Few people are further from their comfort zone than Spec-Ops marines. This has to be the least cosy profession on the planet. Attempting to now join them in this struggle to remain sane while all around is sheer bloody chaos, Ubisoft is taking the safety net away from its most famous shooter franchise. In Ghost Recon Breakpoint, you’re no longer invincible.
The main selling point for Ghost Recon actually combines several new factors. The first is this focus on survival, accentuating risk and putting the dampeners on pacing quite a bit. There’s also a cunning adversarial force in play, ex-Spec-Ops compatriots dubbed Wolves, turning cocksure hunters into cry-baby hunted. To make all this seem worthwhile, Ghosts invest in character progression across all game modes, so that however you choose to live this dream vocation, it all counts to future glory and the admiration of your online friends.
Ubisoft suggests that all this amounts to being put in the boots of a Spec-Ops marine, and we were given the opportunity to test the theory in a hands-on session focused mainly on PVE.
Survival is the least willing agent to divulge its secrets this early in the game. Knowing that its behaviour relates to difficulty settings, our efforts within Normal parameters seemed mainly to introduce injury as a concept. In the opening minutes, ‘Nomad’ (our customisable avatar, male or female) limps from the wreckage of a helicopter, and immediately tends to some serious wounds before progressing in anything like a fit state. With only a handgun for protection, it amounts to a gripping scenario with the story’s antagonist force, the Wolves, combing the area with the intent of murdering survivors in cold blood. Conducted at night time, it’s a most unusual prologue to the game proper, intended to make players feel vulnerable, with much creeping among trees in the Fen Bog region of Auroa island, basically a swamp.
There is more to survival than reaching for bandages and medication after every battle, but elements such as performance-enhancing buffs imbibed beneath the bivouac didn’t factor during our play session. It was noticeable, however, that the open-world setting now means collecting ingredients for crafting; items ranging from drugs to improvements for hardware.
Regarding the Wolves, Ubisoft has explained that this force comprising ex Spec-Ops soldiers boasts a unique talent for hunting down prey. What this certainly brings to the experience is a sense of the surroundings being a potential trap, or at least urging caution not to stumble into a hornet’s nest. The Wolves are not the type to murmur “huh… thought I heard a noise” and then shrug it off, they will communicate and pinpoint your position. Again, on Normal difficulty it’s possible to play games with these guys, even so we found fewer places to hide.
Knowing that Ubisoft has pioneered the open-world genre, recently renewed its investment into tactical shooters, and enjoyed success in other team-oriented grind-fests (The Division), tracking down what’s uniquely Ghost-like in Breakpoint becomes tricky. There’s huge appeal entrenched in Auroa as an exotic location, but this is also the domain of Far Cry. Raids are to be included on the menu, a trend adopted by The Division after Destiny proved the concept – but borrowed from MMO. Blending into environments has long been a thing for Assassin’s Creed protagonists, striking from the shadows. If we were to narrow this down further for Ubisoft, saying that Ghost Recon is a shooter at heart isn’t going far enough to differentiate. Yes, moment-to-moment the engagements are exhilarating, but we can find this elsewhere.
Rainbow 6 Siege captured the imagination of a new FPS generation with intensity balanced with ingenuity offered in bursts. The appeal of Breakpoint could be more of a slow-burner.
Ultimately what we’re now excited about with Ghost Recon is this notion of Spec-Ops role play, linked to shared progression across PVE and PVP, that may attract a similar audience to that invested in Destiny. The sense of a plan well put together, either with the assistance of a ‘Sherpa’, or honed after much trial and error. Crucially, the potential for anyone to tag along for endgame pursuits if they know how to move and shoot, and are prepared to listen. Not restricted from joining their friends owing to base-level barriers. Boots on the ground.
If Ubisoft can own this, Ghost Recon Breakpoint has potential for growth over several years to come. We’ll see how this goes from October 4, when the game launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Catch you online soon.
Last Updated: September 3, 2019