E3 2019: Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a charmingly taxing tactical shooter

I was critically injured in Ghost Recon Breakpoint before I even saw an enemy. In Breakpoint, it’s not just the enemies that can kill you (but yes, they killed me). The landscape can wreck you, too. It was my own fault. I was warned beforehand to exercise caution while working through uneven terrain. Naturally, I went full speed ahead. My highly trained Ghost fell flat on his face. Before injecting myself with some medicine, I first had to wrap my wounds with a bandage. Lesson learned.

Breakpoint swaps the controversial Bolivia setting of its predecessor, Wildlands, for a fictional island inhabited by Silicon Valley techies. When Skell Technology, a drone company, is taken over by a rogue Ghost faction dubbed Wolves, all hell breaks loose. Now it’s up to you and three squad mates to take down the Wolves, who happen to be led by Cole D. Walker (played by Jon Bernthal). Breakpoint can be played solo, but it’s really designed for co-op.

Since the antagonists have former military training and access to drone technology, Breakpoint ups the emphasis on smart tactical teamwork. My squad played “Without a Trace,” a mission that took us from a tall ridge (which I fell down) to a complex patrolled by Wolves. Sounds simple, right? Not quite.

It’s all part of the plan

I learned quickly that Breakpoint is all about planning. On the ridge, my squad deployed drones to check the road for Wolves and passing enemy vehicles. When I made it to the road (this time still on my feet), we came up on an enemy convoy. We had a choice. Take them out with lethal force, or sneak by them. We chose the latter, but didn’t pass by unnoticed. Thankfully, we were all quick shots and took out the group of Wolves with little problem. The stealth detection seems balanced but skews towards realism. Going prone and crawling was the only surefire means for keeping a low profile.

After crossing the road, we reached a plateau above the complex. We again checked the area with our drones and spotted a bunch of enemies lurking the complex, including “Heavy” enemies. Snipers can knock off a Heavy’s helmet with one shot, then kill them with the next trigger pull. In a welcome change from Wildlands, you can equip any weapon regardless of class. Starting weapons and skills are locked to classes, which means that if you’re traditionally a sniper, you’ll still want to go with Sharpshooter.

It wasn’t until we approached the complex that I realized the extent of Breakpoint‘s emphasis on tactical gameplay. Dispatching of a handful of Wolves on an isolated road isn’t a big deal if your team is together, but infiltrating a complex surrounded by Wolves? No easy task.

Heavy enemies can critically wound you before you realize their location, forcing you to limp to safety to heal with bandages and medicinal syringes. Injuries reduce your movement speed and make you less useful in combat. Wolves have expert grenade lobbing skills and are stellar shots. Then there’s enemy drones. Thanks to Skell, the Wolves have flying and land drones, and the latter presented a major problem. Once a drone gets you in its sights, it volleys rockets and machine gun fire at a consistent clip. They also can absorb a lot of damage before blowing up.

Infiltrating the complex required cautious movements and a handy tool to melt an opening in the fence. Once inside, even more cohesive teamwork was required to make it inside and up two flights of stairs. The gunplay feels appropriately tactical. This isn’t a shooter where you spam the trigger. You aim to kill, then let up, regroup, and sweep the next hallway.

Inside, we met our target, a civilian, and a flashback cutscene showed Cole in a sniper’s nest. The facial animations were impressive, though I experienced some audio glitches that distorted the dialogue. After a thoroughly tactical and well-earned build up, I was disappointed to see it devolve into a rather rote open world activity. Destroying “X” thing. The “X” here was batteries.

Though I mostly enjoyed the mission I played, Breakpoint isn’t at all a relaxing experience. Having to worry about all of the little things can create overwhelming moments. This is a serious game.

Breakpoint seems massive in scope, and I’m curious how the tactical focus will translate to such a large open world. I already had bandages and syringes and other supplies on hand, but the full game will include resource management. You’ll craft bandages and food, and you even have to eat. Adding crafting to an already intense tactical game sounds ambitious.

We’ll see how Ubisoft’s vision pans out when Ghost Recon Breakpoint lands on PS4, Xbox One, and PC on October 4.

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