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Ghost Recon: Breakpoint – A Better Version of Wildlands

There's plenty to be excited about for Ghost Recon fans.

by William Schwartz

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When I saw the reveal of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint earlier this year, I really thought this was going to be more of what we saw in Ghost Recon: Wildlands.  After spending a day with Breakpoint… it is that, more or less.  It’s almost as if Ghost Recon: Wildlands was a proof of concept for whether Ghost Recon could work as an open world game.  Mistakes were made in that 2017 release, but on the whole it was an enjoyable game, albeit a little rough around the edges.  As Ubisoft does with their games these days, they stuck with it though.  They eventually added multiplayer, tinkered with Battle Royale, and really rounded out the game in 2018 and 19 with premium downloadable content and free updates.

Lessons were definitely learned from Ghost Recon Wildlands and other Ubisoft games

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint looks like it’s going to take those lessons learned in Wildlands and run with them. Out of the gates you’ll have a full slate of content whether you’re looking to play single player, cooperative, or multiplayer game modes.  While the game looks similar to Wildlands, with familiar gunplay and gameplay, things have been changed quite a bit in terms of mission structure and the way you unfold the story.  The narrative feels more in line with the popular Tom Clancy stuff.  There have been smart changes made to the multiplayer and other games in the Ubisoft family have been tapped for different systems as well.  Breakpoint felt very familiar in terms of what the game looked and played like, but when you dig into some of the finer details it really feels like a better version of Wildlands.

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For anyone that’s not been following along, there’s been somewhat of a tonal shift between Wildlands and Breakpoint in terms of the story that’s being told here.  Where Wildlands saw players taking down a fictional Mexican drug cartel that had effectively taken over Bolivia, Breakpoint is a little bit more based in fantasy.  Set on the island of Auroa, Breakpoint has a former Ghost played by Jon Bernthal leading a highly-trained rogue militia dubbed the Wolves to take over a technology company named Skell Tech.  Skell Tech makes all types of drones and artificial intelligence that appear to be the goal of the militia to control for themselves.  Players will assume the role of Nomad, the leader of a Ghost fireteam whose helicopter convoy is shot down over the island.  While we didn’t play the entire game in this preview we saw enough of how the game is structured to know that not everything is exactly as it seems.

Breakpoint feels more fluid than Wildlands in terms of modes and progression

One of the interesting things that Ubisoft has taken from other franchises is in the mission structure of Breakpoint and how it feels somewhat similar to the newer Assassin’s Creed games.  Long gone are the days of open world games that have you mindlessly heading from waypoint to waypoint as you push the story forward.  Since you are effectively unraveling a mystery in Breakpoint, the game very much plays out like you are constantly gathering intelligence.  While it is largely familiar for open world fans, the way that things are uncovered are a bit more organic. For example, a specific mission will give you a general location of where to search to actually begin the mission instead of throwing a marker on a map for you to head to.  The mission text will explain the general location on the map, which you must track down on your own.  Like another Ubisoft property, Far Cry, the journey is part of the fun.  There is an option to turn on a more guided experience, but this default setting felt a better fit for the overall theme of the game.  These mysteries weren’t limited to story missions or side content, you could track down weapon attachments or other items in multi-step quests.

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Ghost Recon: Breakpoint does feel like it’s more focused on loot than Wildlands was.  You’ll be collecting items in eight different character customization slots that uses an overall gear level.  This really feels like a gating system as well.  The higher your gear level in Breakpoint, the tougher enemies you can tackle, which opens up new areas for you to explore.  This loot is paired with a progression system that allows you to build your character out as one of four different classes:  Field Medic, Assault, Panther, and Sharpshooter.  The big difference in each class are class techniques, class items, and class proficiency.  As a co-op game, this allows you to mix and match different abilities and items with your teammates to tackle the tough challenges.  Alongside that are even more customization items to unlock which impact the way that you look and these include things like hair styles, facial hair, scars, face paints, tattoos, and accessories.  Breakpoint feels like a mix between some of Ubisoft’s most popular franchises, taking systems and ideas from some of its best games like The Division, Assassin’s Creed, and Far Cry and then setting you loose in this open world to unravel a mystery.

Breakpoint is more loot focused than Wildlands

Breakpoint can be played in numerous ways.  I spent a good bit of time playing solo, but it is a four-player co-op game as well.  This is not different than what we saw in Wildlands, but the class system does shake things up.  We didn’t get a chance to try all of them, but the combination of the techniques, items, and proficiencies did give co-op a unique feel due to having access to things like a medic class or a sniper class where players could play roles on any given mission.  Things can be tackled in co-op however you want to do it.  Each player can make their way to objectives how they want.  Or you can group up at the game’s central hub area called Erewhon.  There you can gear up at NPC vendors or craft items that will help you out in the field at a base bonfire and move out together.  I had some great times playing Wildlands co-op with friends, and you could definitely see the potential for this once again in Breakpoint.

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The Ghost Recon franchise has always had a strong multiplayer component, but recent entries never quite gathered the steam that we saw in the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Ubisoft’s own Rainbow Six.  Despite GRAW and it’s follow-up being incredibly popular in the Xbox 360/PS3 era near the launch of those consoles, Ubisoft never really followed up on that success.  They didn’t do themselves any favors with Wildlands PvP being added to the game post-launch either.  Ghost War in Wildlands was good at launch and it got better over time, but I would guess that when a game doesn’t launch with multiplayer it has players that walk away and never come back to it.  Ghost War was a lot of fun in Wildlands and really tapped into what made previous Ghost Recon games so compelling on the PvP front.  The franchise has always been somewhat rooted in tactics and teamwork and Breakpoint continues to focus on this with Ghost War.  Players that did play this mode in Wildlands are going to be pretty familiar, but there are some smart changes in tow. For those that didn’t play Ghost War in Wildlands it is a tactical 4v4 competitive multiplayer mode.  The two game types for Breakpoint’s Ghost War at launch will be a Last Man Standing Elimination mode and a Search and Destroy mode which has players trying to disarm a bomb while the other team defends it.  The differences between Ghost War in Wildlands and Ghost War in Breakpoint aren’t massive, but they are there.

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Given the nature of Ghost War it could feel a bit campy at times in Wildlands.  Breakpoint’s version of Ghost War pushes the action with a Battle Royale type circle as players head towards the end of a match.  It’s not a feature that is always needed or seen, but when two teams are taking too long to engage with each other the action is pushed by an ever-closing wall.  Ghost War does draw some similarities to Battle Royale in general.  Not just with this circle, but in that you need to pick up the items that you are going to use in a match.  You need to actively be aware of players and the environment.  You’ll need to scavenge health and ammunition to keep the fight going.  There’s a cat and mouse game of picking up your teammates when they are down or going for that final kill.  Is your enemy camping your teammate’s dead bodies, or are they reviving their teammates themselves?  Are they making a push towards a central surveillance system that will reveal everyone’s position on a mini-map?  There are different tactics that can be applied each round of the game.  The maps are big for eight players, but they’re made much smaller with the technology that you have.  With things like drones being able to target other players, a ping system that allows you to communicate and relay enemy positions, and a surveillance area that is being battled over, the map can get pretty small, pretty quick.  Ghost War remains a lot of fun in Breakpoint and it’s a mode that could potentially deliver a ton of gameplay hours for those who like this slower, more tactical gameplay.

You really need to try Ghost War if you like competitive shooters

Speaking of Battle Royale, Ubisoft did try their hands with a Battle Royale mode in Wildlands, but that does not look like it will be making its way into Breakpoint… at least not at launch.  We spoke with Alexandru Rais, PvP lead at the preview event and he confirmed that this was not something people should be expecting at or near launch.  What he did say the Breakpoint PvP team was focused on was the 2 modes and 6 maps that would be available at launch.  It’s not a far stretch to think that we could see other modes or multiplayer “events” that featured different modes down the line, but nothing was revealed in terms of what to expect post-launch other than more Ghost War.  That’s not a bad thing.  Wildlands Battle Royale style mode was OK, not nearly as fun as the Ghost War PvP, which feels like its been dialed in for Breakpoint.

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Everything does feel a bit more fluid in Breakpoint compared to Wildlands.  Whether you’re playing PvP, PvE solo, or PvE cooperatively, everything is pretty much coming out of the Erewhon hub.  Here you interact with NPCs for story missions, side mission content, faction missions, and player vs player matches.  In the story it’s your sanctuary and the place where you’ll investigate the mysteries of the island, and any time you’re looking to take a break from that you can pop into Ghost War by visiting one of the characters there. But you’re taking the content that you unlock, the customization options and weapons and bringing them with you across all game modes.  The loadout that you use in that game is basically the loadout that you’ve assembled in PvE.  It’s an interesting way to tackle competitive multiplayer, but did seem like it would present some unique challenges.  Specifically in the way that weapons are balanced.  Each weapon has strengths and weaknesses in PvE, some are just more powerful than others.. so how does that transition into Ghost War?  Again, in speaking Rais we were told that things were leveled off to put all players in PvP on a level playing field.  Still, it was nice to be able to take those weapons you just earned in the story mode of the game and bring them into online multiplayer, even if they weren’t giving you any sort of edge.

Ghost Recon: Breakpoint launches on October 4th for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

It’s probably safe to assume that Breakpoint was built to give players many hours of gameplay, but we only got to play for about 6 or so between all of the different modes.  It wasn’t quite long enough to understand every system at play, but it was long enough to see that this is something that we definitely want to dig into a little deeper when the game releases on October 4th.  The gear and progression systems had enough time to sink their teeth in.  The mysterious story just started getting good.   There really isn’t anything like Breakpoint on the market when it comes to modern military open world shooters, and this game looks to one-up its predecessor at every turn.  From what we saw, it did.  Breakpoint should definitely start out at a better place than Wildlands with all the modes you want at launch, but it’s the way that it all comes together into a more cohesive package that could really make this game special.

- This article was updated on:September 3rd, 2019

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