moniker, consumer betas like this are often demos more than anything else. They may have some game balance issues or minor rough edges, but in general, they're more or less what you're going to see at launch, which is why the Ghost Recon Breakpoint beta is concerning, especially since it ends two days before early access starts for the retail game.

A follow-up to Ghost Recon Wildlands, Breakpoint moves the action from South America to an archipelago in the South Pacific called Auroa. The islands are a technological Garden of Eden led by tech investor Jace Skell — or at least they were until a former Ghost, Cole D. Walker (Jon Bernthal of "The Walking Dead" fame) and his Wolves took over. With Walker and the Wolves in control, all of Auroa's drone tech has been militarized, while the island staff and local population have been put under lockdown. It's up to you to liberate the island and prevent Walker from hurting anyone else with the advanced tech at his disposal.

On the surface, Breakpoint sounds like a breath of fresh air for the Ghost Recon franchise. It expands on the open-world style of play that was established in Wildlands, and it's pitting you against enemies that are every bit your equal. The Wolves hit harder and move faster than typical enemies, but keeping with the Ghost Recon style, they're still human, which means they go down with one headshot.

It's the drones that will take a bit more of a beating, and they can end up being more of a headache if you don't work to take them out quickly. That's because the mechanical buggers will broadcast your location to everyone as soon as they get a bead on you. They'll also waste no time in firing on you. Anytime one flies overhead, you have to immediately duck into cover. Fail to bail for cover, and you'll have a handful of Wolves unleashed on your immediate location, along with the drone. Unfortunately, most of my time during the beta can best be described as a casual walk through a generic environment.

Most of the core gameplay elements are present in the Breakpoint beta, but none of them feel polished. There are multiple game systems, but they don't seem to be fully integrated. You have the loot system from The Division 2, though it's a bit more basic here). You have the multi-hint map system from Assassin's Creed Odyssey. You have a menu system that feels like it was pulled from some sim-management game (there are a lot of clicks to get to what you want).

As for the loot system, Breakpoint is supposed to be a survival shooter. If you kill an enemy, though, you can't take their gun, their ammo, or their armor, unless you win a random number roll and the game decides to grant you something. If it does grant you something, it has nothing to do with the gear that the recently deceased AI soldier was using. Instead, it's a random item that's been scaled to your level. Yes, you can take out max-level enemies from the start of the game because a headshot is a headshot, but you don't get any reward for doing so. It's not only disappointing, but it's an immersion-breaker for the game.

Perhaps the loot and gear system is improved in the retail release, but from what I saw across both betas, there was no reason to use lower-level items. Getting a new weapon or a new piece of clothing means you should equip it to increase your gear score.

Menus aren't something that you usually think of in a game because they're not often needed if the experience is good. You might bring up a map or a character stat screen, but a deep dive into the menu system shouldn't be needed if you're just picking up the next mission. With Breakpoint, it felt like there was always a reason to look up something in the menu, and what's here is over-engineered to the extreme. From a UI/UX perspective, the menus don't seem to be optimized in a consistent way, feeling like different parts were created by different teams.

These UI/UX differences extend to the mission-givers. Talking to a story mission-giver, the B button quickly runs through dialogue so you can finish quicker. Talking to a side mission-giver, the B button cancels the conversation, and you have to restart from scratch. There is no reason for the same button to have different actions in the same context.

Visually, when compared to other recent Ubisoft releases, Breakpoint looks a bit plain. Assassin's Creed Odyssey, The Division 2, Far Cry 5, and Far Cry New Dawn all look amazing on a 4K screen, especially with HDR turned on. Breakpoint's beta couldn't stand toe-to-toe with any of them. Environments often felt repetitive, and lighting effects didn't look fully baked. For example, the muddy ground in the opening sequence looked like it had more in common with shiny plastic than actual mud. It's a visual artifact that was common in the last generation of games, so it was surprising to see it here.

One thing that the Breakpoint beta did get right is the freedom of exploration. I really enjoyed the beta when I completely ignored the objectives and just ran around the island as a stealth sniper, taking out enemy fighters from a distance. In some ways, these impromptu raids reminded me of the outposts in Far Cry, albeit a more basic variety. Even when detected, simply falling back and hiding in the bushes was usually enough to get the enemy AI to back off. Breakpoint's story missions were limited in the beta, so things might have been simpler because they were early.

From the betas, it's difficult to tell if Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint will be a smashing success as a single-player title. There is obvious potential as a co-op adventure. Either way, it's probably a good idea to wait a week or two for the reviews before jumping in with this one.

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