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Ghost Recon Breakpoint BETA Impressions

The Ghost Recon Breakpoint Closed Beta ran from September 6 to September 10 and showed a game in need of polish and fixes, but also a very promising future with the right support.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is the latest installment in the long-running franchise within Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy-verse library of games. As the direct sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, the players will take control of Ghost Lead Nomad as he struggles to survive in the fictional island of Auroa against his former brothers in arms led by ex-Ghost Cole Walker (played by my favorite actor, Jon Bernthal).

I was lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the Closed BETA which will run from September 6 to 10. BETA tests are usually done to determine bugs, consumer pulse, real-time feedback, and other issues that could be fixed either through a Day 1 patch, or something that can be implemented further down the road. It is important to note that Ghost Recon Wildlands has had an outstanding support throughout its two-year run with all of the fixes and enhancements it received. In that regard, I expect Ghost Recon Breakpoint to receive the same amount of support, if not more.

The other most important thing to remember is that BETA versions of the game are not necessarily the final version of the game. As seen in the disclaimer below, this is an earlier build which may have already received fixes. Whether how “early” it actually is, I have no idea. But in my personal opinion, the game – as seen in the BETA – seems to be somewhere in the middle of “work in progress” and “somewhat enough”.

And so, without further ado, here are my impressions of Ghost Recon Breakpoint based on my experience of the closed BETA.

I. I like the story progression and lore building via missions.
– Ubisoft’s recent games mixes story progression and lore building via missions that are designed to make you both explore the open-world, and progress with the narrative as you see fit. In Breakpoint, I especially liked how side-missions support the main narrative: either through helping factions take out Sentinel captains, or “investigating” clues to uncover what exactly happened to your team as well as the state of things in Auroa.

Granted, the BETA only featured two main story missions, but the faction missions in particular, didn’t feel separated from the over-all narrative.

II. Nomad the Explorer
– One feature of later Ubisoft games is to remove the marker where your next destination lies so that you are forced to use the map and read the clues to your next location. This feature can be toggled on and off on the menu, but I tried it on the two story missions.

While some players may not like the trouble of having to figure out locations based on clues, I actually found it quite a challenge. Although it can make a 15-minute story mission into something as long as 30 minutes depending on how well you respond to clues, it was a challenge that I welcomed. The catch here is that the complete map is not available, and I am not sure if my excitement will turn to frustration when you are forced to locate a bunker in the middle of a Sentinel-infested territory where prone camo may or may not be available.

III. It is a looter-shooter, but it is not The Division
– Yes, the weapons now have tiers based on your current level, but no, the enemies aren’t bullet sponges besides the obvious Heavy and drones. A head-shot can very much kill, a bullet to the knee also incapacitates them based on my experience in the game. A knife to the throat will also kill them no matter how high his level is from you.

That’s not to say that the two games do not feel closer alike than ever before. The similarities are definitely there, but saying that they’re the same isn’t exactly true either. How you will deal with it though, depends on how much you liked The Division games (I personally did). I welcome the fact that even though the weapons are in tiers, you can dismantle weapons you don’t need (or want) and upgrade your current weapon up to spec. I used the 416 from the moment I received it until I finished the two available story missions. I even used them effectively in a shoot-out against the Wolves.

I would suppose that the differences between a level 22 416 AR and a level 12 one will be more apparent late in the game (if the current upgrade system stonewalls to a pre-specified point). But it is fairly easy to acquire properly leveled-weapons. Far more so than in The Division 1 at least.

IV. Surivival
– Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s main charm is the addition of survival elements. For the first time, the Ghosts are placed in a position of disadvantage. While the option of having AI team-mates like Wildlands will be available post-launch, I now realize how fitting the original intention of being a lone operator in a hostile environment is. Think Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain except that there is a lot more enemies in a much bigger map and you’ll get the picture.

Adding survival elements do spice up the gameplay. While Nomad is still relatively superhuman, he does get tired which affects his stamina. The more tired he is, the more affected his stamina is, which in turn, has an effect on his ability to run away from enemies. This can be prevented by either drinking water or setting up a bivuoac with bivuoac areas scattered across the map. You can also make preparations like skill buffs (stamina boost, injury resistance, etc) tailored to a specific mission.

V. Bugs. Lots of them.
– BETA versions of the game are usually riddled with bugs. After all, spotting them is part of the purpose of BETA testings. I’ve compiled a list of some bugs I encountered that I hope Ubisoft manages to fix before the game’s release or at the very least, in a Day 1 patch.

  • Animation glitches – while I like the immense number of new animations that make controlling Nomad a joy, certain animations get triggered at specific times even though they’re not supposed to. For example, in certain areas where the ground is uneven and I am moving in the crouch position, the “sliding down the mountain” animation triggers. That’s puzzling because I wasn’t on an elevation: the ground was just simply uneven.
  • Bivuoac glitch – after deploying from the bivuoac, the glitch will make you respawn in an area a stone’s throw from the actual bivuoac site. In one bivuoac site that was in a swampy area, I actually spawned in the water.
  • Physics glitch – one complaint I had with Ghost Recon Wildlands is that driving vehicles (especially motorbikes) felt like driving on ice. In Breakpoint, it feels like you’re driving a brick-wall. And when you ride that wall in full speed, and suddenly bumps into a wooden fence, you are sent cartwheeling into the air GTA V style. I hope this just means that the physics in this build hasn’t been calibrated properly.
  • AI – while loads better than the one in Wildlands, the enemy AI still does some silly stunts. There are times when – during an alert – they try to search for me in a staircase or even just in cramped corners – they will bump one side of the railing, bouncing to another side and then again and again and again. You’ll only break the cycle if you fire one shot at him, resetting the alert cycle. I’ve currently no problems with the AI of the Wolves who are supposed to be former Ghosts. At least, unlike Wildlands’ sicarios, they don’t automaticaly know where you are hiding. And unlike the Unidad in the previous game, they know how to employ simple squad tactics.

VI. Online Connectivity will be a problem
– While I do not begrudge Ubisoft in their push to making social hubs for their games, the always-online requirement for this game really hurts it. You won’t be able to play the game if you get disconnected from Ubisoft servers, even if you barely touch the online aspect of the game.

My theory is that Ubisoft is trying to create a persistent universe in the game, where they can drop in updates, new missions, and story expansions in real time. Think less of The Division and more Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen and you get the picture. It also made me feel that Walker won’t just be the final boss of Breakpoint, but the final boss of the base game. It’s just an assumption, but outside of coop, Ghost War, and Raids (which – given the drone sync-shot is actually enjoyable, not to mention the post-launch addition of AI team-mates), there’s not much they will need it for. Not every player wants to play co-op, and not everyone is interested in the PVP.

That is on top of the problem that internet connectivity is not equal in various parts of the world. In some instances, people regard this as a deal-breaker for them with regards to buying the game. I won’t deny that there is huge potential in beng always online, but it remains to be seen how this will affect the game in the long run.

VII. Base infiltration is now fun
– While I’m not expecting any Splinter Cell type of stealth infiltration in this game, it is at least loads better than the one we saw in Wildlands. Breakpoint at times made me feel like I was Solid Snake: you won’t see me, but if you do, I’m the last thing you’ll ever see. Now, that’s not to say that stealth infiltration is perfect, but it isn’t wonky unlike Wildlands where the less than spectacular stealth mechanics made the Sam Fisher DLC mission a pain to complete.

Now, more than ever, there is a real incentive to being stealthy and killing captains, or obtaining intel in a base full of hostiles without tipping the alarm really gives you a feeling of fulfillment. This is true since you also have enough tools (for now) that will aid you in infiltrating like the torch which allows you to cut through steel fences.

VIII, The Sound Bites. Literally
– I would say, that the sound in general is a mix of the good (the soundtrack), the bad (certain sound effects), and ugly (dialogue not in sync, cut or clipped dialogue). Hopefully Ubisoft managed to fix those in the final build. To say that I will be disappointed if I see it in the final game would be a massive understatement. It won’t “kill immersion” for me, but it would be a shame since I like the soundtrack better in this game than in Wildlands. Another usual complaint by other fans is the sound effect of the guns. I don’t have a problem with any of them as I feel that they’re not much different form your standard video-game gun sound clips, but seeing as I’m hardly an expert in guns, I can’t really comment about it one way or another. I just feel that it’s worth a mention.

In all, I had fun with the Ghost Recon Breakpoint BETA. While hardcore Ghost Recon fans are up in arms at what they perceive is the “watering down” of Ghost Recon, I sincerely think that Ubisoft did right with the changes they made for this title. It is still open-world, but it feels less of a GTA V clone than Wildlands (not that it was a bad thing, mind you. I enjoyed the heck out of Wildlands), and in the small sample of the game, it feels as if all the ingredients are there: hunting, scouting, infiltrating, sabotage.

It sometimes feels ironic that the game actually makes me feel like a Tier One operator after it actually removed my spec-ops team. It made me think about my surroundings more, made me plan my approach more carefully than ever before, and made me consider a host of other factors before risking it all in a full-on assault. Most of all: the game made realize how much I missed Solid Snake and Sam Fisher. Two tier one operators who have the skills to be one-men armies if they wanted or if the mission allowed them to. While Breakpoint isn’t a full-on stealth infiltration game, this is about as close as modern Ghost Recon games got, and hopefully by the end of the game, we will talk about Nomad in the same breath.

And so this ends my impression on Ghost Recon Breakpoint based on the closed BETA test. Hopefully Ubisoft irons out the kinks and bugs come launch date. I’m really hoping I could get this game for review because I want to see if the potential of this game can be fulfilled.

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