From the edge of the cliff, I had a perfect view of the enemy base. I’d sent a drone to scan the area just a few minutes before and managed to tag two nearby snipers as my teammates got into position.
The plan was simple; my fellow sniper and I would quietly take out the guards in the watchtowers along with the enemy snipers on the roofs. Our men on the ground would use the ensuing confusion to slip into the base unnoticed and extract the target – a scientist who had helped create some truly terrifying drone tech.
As I lay prone, covered in mud and foliage so as to make myself as hard as possible to spot, I marked my first target so that my comrades knew where I intended to place my first kill. I had the guard’s oblivious head dead in my sights, ready to pull the trigger and commence what was, on paper, a flawless plan.
Before I could do that, our other sniper – who had secreted himself on an incline across the way from me – was spotted by an unexpected fleet of enemy drones who’d just come up the road behind him. His cover blown, the entire base was alerted to our presence and we had no choice but to switch to a much less subtle plan of attack.
That sums up pretty much the entirety of my time with Ghost Recon Breakpoint, a military shooter that invites you and up to three friends to painstakingly craft a plan of attack, before a random helicopter, drone fleet, or enemy convoy appears from out of the blue to completely lay waste to those plans. It is in equal parts thrilling and deeply frustrating to have to adapt your strategy on the fly.
Anybody who played 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands will know what to expect from Breakpoint. Like Wildlands, it’s a tactical military shooter that sends you on a mission to the fictional Auroa archipelago in the middle of the Pacific Ccean liberate a terrified populace from a bloodthirsty ruler, this time one of your own turned bad (played by The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal).
Bernthal’s character Cole D Walker has taken the entire region through brute force, with a crack squad of his own called Wolves, and the use of technology – specifically an entire army of persistent and incredibly tough drones.
It’s in these two areas that Breakpoint really set itself apart from its predecessor in my mind. Wolves are a much smarter breed of enemy that require a lot more thinking to outmaneuver and ultimately take down, while the drones add an entirely new level of challenge to the gameplay.
The drones I saw in my time with the game ranged from lightweight aerial machines that could spot your own recon bots and blow your cover, small tanks that take a ton of damage and can gun you down within seconds if spotted, and beastly “Behemoth” tanks that serve as one of Breakpoint’s more severe challenges, combining devastating missiles with heavy rapid fire.
It took four of us a good fifteen minutes and a crap load of grenades and rocket launchers to finally take down the Behemoth we encountered, but tracking down and taking them out seems to be worth the effort, as we were rewarded with pretty valuable gear.
Both the drones and the Wolves create a much more overwhelming atmosphere as you explore the (admittedly gorgeous) world of Breakpoint. While there were areas in Wildlands where getting spotted was certain death, it seems as if every inch of Breakpoint’s world is deadly. You’re not a hunter anymore; you’re the hunted.
Fortunately, you’re also once again not alone; you can head into missions with a team of three friends, or three AI companions. It’s here that the tactical element of Breakpoint is supposed to come in to play – though if you couldn’t tell from my opening anecdote, our plans rarely went off without a hitch.
When you and three other players manage to come up with and then perfectly execute a plan, it feels genuinely sublime. As a sniper, I got a thrill from hiding myself away and keeping my team safe as they went for a full frontal assault.
Breakpoint also allows players to return to special camps where they can upgrade, craft, and change their class at any time, so you’ll never be stuck in one role if you don’t feel it suits your playstyle or the mission you’re about to head into. Preparing for a mission and discussing the plan with my team was always exciting.
Unfortunately towards the end of our demo, our best attempts at stealth were scuppered by an open world that is just a little bit too… busy. It didn’t matter how prepared we were for a scenario if a small army of drone tanks unexpectedly rolled up behind us to blow our cover and cut us to shreds in minutes.
Being forced to switch up plans on the fly was occasionally exciting – in a game like this, you don’t want everything to go the way you think it should, obviously, but when an unexpected rash of enemies who were patrolling the open world started to arrive and interfere with almost every mission, it just became irritating.
This was especially true whenever the drone tanks showed up unannounced. One is hard enough to take down when you’ve planned for it, but when three show up out of the blue? You might as well lie down and give up.
“Survival” is another new feature in Breakpoint that didn’t really factor into Wildlands. That’s what we were told at least. In reality, all I really saw was that taking damage would occasionally result in a limp that required me to pop a bandage on, and that running straight down slopes would cause injuries.
I did see that there are various crafting recipes that will no doubt become more prominent later on in the game, and a couple of cool new stealthy features such as the ability to cover yourself in mud to camouflage yourself, but there wasn’t much in the way of “survival” beyond that.
Based on my time with Breakpoint so far, all that really sets it apart from Wildlands is difficulty and robots. That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of survival mechanics and other cool features I just haven’t seen yet, of course, but I feel like Ubisoft have really been pushing the survival focus of Breakpoint, so it was weird we didn’t see that much of it in our demo.
I’d also argue that more Wildlands is no bad thing. 2017’s effort was a genuinely engaging open world tactical shooter that only really suffered from a touch of repetitiveness.
I genuinely like a lot of what I saw and played, and with more variety in the missions, an increased emphasis on survival, and less open world mayhem getting in the way of missions, Breakpoint could be an essential sequel.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.