Ghost Recon Breakpoint‘s closed beta offers great tactical combat, grim new tone

The Ghost Recon franchise returns yet again, giving gamers a tactical option in a world full of run-and-gun looter shooters. I must say that I rather enjoyed Ghost Recon Wildlands, boasting a large, if a little bland open world, and a truckload of content to complete. Gameplay was tight, responsive and ‘tactical’ in its nature. I got the chance to play through the closed beta of Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and while it wasn’t too long or open-ended, I must say, I liked what I saw; to an extent.

Most of what makes Ghost Recon so beloved is here in Breakpoint. The beta allows players to create their character, with a creation process nearly identical to Wildlands. Soon after, your character, aptly named Nomad, is attacked along with your squad, crash landing on the island of Auroa, a place full of technological marvels, led by creator Jace Skell. Once you crash, you soon discover the island has been captured and taken over by Wolves, a gang of vicious military rebels, led by ex-Ghost Cole D. Walker (played by Jon Bernthal). Your mission becomes clear; stop Cole and help the locals reclaim the island. I like this story, and while the wildly popular novel Heart of Darkness lends some inspiration, I can’t help but name it a welcome addition, giving the franchise a much needed cinematic and emotional edge, which bleeds into both its presentation and gameplay.

The beta’s main missions are mostly linear, but showcase the cinematic nature of Breakpoint. Within your first few seconds of gameplay, you are heavily wounded and must limp across a runway scattered with enemies before you can stop to properly heal yourself. Enemies converse as the background music swells, creating a dire and tense situation, highlighting the fact that you are outgunned and outmanned. The camera pulls in close, as your character displays pain and frustration. It only lasted a couple minutes before you heal yourself, the camera pans out and you’re off and running, but it was great to see Breakpoint adding these cinematic sequences, if infrequently.

From a gameplay perspective, Ghost Recon Breakpoint plays incredibly like its older brother Wildlands, and while that’s not a bad thing in any way, it might not draw newer fans into the experience. It’s great to see that what isn’t broken isn’t necessarily being fixed, as I loved the gunplay, traversal and choice presented in Wildlands, but when it is so similar, it may leave some of those fans who didn’t like Wildlands, disappointed. However, gunplay is precise and satisfying, and while stealth is encouraged, Breakpoint still allows for encounters to be handled in numerous ways.

Breakpoint is not identical however, with the introduction of survival-based mechanics. While they weren’t heavily featured in the beta, I was curious to find out more. There are small implementations of these mechanics at all times, such as the need to drink water to regain stamina, but I’m definitely interested to see how these mechanics change under harsher weather conditions, which Breakpoint promises. Ghost Recon Breakpoint is also looking to shake things up in the gear and classes departments. Breakpoint now assigns levels and stats to gear, much like The Division 2, as enemy levels scale accordingly, with classes being able to utilise specific perks. I don’t mind the experience steering in this direction, but it also worries me that much like The Division 2, things will turn into looter-shooter madness all too quickly. I loved The Division 2, but I’m not drawn to the Ghost Recon franchise for the same reasons.

Overall, the Ghost Recon Breakpoint closed beta was a pleasant surprise, and I can only hope Ubisoft really hone in on those stylistic additions such as cinematic set pieces and a more emotionally driven story. While it’s far too early to judge, I also hope that the mechanics based around both gear and class progression are not overcooked, as it may fend some of the more hardcore fans off, diminishing the feeling of a more tactical experience. We can only wait and see.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint releases next month, on October 4.

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