The year is 2019, and Ubisoft releases two third-person shooters under the Tom Clancy banner. The first, The Division 2, was in this humble writer's opinion, massively underrated, and despite a positive reception, underperformed - but that's a story for another day.
The other release was Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the follow-up to the popular Wildlands. Eschewing the real-world setting of its predecessor for a bespoke, technologically advanced island that's been taken over by a radicalised former Ghost, the game seemed destined to succeed - it even had Jon Bernthal playing the antagonist, fresh off of his stint as The Punisher.
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Not So Special Forces
Breakpoint's underlying shooting mechanics have always been solid
Just like the game's initial mission, though, everything seemed to go wrong. There were plenty of technical issues, sure, but even on a mechanical level the game had one foot in a gritty, modern shooter, and another in an aspiring live-service game.
Breakpoint introduced a social hub, a randomised loot chase, and a bizarre levelling system that meant enemies could be spongier in certain areas.
The game underperformed critically and commercially, and fans turned their back on the long-running tactical shooter, feeling alienated by its pursuit of seemingly every gameplay trope.
That could've been the end, but here I am, writing about a game that has a Metacritic score of 58.
The addition of AI teammates marked a big step for Breakpoint's recovery
While Ubisoft fixed many technical issues, the game's 2.0 patch felt in many ways like a relaunch.
2.0 stripped out the loot tiers, meaning players could play their own way. Weapons could still be carried en masse, but for a more realistic experience, Ghosts could be limited to just two weapons.
The game's previously crowded social space could be turned off entirely, and even the game's much-publicised survival elements could be entirely stripped back.
Finally, players would eventually get the chance to introduce AI teammates. Previously absent despite the franchise's history of squad-based tactics, players could customise their companions' load-outs and hand out on-the-fly orders.
It was a clear signal from Ubisoft, a mea culpa that said: "we got it wrong, but we hear you".
Locked and Loaded
Auroa is frequently beautiful
Since then, we've had in-game events aplenty, including one crossing over with Splinter Cell and one with Rainbow Six Siege. But what of the moment-to-moment gameplay?
In its current state, Breakpoint is a solid shooter that really comes into its own in co-op. Ubisoft's open-world formula may grate on some, but throw a few friends into the mix and you'll be sniping enemies from afar while a comrade sneaks in, or flying over the gorgeous island of Auroa with an attack helicopter, chasing down armoured convoys.
While there's no denying that Breakpoint lacks a defining identity, it's now just a very fun time that definitely deserves a second chance.
Despite its disappointing start, Breakpoint is an explosive, entertaining adventure.
It doesn't do anything new, but if you're playing with friends then it's a great way to spend a few hours, blowing things up and exploring a huge open-world map.
Reviewed on PC with time spent on PS4