Editor's note: Now that we've spent more time with the game, we've published our Ghost Recon Breakpoint Review In Progress. Check that out for more in-depth thoughts, and look for our full review in the days ahead.
After spending six hours with Ghost Recon Breakpoint--splitting my time between the story campaign and copious amounts of side content--the in-game statistics screen says that I've completed 0% of the story. I'm not entirely sure whether this is a glitch (which is plausible) or if Ubisoft's latest open-world shooter is completely massive. Either way, I'll be posting a review in progress within the coming days, but before then I have some initial impressions to share about my time with this pastiche sequel.
Much like 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands, Breakpoint begins aboard a helicopter. A ship has been attacked off the coast of the fictional island of Auroa, so the Ghosts have been sent in to investigate. After creating a custom character using a very limited toolset, the fleet of choppers you're a part of is attacked by a swarm of tiny drones, sending each one hurtling towards the diverse island in a ball of flame and crumpled metal. With the rest of the Ghosts either dead or scattered to the wind, it's up to you to find out just what the hell happened and why it's all Jon Bernthal's fault. The Punisher and Walking Dead star has only appeared for a matter of seconds so far, mind you. I'm sure his character will feature more heavily as I progress through the story, but the narrative hasn't really progressed beyond the initial setup so far.
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The theme of Breakpoint is based around being trapped behind enemy lines, outmanned and outgunned. It certainly feels that way at first as you make your way between downed helicopters, hoping to find survivors. Enemy patrols are canvassing the area, so I had to sneak past some while killing others. Like in Wildlands, Breakpoint's guns pierce enemy flesh with a shuddering impact, allowing you to dispatch four or five foes in a flash. There is loot this time around, which I'll get to in a moment, but no matter your gun's level or the enemy's rank, a headshot is still a headshot and will take down all but the most heavily armored grunts in a single blast. This makes clearing groups of enemies inherently satisfying, successfully capturing the feeling of being an elite soldier capable of taking lives in the blink of an eye.
The only thing dragging the combat down so far is the fact enemies aren't particularly bright. The general flow of Breakpoint is similar to Wildlands (or even Assassin's Creed Odyssey and any number of Far Cry games), as you encounter enemy compounds, send a drone up to mark targets and get the lay of the land, before approaching however you see fit. Stealth is encouraged, but if that goes wrong or you simply opt for an all-out assault, the AI's behavior isn't conducive to enjoyable combat. It's easy enough to find a doorway to camp out in front of until the bodies begin to pile up, and the AI has a tendency to run between different pieces of cover without ever actually engaging you. Maybe this will change once the antagonistic Wolves start showing up and killer drones enter the fray, but right now the regular enemies are too dimwitted to put up an engaging fight.
Picking off enemies from afar and utilizing stealth to maneuver past them is much more gratifying; it's almost reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at times. That's significant praise, and Breakpoint hasn't yet reached those lofty heights (due to the AI's shortcomings, more limited movement, and less interesting gadgets), but it offers a similar style of sandbox-based stealth. Being able to hide in plain sight by going prone and covering yourself in mud and foliage is so brilliant it's surprising so few games have implemented a similar mechanic in the time between MGS4 and now.
There are some paper-thin survival systems, too, but I'm hesitant to even categorize them as "survival." You can drink water to replenish lost stamina that's drained by exerting too much, and you have to spend time patching up wounds, but that's about as far as it goes. The loot system is similarly half-baked, implementing a gear score that resembles a progress bar more than anything meaningful. Each piece of armor has a level attached to it, but there is no discernible difference in how much damage you can sustain. Weapons have meters that go up or down, but these appear to vary between distinct guns rather than between levels. This might change as I get my hands on higher-quality loot, but so far the only advantage to owning certain guns is a minuscule 2% increase to a specific stat such as reload time or recoil reduction. Considering The Division 2 already exists, adding a simplified loot system to Ubisoft's other open-world shooter is an odd decision. Six hours in, Breakpoint feels like a hodgepodge of other Ubisoft titles that has thus far struggled to establish its own identity.
Hopefully this will change as I dig further into the game. I still need to see how it plays with a full squad of four people, too, and there's the PvP Ghost War mode to sample. You can expect a review-in-progress in the next few days.