Not only is Ghost Recon Breakpoint flipping the narrative on its head by forcing the titular Ghosts to face off against one of their own, but Ubisoft is also flipping the script on the development of the competitive multiplayer. In Ghost Recon Wildlands, the developers introduced PvP many months after launch and modified existing parts of the game’s map for smaller skirmishes. Breakpoint features competitive spaces designed for PvP first before being worked into Auroa, the upcoming game’s setting.
In Paris, France, we were given an opportunity to play the Ghost Recon Breakpoint PvP, called Ghost War, for the very first time. Six teams of four players faced off against each other for roughly two hours across three maps, giving us time to learn the layouts and try out different classes. After wrapping up the session, I came away more excited about how progress overlaps with the campaign versus the implications of the Ghost War mode itself, but it is an improvement over Wildlands’ PvP.
The foundation of Ghost War is still Elimination, where four players are dropped into a map to take down four other players, but it is enhanced with a handful of elements. Like in the Ghost Recon Breakpoint campaign, I can be injured and must bandage my wounds or suffer from movement penalties. Once bandaged, I can use another item to recover health. The entire process can be time-consuming and adds a new layer of tension. You can also pick up your teammates and move them to better cover for healing, but it rarely ever felt like I had the time to move them if I didn’t have the time to heal them right on the spot.
Another element of pressure comes from a new focus on exploration, something that has also been given a boost in the single-player. Instead of starting out with a full arsenal, players have to find drones and other items by searching around the map. It’s a small addition on paper but, in a PvP experience where you’re keeping an eye out for even the smallest movement from enemies, taking time to look down for items leaves you vulnerable.
Throughout my demo, teams rotated after a best-of-3 battle and we managed to attempt a handful of different strategies. I tried to be a lone-wolf overseer responsible for finding a high-point and spotting the enemy. It worked a few times but put me in a precarious position if my teammates went down. Reviving your teammates is a key part of Ghost War, so our performance was more ideal when we worked in teams of two and revived each other to keep numbers favorable. The flipside of this is that we wanted to keep an eye on any downed enemies. There was a match where we were up 4-2 but they revived their partners and ended up winning the match. This makes Ghost War a major balancing act where players are constantly weighing their next step.
Just like the human enemies in Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s campaign, online opponents only take a couple of shots to go down. This encouraged me to get off any shots I could in some instances, hoping to either take the enemy out or force them into hiding as they healed up. When my shots weren’t dead-on, however, this gave away my position and Ghost War is certainly a position game. Communicating with my teammates frequently and coordinating shots create the most ideal outcomes where we hit targets from multiple directions.
Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s Ghost War PvP mode gives players an opportunity to be as slow, stealthy, and methodical as you can in the campaign. While running in gunning is also viable in the campaign, it didn’t feel so in Ghost War. There’s a new addition that will force you to pick up the pace if the match goes on for too long, though.
After a set amount of time, a circular area appears on the map. It’s like what you see in battle royale games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, closing in on players after set intervals and forcing them into closer quarters for combat. Generally, our matches were quicker conflicts because we only had so much time to play. There were a couple of occasions where our significantly slower plans of action aligned with an equally slow tactic from our opponents and the winner was declared by players being forced into a smaller space. It’s a nice touch that will certainly help get players into different matches more frequently.
The focus of Ghost War is taking out the four enemy players but there’s one objective in the match that adds another layer of strategy. In each map, there’s a satellite interface that can be accessed and it will then give away the positions of all enemies. In addition to exploring for items or tools and keeping an eye out for enemy movement, you’ll have to either plot out a smart way to access the interface or set up a position to defend against enemy access. It takes a few seconds to engage and leaves the player using it completely open, so it’s a huge risk/reward element.
In the demo, we used three of the four classes that will be available at the Ghost Recon Breakpoint launch: Assault, Sharpshooter, and Panther. Medic was the fourth, unavailable option. Each class has unique strengths that are exhibited by a special ability that charges as you are more active in the Ghost War match. They have suggested loadouts tailored to their strengths as well, but you can modify them and use whatever weapons you want. There’s a chance this could create a balancing nightmare, but we didn’t really have enough time to test that out.
Passive players may not expose themselves much, but they will have to wait a long time before being able to use things like the Panther’s ability that makes them invisible for a short period of time. These skills are strong enough to tip the scales in a close battle so it’s yet another key element that players will have to keep in mind.
Ghost War, as it was in Wildlands and as it feels thus far, is a solid distraction from the main campaign. Ubisoft’s decision to blend the two experiences together with combined progression in Ghost Recon Breakpoint will make it a more worthwhile experience, especially with the weapons and gear unlocks exclusive to Ghost War that will be usable in the campaign.
By adding endgame content and shared progression, Ghost Recon Breakpoint is flirting with the same connected shooter territory dominated by games like The Division 2, Destiny 2, and Warframe. The Ghost War PvP is a freshened-up take on the same mode from Wildlands but we’ll have to wait until the October 4, 2019 release date to see if players really split time between it and the campaign. It’ll also be interesting to see how the endgame content impacts both, as well.
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