I wasn’t really sure what I expected when I walked into the Breakpoint demo, but I know that I was intrigued. Ghost Recon has always existed in two worlds, providing elements of a tactical shooter for those who want their experiencedriven by tight communication and efficient planning and a more arcadey shooter for players who want to kill bad guys with an arsenal of cool toys.
The previous entry in the franchise, Wildlands doubled down on these elements offering players more space and time to get creative with unique strategies while pulling off stunts only seen in the most 90’s of action movies. It was a great hit with fans and despite its often problematic depiction of Bolivia, proved to both be a lot of fun and profitable for Ubisoft at the same time.
With Breakpoint, it seems that Ubisoft wants to strike gold again by doubling down on the efforts they made to offer players an experience that was both grander and more dynamic in its scope. So I was excited to play Breakpoint because the opportunity to develop on that foundation was intriguing, to say the least. Yet when I was done, I’ll admit that I was genuinely underwhelmed.
We were to play an alpha build of one of the game’s PvP multiplayer modes, Ghost War. Two teams of four in a large-ish arena battling it out to be the last man standing. No respawns until the next round and players can choose from a range of four classes each equipped with different perks and abilities to encourage some semblance of team composition. Oh, the arena also gets smaller after a while. As in, a cloud of radiation pushes the teams closer to the centre. Look, it’s not exactly difficult to see where Ubisoft were drawing their inspirations from; at its core Ghost War is a battle royale mode but on a much more condensed scale, essentially channelling the last tense few minutes of what can often feel like an overly long battle and making that the entire experience.
There’s no looting, no supply drops, no vehicles; There’s a surveillance beacon at the centre of the ring that can be captured to reveal the enemy’s positions but it’s not essential. All that matters is finishing off the enemy team before they get to you yet in a market currently saturated by game modes such as this it’s definitely one of the weaker versions I’ve played.
Now, I didn’t see any of the single-player content. This article isn’t about that, so when I say that Ghost War was an underwhelming game mode that has zero bearing on whatever Jon Bernthal is busy cooking up with all his soldier friends. These are my impressions of Ghost War and after playing a few rounds of it, I was left saying, “Was that it?”.
While Ghost Recon is known for its mix of tactical and skilled gameplay, Ghost War felt like every other battle royale mode that’s been done to death in every game that features a character wearing copious amounts of camouflage and backwards cap. You crawl, sprint, take cover and talk to your team as your call out enemy positions.
It all felt very formulaic, lacking any kind of uniquely “Ghost Recon” identity to make it stand out against the competition. Sure, you can throw a drone up and scan for enemies but the gunplay, the environments, the class-specific perks? If you pulled all those factors out, slapped them into a game called “Soldier Fight 3” I honestly think I would believe you.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t potential in a game mode such as this. Many battle royale games suffer from a prolonged early game that can make or break your experience based on the luck of drop. Placing everyone on the same playing field, shrinking that area of contact down exponentially and adding in unique classes and roles for players to fill could provide for a mash-up of shooter sub-genres that I could see gaining quite a following.
But Ghost War sits on the premise of its idea and doesn’t really do anything fundamentally different. It’s like making a cappuccino with cream instead of milk and thinking you’ve re-invented the coffee market altogether. It still looks and tastes exactly the same, you’ve just used different ingredients.
It’s also worth noting that nearly every match followed an identical path of engagement. The game starts, sniper picks a player off, sniper keeps picking some players off, remaining players rush ahead, sniper gets a few shots and then leaves mop-up duty to the guy with an assault rifle. Both maps I played on featured high and low points from which to engage from, yet it was nearly always suicide to do anything but stay in the backline of the map and wait for the enemy to move first.
While the maps give off an air of open-ended, expansive design they were never used as such due to how clearly they favoured sniping positions over nearly every other mode of combat. At a point, I had to laugh when I marked an enemy in my view and three separate sniper rifles fired off behind me as the rest of my team seemingly agreed, without a word to one another, that picking the enemy off from as far away as possible was clearly the most effective line of engagement.
Which was really sad to me because the heart of the Ghost Recon franchise is all freedom of engagement, about looking at a combat scenario and plotting how to specifically reach your end objective. This design philosophy translated over into the multiplayer of nearly every game in the series, providing players with a unique military experience that was distinct from loads of other games that sought to provide a quasi-realistic take on military action.
Yet Breakpoint’s Ghost War mode was a surprisingly bland and generic multiplayer offering that really doesn’t do enough to justify its existence outside of bearing the Ghost Recon insignia. There’s still time for the game mode, and the rest of the game’s content, to form an identity unique to itself but right now it still needs to find it’s feet amongst the slew of competing titles already on offer.
Last Updated: August 23, 2019