Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is a difficult game to review. Sometimes it's great fun, sometimes it's an incredibly banal but weirdly addictive grind. Other times it's a buggy mess. Our enjoyment of Breakpoint has fluctuated so much over the review period that we had to sit down and carefully consider whether we actually think it's worth playing at launch. We think the answer to that question is yes, but it's certainly not without its caveats. We've spent over 30 hours playing Breakpoint, so it must be doing something right.
But first thing's first: this is the most Ubisoft game that Ubisoft has ever Ubisoft'd. It's like the developer took every current-gen Ubisoft title and mashed them all together, resulting in an open world shooter that's somehow even more predictable than Ghost Recon: Wildlands.
For the record, we quite liked Wildlands, and being something of a sequel, Breakpoint inherits a lot of its Bolivia-based predecessor's strengths. Co-op's still a blast with the right people, there's a lot of room for tackling missions however you want, and carving a path of death and destruction across an objective-filled map remains a moreish pursuit. Ubisoft could have quite easily reskinned Wildlands and left it at that, but it's decided to cram parts of The Division 2 into the mix, and this is where Breakpoint -- and indeed, Ghost Recon -- starts to lose what little identity it still had left.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is a far cry from what the tactical shooter series once stood for (pun not intended, but there's definitely a whiff of Far Cry in here as well). There are elements of Ghost Recon's once touted realism at play -- you can suffer from injuries and on the harder difficulties you really have to plan ahead before hitting an enemy base -- but the addition of colour-coded loot, gear scores, and all these other lite RPG mechanics that Ubisoft is now so fond of end up muddying the experience.
The publisher would probably argue that this is the modernisation of Ghost Recon, with its daily missions and weekly rewards attempting to justify the game's always online requirement. Character progression -- both skill trees and equipment -- carry over between the campaign and the game's PvP modes, which is neat, but it feels like Breakpoint is trying to be Destiny. Does Ghost Recon need to be Destiny? It's 2019, so apparently it does.
It's hard not to view Breakpoint with a cynical eye. Its approach to microtransactions, for example, is bordering on parody. On top of Ubisoft's infamous "time savers" -- which allow you to buy in-game currencies like skill points and materials with real money -- there are tons of cosmetics and weapons for sale. At the time of writing, the game's in early access, but there's already a mountain of exclusive stuff that you can splash your cash on. It almost feels like the publisher's testing the waters to see how much it can actually get away with.
Do you need to spend additional dollars to play Breakpoint properly? No, not based on what we've played. Over our time with the game, we acquired more than enough materials, equipment, and skill points to suit our needs, but that still doesn't excuse the sheer number of microtransactions that have been bolted to the title. For a full price release, it really is absurd.
Ubisoft obviously wants you to keep coming back for more Breakpoint day after day, and if you happen to flirt with the idea of paying extra for a cool looking tattoo or paint job for your gun, then that's a win for the company's business blueprint. But here's the thing: Breakpoint can be a pretty good game. If you can look past all the crap and get a couple of friends to tag along, your adventures across the island of Auroa can provide hours of Rambo-style entertainment.
The shooting's quite punchy, stealth is almost always a viable option, and there are some surprisingly well crafted missions scattered throughout the story. As was the case with Wildlands, you and up to three other players can band together to take down multiple enemies at once in complete silence, or you can hatch crazy plans that involve exploding vehicles and way too many gas grenades. When things come together in co-op, Breakpoint can be brilliant.
The open world's not bad, either; Auroa's undoubtedly an upgrade on Wildlands' Bolivia. Despite a total lack of civilians out on the roads, this is a much more dynamic map, with enemy patrols and brief random events giving you plenty of reasons to get out and explore on foot. In fact, just rambling across Auroa can lead to a lot of exciting moments, especially when you run afoul of the dreaded Wolves.
Former special operations agents that are now acting as what is essentially a terrorist organisation, the Wolves have Auroa in an iron grip. Led by Cole D. Walker -- once a Ghost and comrade now gone rogue -- the group has taken the technologically advanced island by force, and their weaponised drones have smashed your operation to pieces. Stranded on the island, your custom character, known as Nomad, must fight to survive and attempt to put a stop to Walker's ambitions.
It's a tense-sounding setup, and when the dialogue isn't busy being unbelievably cheesy, there are actually some decent story moments. Actor Jon Bernthal is a standout as Walker, but don't expect any big twists or turns in the narrative. It's predictable and the direction's more than a bit cumbersome at times, but it's an improvement over Wildlands.
Realistically, though, you're not playing purely for the story. It's the constant progression loop that keeps you hooked, and for as tacked-on as the loot system seems, it's an effective candy trail when you're hopping from one map marker to the next. Repetition can and will set in eventually, but as a game where you can just switch off and be rewarded with shiny new guns for popping skulls, Breakpoint gets the job done, and the map's so vast that you'll be chewing on it for a long while.
Assuming that you've got a tolerance for typical Ubisoft open world busywork, there's only one thing that can really damage the experience, and that's the bugs. We're not sure whether it's a byproduct of the game requiring an always online connection, but proceedings can get real buggy real fast.
We've had instances where we've fallen through the ground, phased through buildings, and teleported out of vehicles while driving. Sometimes it feels like some form of lag, other times, it just feels like a Bethesda game. Animation bugs are also an issue; swapping weapons can occasionally see Nomad break his or her arms in every possible direction, and aiming over the shoulder has locked our camera in place more than once. Oh, and the AI can be impossibly stupid when it wants to be, with enemies casually walking into walls for minutes at a time, or standing in place even though you've just painted the room with their best mate's brains. For us, these bugs haven't been at all gamebreaking, but that doesn't stop the title from feeling decidedly rough around the edges.
And then there's Ghost War, the game's dedicated suite of PvP modes. As you'd perhaps expect, it's a reasonably tactical affair compared to the running and gunning of, say, Call of Duty, but this can lead to some frustration if your teammates aren't on the same wavelength. The same highs found in Wildlands' multiplayer are here, and when you're tracking down your opponents, waiting patiently for your time to strike, Ghost War is at its best. But of course, not every game is like that, and naturally, things can devolve into a messy all-out deathmatch for which Breakpoint doesn't feel like it's built. PvP seems a solid enough distraction, but it's probably going to need a few tweaks before it's worthy of heavier investment.
For the most part, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is an enjoyable open world excursion, provided you know what to expect -- and let's face it, you probably know exactly what to expect. Its loot and gear score systems seem more than a little tacked on, but much like many of Ubisoft's other open worlders, there's a moreish quality to Breakpoint that's difficult to deny. In co-op there's potential for a lot of fun, and the freedom that you're given in both building Nomad and tackling missions is the game's greatest strength. However, an eye-watering number of microtransactions leave a sour taste, and a parade of annoying bugs give the release a disappointingly rough feel. Robust but bloated, Breakpoint is a mishmash that has its fun moments, but its identity is MIA.