Flaws make for clunky gameplay

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Genre: Tactical shooter
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Paris
Rating: M, for Mature

By Gieson Cacho // The Mercury News (TNS)

To say that Ghost Recon Breakpoint is overwhelming would be an understatement. With dozens of icons on the screen and a plethora of menus to navigate, the open-world shooter isn’t the most streamlined of games. It’s clunky and riddled with bugs. The story and dialogue can be cringe-worthy at times, but despite all its flaws, it has a way of keeping players hooked.

Breakpoint relies heavily on the cooperative experience. It’s a game that needs to be played with friends. Going through the campaign solo is doable, but it will be a slog.

The campaign follows a special ops command named Nomad, whom players create. It’s their avatar as the character survives a drone attack and must figure out what happened to the South Pacific archipelago of Auroa. A tech magnate named Jace Skell turned the islands into his own technological libertarian paradise. He developed weaponized drones and other advancements and those technologies have been commandeered by his security forces.

Led by Cole Walker, a former Ghost, the forces who call themselves Wolves have taken over the islands and they have plans for Skell’s technology. As Nomad, it’s up to players to stop him by freeing members of Skell’s company and eliminating Walker’s lieutenants.

That’s a process that starts out with a big learning curve. Breakpoint throws a lot at players initially, and they’ll need stealth and patience to overcome the shortcomings of their character. Players want to exercise caution and plan out ambushes with their online partners, but as Nomad gains experience points and skills, the progression system opens up options.

 Breakpoint becomes easier as players level up and choose among four classes: field medic, panther, assault and sharpshooter. These archetypes cater to different play styles and give players a special ability, a class-specific item and various proficiencies. They fulfill roles within a squad but players shouldn’t feel tied to them. They can switch classes depending on the team makeup or goal.

As players complete missions and open chests, they find better guns and armor that scale to a gear score. The possibility of finding upgraded gear keeps players invested in the campaign, but without the benefit of distinct builds and talents, players just look for the highest number regardless of the stat-boosts tied to the gear.

Missions start off smoothly but often devolve into outright chaos. It happens with human partners. They make mistakes. One person will get spotted by an enemy and that adversary will call in reinforcements, and soon enough, a simple plan to rescue a scientist explodes into a gunfight across a campus. If playing with randomly selected allies, it’s almost always a disaster. Breakpoint is best played with buddies who have a rapport and patience with each other.

It’s the gameplay that shoulders much of the load in Breakpoint. The game with its accompanying player-vs-player mode are fun experiences, but there is too much holding things back to make the game enjoyable beyond the 20-plus hours fans will pour into the campaign. Instead of focused open-world shooter that does a few things well, it’s a sprawling mess that will need some refinement over time before it gets better.