We were recently given our first glimpse of the newest entry in the Ghost Recon series, and things are looking pretty grim for the Ghosts. If the opening cinematic and subsequent gameplay demo are to be any indication, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint is less about getting the drop on unsuspecting bad guys and more about fighting for survival against a force that is in every way just as capable as you.
Historically, the Ghost Recon series has served as a sort of pseudo-propaganda that showcased America's military prowess with highly-trained, damn near invincible soldiers that can infiltrate any enemy line with ease, and, despite facing seemingly overwhelming opposition, still find a way to come out on top. This was especially the case in the most recent entry in the series, Ghost Recon Wildlands. Set in the real-life country of Bolivia, Wildlands had you and your fellow Ghosts systematically dismantling the government-sponsored Drug Cartel while essentially waging war on the entire country and spreading some good ol' American-brand freedom in the process. Hoo-rah.
In addition to being officially rebuked, many have pointed out that portraying a real-life country in such a negative context is a tad bit tone-deaf, especially when it is attempting to imply that the only cure for a struggling country is a shot of American Imperialism from the barrel of an M60. Fortunately, the folks at Ubisoft have decided to take a completely different direction with the latest entry, opting instead to hold a mirror up to the Ghosts in order to explore the ramifications of what happens when they become corrupted.
What happens when a Silicon Valley technology giant sets up residence on a remote island to construct autonomous drones, seemingly with the intention of shouldering society into a new era of stability and safety? Nothing good, apparently, especially when those drones are just a firmware upgrade away from becoming weaponized killing machines. Needless to say, it would be a shame if some sort of nefarious organization decided to hijack this seemingly humanitarian venture.
If you haven't already guessed, the entirely thinkable happens - bad guys come in and take control of the island as well the fleet of "definitely-not-a-weapon" drones. Naturally, this does not sit well with the international community, and it's once again time to send in the Ghosts.
What appears to be another routine mission involving 2-bit thugs trying to make a buck turns out to be an expertly orchestrated takeover aimed at bringing the civilized world to its knees, and it quickly becomes evident that even the Ghosts can be outsmarted, outgunned, and outmaneuvered.
This new enemy is unlike any the Ghosts have ever encountered, and they possess a level of training that is rivaled only by the Ghosts themselves. "The Wolves", as they are called, are a group of ex-Spec Ops soldiers led by recent Wildlands-newcomer Colonel Cole D. Walker (continuity!) that make quick work of demonstrating their militaristic abilities. Not much is known about their full intentions, but what becomes immediately evident is that they are not to be underestimated.
While sharing the open-world format with its predecessor, Breakpoint notably makes the openness seem less like a playground and more like a liability. This is due in part because, from the get-to, you are inhabiting the boots of an injured, disoriented, and overwhelmed Ghost that is not accustomed to being on the receiving end of a foiled plan.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint looks to be less about leisurely galavanting across the countryside, clumsily bringing the fight to the next unsuspecting drug dealer, and more about keeping a low profile with your head on a swivel, trying desperately to avoid the attention of an elusive enemy that is perpetually tracking you. Being that the odds are already stacked in favor of your opponents, players are forced to rely on their wits and utilize the environment to their advantage. One example of this, as demonstrated in the gameplay trailer, is the player's ability to partially submerge themselves in mud (and perhaps other maleable surfaces) to better blend in with their surroundings. It's easy to imagine the many scenarios that this mechanic could make the difference in an encounter.
For all intents and purposes, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint looks to be a carbon copy of Wildlands, which by no means is a bad thing. Wildlands, while being a little too cavalier in its design to be considered a true "tactical shooter", provided an incredibly satisfying co-op experience that, despite seemingly encouraging chaos, still rewarded players for collaborating and employing strategy to synchronize their attacks. I think Breakpoint is inherently going to take that a step further, since thematically, it seems more important than ever to rely on your fellow Ghosts. Hopefully this shift in tone translates into encounters more akin to what one would expect from a traditional tactical shooter, and the success or failure of the mission hinges on a team's well-timed coordination.
Perhaps less apparent is that Breakpoint marks a turning point in the way the series handles its characters. Previous Ghost Recon games did not give much attention to its protagonists, and typically relegated them to being one-dimensional cogs whose only discernible qualities were their affinity for Uncle Sam and passion for spreading a little 'merica to the rest of the world. As a result, it's interesting to see that the character Nomad is not only making a second appearance in a Ghost Recon game (the first being Wildlands, which he or she was the player-controlled leader of the team), but he/she is also being provided with a story arch that we are intended to be invested in. Maybe this is the start of a more story-focused Ghost Recon that will evolve over time. After all, one simply cannot ignore that Ubisoft has invested in a higher-caliber actor to portray Breakpoint's primary villain.
All in all, there is already much about this entry in the long-running Ghost Recon series to get excited about. Worst case scenario, it's more of the same. Best case scenario, Ubisoft is building on the formula started with Wildlands and is improving on it. Either way, it's a win-win for me.
What was your impression of Ghost Recon: Breakpoint? Will you be squadding up on October 4th? Let me know!