[First Look] Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Photo from Ubisoft

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the newest addition to the Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon franchise, was announced on 5th May 2019 to the world with an epic trailer and exciting gameplay of the game. Naturally many were excited, myself included having been a fan of the series since the first game was released back in 2001. The beta was released over the weekend and I had the chance to play it for a few hours. Having played it for a good 4 hours, I exited the game feeling excited yet apprehensive as the series yet again attempts to balance realism and fun in a military tactical shooter.

Starting up the game, I was greeted by a character customisation screen and the choice of difficulty I could choose to indulge or torture myself in. Feeling ambitious and knowing how the previous game Wildlands turned out for me, Extreme difficulty was what I chose,  with good reason . Throughout my 1 year playing Ghost Recon Wildlands (2017), Ubisoft allowed players to take on a rather guns-blazing, go-loud approach as compared to the earlier games in the series. I get it, Ubisoft wants to cater to a broader audience, since not many share the same joy as I sneaking around enemy bases like a ghost taking enemies out one by one. Yet, I can’t help but feel like the very idea of going in head-on killing every enemy you find takes away the very essence of a Ghost Recon game. The word ‘Ghost’ doesn’t make much sense when the game allows you to become a shrieking devil of a mercenary raising hell in an enemy’s base; hardly living up to the word ‘recon’ as well.

Ghost Recon has always attempted to bridge realism and fun in a military tactical shooter set in jungle environments. Those who are hoping to see similar levels of realism found in games like Escape from Tarkov or high-intensity combat and prolonged firefights like Call of Duty will be sorely disappointed. Then again, the above-mentioned titles will surely soothe that itch should you want such types of enjoyment in your gaming sessions.

Photo from Ubisoft

After a short introductory cutscene, I started the game as an injured Ghost soldier on the brink of death. Immediately, walking around felt very different; Ubisoft dialled up the realism of the game a couple of notches with a more human-like control system. My character moved slower through water, slowed down naturally when I released my movement keys and moved lethargically when I ran out of stamina. Oh, did I mention that injuries needed to be healed manually, water had to be consumed to restore stamina and food had to be eaten to stay on top of your game? It was a nice touch that made me more immersed in the character and the world. The environments looked gorgeous, and the darker colour scheme created a sort of loneliness I felt because of how the world was coloured. Intimidating as it was, I wanted to see more.

Geeking out over how realistic the game felt movement-wise, I proceeded to my first objective. Within minutes, my heart sank when I looked at the mini-map; I saw a small red glow which in Wildlands previously, meant that there were enemies in the area. Now I never had a problem with this, because in extreme difficulty the visual cues disappeared, keeping us on our toes. Players had to use drones, scope out enemies around them and more before deeming an area safe. It was to me, the true way of playing a Ghost Recon game. What sank my heart was the fact that these visual cues in the Breakpoint beta were still present even in Extreme difficulty, lowering the suspense and difficulty undeniably, allowing us to lower our guard since well, the map tells us whether it’s safe or not.

Enemy AI presented nothing worth noting; I didn’t see much improvement in how they engaged with us when my squad got discovered. The sound design in the game improved noticeably though, as bullets sounded differently when shot off enemy armour and helmets. The dialogue and banter between NPCs and enemies sounded convincing enough to keep me interested in their narratives. The loadout system has changed, drawing inspiration from games like  Division 2, where each piece of quality is summarised by a certain gear level. Typically systems like that existed in MMORPGs, and the incorporation of such here a system here meant that Ubisoft is aiming to blur the lines between a first-person shooter and a role-playing game where now, loot quality of your various pieces of equipment matters in eliminating foes; a far cry from how one headshot from any weapon would instantly kill you. I truly hope Ubisoft doesn’t go too deep into a direction where enemies become massive bullet sponges for players that don’t have very good weapons.

Photo from Ubisoft

The rest of the beta felt familiar, having to kill enemies, discover a couple of areas. Just when I thought ‘that’s it?’, Ubisoft dropped a new objective that ripped my insides out; travelling to the base camp. I admit it was a mismatch of expectations because I was given the objective to meet with the other Ghosts, which in the previous games consisted of at most 3 other NPCs or players since squads in Ghost Recon were usually small. Throughout my time playing the beta, I was put into a foreign land after a helicopter crash, injured and largely alone. Upon entering the base camp, I was shocked to be greeted by other players who I believe are connected to the Ubisoft servers as well. Was I happy to see everyone? I think with the initial set tone that I was in a foreign world fending for myself, keeping the solitude of the characters consistent was important, and that was where I felt Ghost Recon Breakpoint, broke a little for me. This isn’t an MMORPG. An open lobby system contrasts the direction Ubisoft seemingly wants players to feel; the sense of being hunted by an army. Very early on I was presented via trailers and developer interviews that Breakpoint aims to be a game where the hunter becomes the hunted. Well, in base camp I feel like a mercenary waiting to wreak havoc on the island of Auroa with a bunch of other people.

Am I going to buy Breakpoint? As a fan of the series, yes. However, I do feel Ubisoft should be more confident of the military tactical shooters fans who don’t need the mainstream gaming trends many developers are going into these recent times. Ubisoft has taken systems from other games such as Division 2, Assassin’s Creed and more to improve the Ghost Recon series. Can a developer please everyone? With gamers today having many diverse needs, I understand how targeting the mainstream crowd seems more profitable, but when a franchise is known for its tactical and stealth-heavy gameplay, would it really hurt to stay true to your roots? Ghost Recon: Breakpoint drops 4th October 2019 for PC, Xbox One and PS4.

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