Launched two years ago, Ghost Recon Wildlands catapulted the longtime Tom Clancy series in a new trajectory armed with an expansive (some might say excessive) open-world, untethered cooperative play for up to four players, an evolving experience that is still being updated to this day. The same development team that shipped Wildlands and delivered 19 title updates in the last two years has ballooned to more than 1,000 developers, and the team has some ambitious and surprising plans for their follow-up. Here is everything you need to know about Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
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Goodbye Real Settings, Hello Fantasy Island
Ghost Recon has always been set in real-world locations during fictitious geopolitical skirmishes. Over the last 17 years, we’ve fought through Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, and even along the United States border. Now, the special operatives are going off the grid to an island that doesn’t really exist.
Auroa is a sprawling, make-believe island in the Pacific Ocean. This giant, geographically diverse open world’s closest comparison is probably New Zealand, with snowy mountain peaks, sandy beaches, jungles, and volcanos. This picturesque location is home to Skell Technology, a corporation that develops advanced A.I. and drones. Nomad’s team of Ghosts are sent in after the world mysteriously loses communication with the island.
“Creating a fictional setting gives us in measurable license to expand on the world,” says Breakpoint writer Emil Daubon. “We can create a variety of terrain with a variety of physical and social landscapes that you have to navigate, and we can expand on it as we choose. That’s a really exciting aspect.”
You’re Stuck Behind Enemy Lines
When Nomad and company approach the island on helicopters, they encounter an unexpected resistance to their presence and the choppers are shot down. From here, the Ghosts are completely cut off from communication with the outside world. With no overwatch, active intelligence, or capabilities to call in reinforcements or supply drops, it’s up to the Ghosts to map their approach to finding out what’s going on. As you gather intelligence and analyze the situation, you begin to unravel what happened at this remote location.
Your Enemy Is Your Friend
The Operation Oracle content update for Ghost Recon Wildlands introduced us to Cole D. Walker, a fellow Ghost operative played by Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, The Walking Dead). In the years that have passed since Wildlands, Walker has radicalized his beliefs and teamed up with another black ops veteran named Stone. The duo has formed a deadly team of former spec ops soldiers called the Wolves. This motley crew of badasses have the same training and capabilities as the Ghosts – think the radicalized American version of Ghost Recon Future Soldier’s Bodark units.
The Wolves infiltrated the island and took over the many R&D divisions to start producing an alarming number of militarized drones and robotic sentries. Taking back control of the island won’t be easy when swarms of drones constantly descend on your location, but with near-future technology taking center stage expect a lot more diversity in Breakpoint’s combat encounters than we experienced in Wildlands. As you pick away at the Wolves by liberating regions and getting the enslaved engineers and scientists to join your cause, you will gain a better understanding of why Walker went rogue.
“Walker believes in his causes and conditions, and he believes he’s on the cause of righteousness however jaded or misguided anyone else might view it,” Daubon says. “He believes in what he believes fiercely.”
Responding To Community Feedback, Breakpoint Increases Realism
Adopting a fictitious setting doesn’t mean Ghost Recon Breakpoint is all fantasy. A dedicated subsection of Ghost Recon fans constantly bangs the drum for adding more realism to the tactical experience. For many, regenerating health in Wildlands felt like a bridge too far for a series that once made its heroes glass cannons. Ubisoft has been listening to these calls for a more hardcore military experience. Recalling his own 14-year career as a special forces medical sergeant, Daubon says “hunger, dehydration, injuries, ambiguity, lack of intel, and no supplies can kill you as sure as any bullet.” Ghost Recon Breakpoint doesn’t fully swing in a MilSim roguelike direction with its tactical play, but it wants to surface many of these secondary threats in meaningful ways.
In Breakpoint, you can no longer sprint down sloped terrain with wild abandon. Like real-world operatives, you must move deliberately or risk injuring yourself in a fall. The new persistent injury system can leave you and your compatriots maimed in battle, affecting things like your mobility or accuracy depending on the injury. You must also keep hydrated and fed.
The combat tactics also feel more realistic thanks to a few new tools you can exploit during battle. The torch gadget allows you to breach fences, eliminating the need to survey an entire complex to find an advantageous chink in its outer defenses. If you’re out in the open you can go prone and blend with your environment like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator at the press of a button, caking yourself with mud. Even if a teammate blows cover and draws attention, a well-camouflaged Ghost won’t be immediately detected. Stealth players will also appreciate the ability to pick up and move bodies of downed enemies to avoid detection. You can even carry fallen teammates behind cover to perform triage from a safe location.
Other fan-requested improvements include “greatly improved” vehicle handling, a wider variety of heavily armored or armed military vehicles, and a bloody new collection of gruesome, stabby close-quarters takedowns.
“This is the game the community asked for, and this is the game that they are getting,” says Breakpoint UX & realization director Matthew Tomkinson.
Making Camp Is Critically Important
With no base to call home, the Ghosts have to rough it on Auroa and find shelter on the fly. Whenever you see a smoldering firepit in the open world, you can pitch camp via the new bivouac feature. These locations provide a safe space to plan and prepare your next move.
Players have several choices at bivouacs. Maimed soldiers can rid themselves of persistent injuries at these camps. A new crafting system allows you to use the items you gathered from around the environment to create useful items like healing syringes, bandages, and rations that can be shared with teammates. If you’re heading into a hairy location, it’s a smart idea to procure a temporary buff by either eating, drinking, or tweaking your gear/weaponry. “Some tasks you perform in the bivouac can only be performed once per bivouac, so players will need to be strategic in their choices,” says creative director Eric Couzian.
Bivouacs also allow you to swap between the four character classes in Breakpoint – the run-and-gun assault class, the ranged specialist sharpshooter, the stealth-oriented panther, and a heavy-hitting class that allows you to use rocket launchers. Similar to the specializations in The Division 2, each class has a persistent skill tree with unique tools. For instance, when the panther class is equipped you can use a smoke bomb to provide cover when moving through open spaces, and the sharpshooter can add three special bullets to their magazine that add extra damage, as well as hold their breath longer than other classes for lining up precision shots.
Once you’ve rested and prepped for the next battle, you choose when to break camp and under what conditions. Infiltrating a heavily guarded base? Maybe it makes more sense to move in under the cover of a rainy night.
Solo Players Say Goodbye To Squad Support
Wildlands elicited a lot of different opinions, from heavy praise to criticism, but one point nearly everyone agreed on was how annoying your A.I. squad members were. These low I.Q. instruments of war sometimes struggled to get into position for sync shots, rarely seemed to do much damage in a firefight, and filled long drives through the open world with groan-worthy chatter.
Rather than fix the squad A.I., write better dialogue, and give players more control over their teammates (wouldn’t it be great to man the turret on a drive to the next objective or command split-team operations?) instead Ubisoft chose to go another direction by removing your comrades entirely.
“The mission statement that we received was we want to create a fantasy that replicates being alone trapped behind enemy lines,” Daubon says. “Ultimately, if you choose to play a solo, you have the option to immerse yourself deeply in that aspect of the fantasy. The A.I. teammates would have taken away from that.”
This means no one will be riding shotgun and returning fire when you draw the attention of enemies on the road, which is a bummer. This is even more disappointing considering Ubi said Breakpoint has 30 vehicles this time around, many of which are heavily armored or armed.
However, you aren’t completely devoid of fire support. Nomad can use drones to perform sync shots and thin the enemy ranks.
If the idea of going solo annoys you, you always have the option of playing with up to three other players cooperatively.
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Storytelling Includes Dialogue Choices
Breakpoint puts a great emphasis on storytelling, using cutscenes and flashbacks to flesh out its story. Some of those cutscenes even have dialogue choices. In the mission we watched, Nomad’s team move on a research building believed to be housing Paula Madiera, an engineer working against her will on weaponizing Skell Technology. When the Ghosts neutralize the threats and reach her, she implores them to blow up the building to prevent the Wolves from further weaponizing the machines. The player is presented with a choice – sabotage the factory at the risk of drawing more hostiles to your position, or say it’s too risky and get the hell out of there. However, don’t expect the game to catalog your decisions and tally them to change the direction of the narrative. “Dialogue choices will give players the opportunity to enhance their role-playing experience by choosing the answers most fitting to their mood, impacting the cutscene in which they make the choice,” Couzian says.
PvP Is included Out of the Gate
Wildlands didn’t receive a competitive multiplayer mode until six months after launch, but Ubisoft has spent the last year and a half fleshing out the PvP suite. Over that time, the developers added new maps, classes, game modes, and a prestige system with in-game rewards. All that work has laid the foundation for Ghost Recon Breakpoint to ship with PvP from day one. We’ll have more details on how Ghost War is changing in the future.
Progression Tracks Across All Modes
Just like in Wildlands, you create a personalized Nomad by selecting gender, hairstyle, and attire before you start the game in the enhanced CharacterSmith. From here, your character will be used in both the campaign and competitive multiplayer modes, and your progression tracks across both places as well. That means if you find a gun or unlock a skill during the campaign, it can be used in competitive multiplayer and vice versa.
Post-Launch Support Includes Raids
Ubisoft no longer ships a game and moves on to the next project. Each of its titles receives expanded content well past its release date, and Breakpoint will be no different. Ubisoft has some promising plans to support Breakpoint, including the addition of more story content, seasonal events, new classes, and even endgame cooperative raids. Ubisoft has the ability to tweak the terrain post-launch as well, so it can add new points of interest as it sees fit. The examples I saw included huge research centers, volcanic bases, and oil rigs off the coast.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 4. To read more about why Ubisoft chose to set the game in a fictional place, head here.