When it comes to the evolution of the franchise in the gaming industry, it often happens that game development teams make a mistake when transitioning from their first title to the sequel. Big goals, combined with great promises to the entire community and its expectations can often backfire. We have a few examples of such failures in the industry, and Ubisoft kind of takes the lead.
The Splinter Cell franchise simply does not know how to make a comeback after the not-so-scandalous as much as unexpected Blacklist title, a game that disappointed a lot of hardcore fans, but on the other hand, managed to gain a lot of new followers. Assassin's Creed nearly touched the bottom with Unity, only to regain its fame two years later with Origins. As the saying goes, "you learn from your mistakes", it seems to be true when it comes to Ubisoft. With each failure, they were able to get a valuable lesson out of it, making them one of the biggest publishers and developers with probably the greatest franchises in the gaming industry.
The Ghost Recon franchise has undergone several changes so far, which are not minor, irrelevant, but rather significant; the kind of changes that transform the very core of the game and represent something totally different from the original idea that was conceived back in the early 2000s. Red Storm Entertainment, the team behind this franchise, was always trying out something new and often changed its focus. From the PC platform, where the franchise first saw the light of day, to the few years' long Xbox exclusive, to the multiplatform title. What is most important in these transitions is the fact that they have always been able to implement their ideas perfectly and convert them into an almost perfect product.
Two and a half years ago, Ghost Recon Wildlands came out and it was a sign that this franchise, which used to be a symbol of tactical shooters, long planning and precise execution, through more linear but action-oriented sequels, (finally) shifts to a more action-packed, open-world environment. Much has changed, but the point has remained the same - as the leader of Ghost Team, the most elite unit of the US military that serves to prevent world-wide conflicts, it is up to you to do your best to complete the task. Still, the whole fight in Bolivia back then was guerrilla-type, it didn't have that sophisticated feel like some previous games. Either way, Ubisoft was able to invent a new formula for this franchise that worked great.
Two and a half years later, after last year's announcement at E3, a new sequel arrived, and another transition into something totally new for the Ghost Recon franchise - Breakpoint. This time around, Ubisoft took a bigger leap and included some famous TV personalities like Jon Bernthal (The Punisher) as the main villain to better tell the story which, for the first time in the franchise, happens in a fictional setting.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint story takes place several years after the events in Wildlands. You take on the role of Nomad again, the leader of the special Ghost units, sent to Auroa Island to try and resolve an internal conflict that has occurred. The entire Nomad's team roamed through the island that became the center of technological development led by visionary Jace Skell. A man who promises that drones will make our lives easier, make us better people, and raise our lives on a higher level.
With the government's cooperation, money was not an issue in designing exactly what they needed to defend their sovereignty and to improve their everyday lives. An army of drones, seemingly without any reason at all, rebels under the leadership of the former security adviser of the Skell Technology and decides to "hijack" the entire island for themselves, thereby focusing the production of military versions of all the drones in the Skell arsenal.
The problem arises right at the beginning when drones knock down all helicopters with Ghost units and the only survivor is you, Nomad. It's up to you to get information, discover what's really happening on the island and who is behind this so-called rebellion and sabotage all the plans of this evil organization calling itself the "Wolves". Over time, Nomad discovers that the idea of destroying the entire organization didn't only come to his mind, that the rebels have organized themselves from the start, but their lack of knowledge of military machinery simply didn't allow them to make any progress in fighting the Wolves.
The mission system is a bit chaotic because nothing in the menu is clear at the beginning. As time goes on, you'll get used to the chaos in the menu and on the map, and you can filter which missions you want to be visible at any time.
The number and complexity of the missions are highly admirable. In addition to the main missions, there are side missions that are as complex as the main missions, but there are also Faction Missions that you do for the rebels on the island, and missions that you can collect from various people you meet. Even PvP mode has its missions, and by completing them, you get XP and new equipment. Generally speaking, there is an abundance of content, you just need to find the time to try everything.
Gameplay is changing again
We get the feeling that Ubisoft just can't keep one gameplay system for more than a few years. In this case, changing the gameplay system and the core of the mechanics themselves is somehow justified because for the first time in the franchise, you are not leading the team, you are completely alone on a huge island. Nomad must rely on his experience, use nature to the best of his ability to infiltrate, outsmart, and prevent all Wolves' plans for the future. Although Auroa is a huge island, it cannot be called deserted. From the moment everyone realizes that there is a Ghost survivor on their territory, the quest begins. As time passes, patrols on the island will become more frequent, with pockets of units strolling along roads, forests, and mountains to find you.
The central gameplay system, if we may call it that, has remained the same; the game now relies more than ever on quiet, stealth mechanics with a strong tactical approach. If the execution of the plan is precise, quiet and fast, you will achieve absolutely everything you imagine in this game. Since you have no teammates, you have to plan twice as well your attack on each facility in the game, use your drones to mark the enemies, and then the silent elimination begins.
Playing in the Rambo-style is simply impossible unless you play the game at the lowest level of difficulty. Not even the "intelligence" of AI can contribute to making the game easy with such an approach because, over time, if not tactically or intelligently overpowered, you are simply outnumbered. Changes are mostly reflected in what you need to do to survive and adapt to the environment. The main catch of the whole game is that you are no longer the hunter but a prey. Ghosts, once a unit that inflicted fear on the enemy, have now come down to only one person, hunted by an entire army of Wolves and their mercenaries.
The new way of adapting to the environment, i.e., the ability to camouflage or blend in with nature, helps a lot in the fight. This is useful not only because of the soldiers who are constantly searching for you but also because of the drones and helicopters that are constantly flying over Auroa in order to find Nomad. Lying down and being covered with mud, snow, or vegetation, depending on where you are, are the only things that help in those moments. From such a position, you can even neutralize enemies if they still decide to approach you at a deadly distance according to them. A completely redesigned system of animations and character movements contributes to this. Controlling the Nomad is no longer as agile as before; he now has weight. Animations contribute to this, as they perfectly depict his adaptation to the environment and interaction with nature - from taking cover to climbing steep sections of the map or descending them.
Now we have another element to worry about - stamina, or in other words, the Nomad's endurance. There is no more constant running or going down the cliffs. Every effort consumes endurance. If it comes to the point when Nomad starts feeling exhausted, he will not be able to use his legs and arms as expected. If he finds himself on steep ground, he will start rolling down the hill, or he will simply look for a way to prevent that from happening. Constantly forcing him to do the sprint or any other strenuous physical activity will exhaust Nomad to the extent that you will meet another new mode in the game, which is the survival mode.
Ghost Recon: Survive
Nomad is alone on the Auora Island, but that doesn't mean he's not trained to survive. In addition to changing some of the crucial elements in mechanics, a new one is inserted, which is the survival element. As you explore Auroa, you will come across places that are suitable for pitching tents, i.e., Bivouacs. Here you can find out how the Survival mode actually works, what's important to be careful about, and how to be more effective in combat. Raw materials that Nomad collects in nature can be combined to make various foods. It can help Nomad be more agile, resilient or stealthy for as long as their effect lasts. However, the exhaustion that will happen to everyone while playing is "treated" by drinking water or nibbling on something you can put in the Quick Menu while you're planning your next attack.
The whole survival part of the game is well made. It doesn't force players to think about it constantly, but from time to time, the game reminds you that it exists and that Nomad is simply more efficient if you take care of him just a little, as you took care of Tamagotchi once upon a time.
If Nomad is wounded in combat his health will not fully regenerate and mobility will be impaired until he's healed. Nomad won't be able to run or be as agile as he'd need to be in order to survive another attack. So, it's always important to stop, catch your breath, plan the next move, and "patch up" before continuing the fight.
In Bivouac, in addition to crafting the things you need to survive, you can "order" a new vehicle, buy new weapons, or change your specialization. The camps are arranged all over the map, and you can unlock them by visiting them as well as questioning the island's inhabitants and finding information about them in the world.
Classes/specializations and RPG system
Unlike in the previous game, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is still trying to be somewhat of an RPG game. I was hoping this would not come to pass. But, since almost every new game has some sort of Role-Play elements, it was somehow destined for this to happen here as well. One of the biggest complaints about the Wildlands was that you could finish the game with the first weapon you found. If you get used to it, you just don't need anything else. As much as the game made you discover and find new weapons, you simply didn't have to use anything else. The bullet to the head is the same; it's irrelevant whether it is from M416, FAMAS or P360.
That system remained here, as I said, but Ubisoft thought it would solve the problem of using only one weapon by inserting Gear Score. Not only does this adds to the total confusion, but it is entirely irrelevant for this type of game. This time Ubisoft tried to combine The Division 2's progress system with the way story and world are developing in AC: Odyssey. In my opinion, Ubisoft just complicated the situation for itself as well as for the players because everything is not only overwhelming, but also quite confusing. Combined with leveling, Gear Score forces you to use a variety of weapons as you move until you reach End Game content. Of course, there are also classes of weapons such as Common, Rare, and High-End equipment.
Now the point is that these weapons do not change the killability of enemies. A bullet is still a bullet, and Lvl1 weapons will kill enemies with Gear Score 150 just as effectively, but the weapon is essential in the fight against Drones which happens very often as you progress. Now, there are weapon upgrades and that may be the only good thing. If you upgrade, say a G36C rifle, all the upgrades will be transferred to every G36C rifle you find next in the world. As I said, a totally unnecessary complication. In terms of the equipment, the use of High-End equipment in later levels improves your stealth, in other words, it increases or decreases the amount of time your enemies need to spot you on the map. If you use low-end equipment, although it looks the same as the high-end equipment and it is of the same type, you will be more noticeable. It doesn't make any sense.
On the other hand, there are now classes to choose from at the beginning: Sharpshooter, Field Medic, Assault, and Panther. Each class brings you a special ability that you can use during combat. No matter if it is the faster regeneration of the Assault class or activation of a smoke bomb and "disappearing in the dark" of the Panther class. The good thing is that in Bivouac, you can change your class at any moment if you have previously unlocked it with one skill point during leveling, or when you discovered it in the world.
CO-OP and PvP modes
Co-op was a very important element in Wildlands, as it was in every previous Ghost Recon title generally. If not with the right people, you've always had AI teammates who "made you company". Now that's not the case. However, Co-op gaming is still possible in 99.9% of the game's content. The 0.01% is reserved for the start of the game, better to say the introduction until you get to the Social Space. Yeah, they inserted that also, totally unnecessary. Now there is a so-called Hub where you can meet other Ghosts, that is other players, but it is also a place where you will get missions, be able to buy things, and bring very important people which you rescue during your playing. From the moment you unlock that Hub part of the game, which is after the first hour of playing, you will be able to play in co-op with three other players. Co-op is generally the only mode of this game that reminds of Wildlands and which allows you to have teammates.
If the game was difficult at times when you were playing alone, it would become even harder if you decide to play with three other teammates. Still, the difficulty can't compare to the amount of fun and ingenious moments that can happen in this game mode. Planning and silent execution are often impaired by an individual who decides to go "all guns blazing" on an enemy, with all of you struggling to survive just "that one little camp" you wanted to clear up together.
The progression still stays with the Host, but whatever you find in the game is stored in your Save Game when you decide to continue the solo campaign. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to play with the entire four-player team, but I played with one more player. Anything you can do on your own will simply be more fun to do with a friend. The best thing is when you use the Sync Shot Drone, which allows each player to mark up to 4 enemies and then kill them simultaneously. So, with two players, you can watch eight enemies fall at the same time, or rather, a small camp or half of a large base.
PvP, on the other hand, immediately found its place under the sun, although its launch was very delayed in the Wildlands. However, some elements that were useful in the previous game have now been removed to simplify the role of the player, but the core gameplay has remained the same. You have to patiently and carefully watch every little movement on the map and search for the enemies in order to reach the final goal. There are two modes. One is something like the Bomb mode. In it, one team needs to place the bomb, or the other one needs to prevent its placing at one of the two places on the map. The other mode is, most simply put, Team Deathmatch. What is good is that the "death" of your teammates does not mean that they are permanently out of the game. You can revive them as long as someone covers for you, so outsmarting and positioning is the key to success in the PvP mode.
Graphics, bugs and other problems
Let's start with something positive about this sequel. The graphics, as well as the sound in Breakpoint, are extraordinary. This is one of the most beautiful games on the market, both on console and PC. The changing of the graphics engine has allowed the development team to address the details that make the game more lively, colorful, and interesting visually. As you wander about Auroa, you will realize how huge and detailed is the whole world. Graphic effects, on the other hand, will simply blow you away, with lighting that is well done, with sun rays breaking through the tree canopies or when flashes of lightning and thunder illuminate the dark night as you attempt to infiltrate the enemy base.
However, the new graphics engine, refined movement mechanics, and that level of interaction with the terrain have caused bugs and glitches to appear at certain moments, which will bother most of the players. The most problematic is the interaction with the slopes when Nomad loses his strength and tries to maintain his balance. You will often see the animation that shows him holding onto an invisible wall or hitting something non-existent in front of him. In addition, in co-op, a bug is present when driving an aircraft or some vehicles, when it seems as if one team member is hovering next to a particular vehicle. Nomad will also find it difficult to decide what obstacle he can easily jump over and which one is easier to overcome by going around, although in practice there is no logic for him to behave that way.
Most bugs are manifested in this interaction, not so often but also not so rarely. On the console, honestly, for more than 35 hours of gameplay, I only encountered a few inconveniences which happen in every modern title. Most of the bugs described in the review, for some reason, appear mostly in the PC version.
On the other hand, the existing microtransactions in the game are a great flaw. They are not pay-to-win, and they don't give any kind of advantage to players who choose to spend money in the game, but Ubisoft's decision is problematic because they made it so that absolutely every item you can find in the game, you can also buy. Yes, this is for the lazy players with deep pockets, but just the decision to throw in this feature is extremely debatable. Again, neither equipment nor weapons will give you any advantages in the game. You won't be able to skip parts of the story or be better in Multiplayer mode. Everything you can buy, you will certainly get in the game, without too much of a hassle and persistent searching on the map.
Ubisoft involved itself in a slightly larger experiment with one of its oldest franchises. It mixed The Division 2's progression system with the way the world of AC: Odyssey is explored and developed while borrowing a lot of stealth elements from Splinter Cell (Sam is still MIA) and put all of this into the Ghost Recon universe. The game often seems chaotic and out of order, but as soon as you get used to some of the weird systems that make it work, it gives you an incredible amount of fun. The core gameplay is what's amazing about this game and what will make you come back to it. I give Ghost Recon: Breakpoint 8/10.