Ghost Recon Breakpoint preview: Is it too full of a package?

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a game that is always trying to do more and it truly does have more of everything. It has more missions, more tactical obstacles, more biomes, customization options, more multiplayer, more progression options, and even more food.

It's certainly more of a game than the last entry in the series, Wildlands, which came out in 2017. Wildlands was a fine enough game for some, but it lacked a relatable story (among other things narratively) and its side missions were repetitive. It also didn't launch with a multiplayer mode and while it received continuous updates over the years, it showed that Ubisoft had a lot to improve upon with the sequel.

At a recent event in San Francisco, I got to test out Breakpoint for around six — yes six — hours and it never felt like it was in danger of running out of things to throw at me. I could do story missions, but I could just as easily hop into multiplayer or do a side mission suggested by one of the civilian NPCs. I could take a break with my teammates around a campfire and eat some gross stuff out of a pan or I could spend around 30 minutes changing up my costume.

Breakpoint won't hit platforms for another month, but from this relatively brief glimpse into the new world of Ghost Recon, I can say that there will at least be a lot to do.

Going from a tactical game to a tactician's game

Sync shots in Ghost Recon Breakpoint

On its face, Breakpoint is more similar to Wildlands than it is different — it's not like the game is trying anything new in terms of gameplay. This is still a tactician's game down to its core, where the player has to plan out each move before executing it. I guess anybody can decide to run in guns a-blazing and succeed, but there's always a level of strategy involved no matter the playstyle.

Wildlands ran on tactical gameplay, but Breakpoint doubles down on the elements that make up for a challenging obstacle course of a mission. One of the biggest tweaks from Wildlands involves terrain and the developers here used the setting to mix up the types of terrain the players will encounter, therefore forcing the player to change up how they approach a mission objective.

Wildlands ran on tactical gameplay, but Breakpoint doubles down on the elements that make up for a challenging obstacle course.

There are cliffs that you can use to scout out enemy strongholds, for example, but also different environments that involve slopes and weather changes that affect how fast you can move and how quickly your stamina runs out. New official snow maps add a long-requested biome to the game and sit alongside swamps and forests. This all affects movement here is a part of the strategy and can become a chore to manage, but it adds weight and another element that I think fans of extremely specific tactical games will appreciate.

Stamina is a huge factor in your minute-to-minute play. It runs out quickly when you spring, which slows you down and can be a hindrance in battle. There are ways to quickly refill your stamina meter — you can drink from a water canteen, which you can refill at lakes and streams throughout the map — but that'll run out as well. The hills and slopes affect how quickly or efficiently you consume stamina.

There's also a brand new injury system that affects movement. If you get shot in the leg, for instance, you'll limp around until you can find a safe place to heal. There are different levels of healing items you can pick up and craft in Breakpoint, so healing can take you out of a mission depending on how serious it is. A new bivouac system allows you to set up a temporary camp where you can take care of your wounds, eat and drink for buffs, or craft items, and that adds another layer to taking care of yourself. This also adds a large survival element to Breakpoint, which up to this point has been presented as a tactical shooter.

I felt consumed by my stamina meeter, which I guess means it was successful.

Both the injury system and the terrain also come into play in the PvP, presenting new challenges beyond just running and shooting.

When I spoke with Creative Director Eric Couzian, he emphasized just how important the terrain and other changes were for Breakpoint, saying the team really wanted to give players the "fantasy" of being spec op soldiers and all the details that brings.

"It was very important to have a deep layer that is even deeper in terms of tactical choices," Couzian told me. "You can go down here, get to the vantage point here. And then since you have the influence of the terrain, you may take different decisions because of your level of stamina."

I felt consumed by my stamina meter in a few instances. It takes a bit to get used to not having infinite stamina when running towards a location. When in stealth, it's easier to not have to worry about it, but when you're trying to run away from an enemy drone (more on this later), it becomes a source of tension. I felt like I was constantly drinking from the canteen and was always looking for a water source to refill. My character running out of stamina always came at the worst times, but it did make me think harder about how I approached missions, which I guess means it was successful.

We've got more drones. Lots of drones

Medic drone in Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Breakpoint (Image credit: Ubisoft)

Another huge change for Breakpoint comes with the drones, which are a much larger part of both the narrative and the gameplay. Wildlands had drones, too, but they were mostly a tool for your party. They helped you scout out locations before running in and helped to set up "sync shots," which was a technique for taking out squads that worked well when you were playing with an AI team.

Here the drones are some of the main characters. It helps that Breakpoint takes place on Auroa, a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean that has been co-opted by the Skrell Corporation for a semi-utopian, futuristic settlement. The place is riddled with drones that are there to help, and that's before the Wolves come into play.

The Wolves, which are the main enemy led by Colonel Cole D. Walker (Jon Berenthal), are covered in armor and are much tougher to take down than a typical enemy. They're trained, just like you, so it makes sense that you have to train harder to defeat them. They also have access to a lot of drones.

The Wolves themselves are tougher than your typical enemy, but the drones add an extra obstacle.

The Wolves themselves are tougher than your typical enemy, but the drones add an extra obstacle. If you want to sneak into a camp, you often have to try and take out the drones first and that's while also dealing with human enemies. The wolves also utilize a lot of drone tech — both in the air and on the ground — so you'll have to deal with a lot in order to take them out. You won't truly understand how tough the drones are until you're mowed down time and time again by one of them.

Couizian noted how much time the team put into designing the drones. They looked at actual drone tech and how they worked and programmed that into the game. He explained that the drones in Breakpoint have "authentic sensors" and are based on "actual technology." So they'll spot you if you accidentally walk into their line of sight like a CCTV camera or alert other enemies to your location

I can't confirm how accurate it all is, but I can confirm that the drones are a challenge. The air drones are stealthy and tough to shoot down from the sky, but they can also spot you from afar and ruin your cover. The land drones are tanks, more similar to autonomous vehicles. They do a lot of damage and are bullet sponges.

This all doesn't rule out the drones at your disposal. Like in Wildlands, you can send out drones for some recon, but through the improved skill tree, you can add features as you accrue skill points.

Multiplayer is available at launch

Ghost War multiplayer in Ghost Recon Breakpoint

The big change between Wildlands and Breakpoint is that the latter will have the multiplayer mode Ghost War available at launch and it'll be a traditional experience. There's no battle royale here. It's standard four vs. four, which Couizian calls the "golden number to play tactically." It keeps the battlefield tight and allows you to work with the team you've already been building report with. However, in a move taken from battle royale, there is a shrinking circle that will close in and push you all closer as the match goes on. You can be tactical, but you have to eventually be active.

There's little that separates Ghost War from other shooters' multiplayer modes, except for all the things that make Ghost Recon a unique franchise. The strategy slows down a game mode that's usually fast and aggressive and fosters communication between teammates. It's not about running down the middle and hoping you spot an enemy first; you have to decide if you're going to spread out, climb on a perch and snipe, or go directly to a point. Pinging is an important element here as well, and hopefully allows you to notify your teammates to an opponent's whereabouts before you go down.

However, the best part about Ghost War isn't even the mode at all but how Breakpoint handles it. You can jump into it at any time with your team, but it won't hinder your progress. No matter the mode, you can build experience and it'll carry over. If building up skill points and fleshing out your skill tree is a priority, you won't need to compromise. It also brings over the new injury system and revives, so if you go down you're not immediately out. Most importantly, it works to make the whole game seamless and feel like a cohesive unit.

Okay, but what about crossplay?

The big question in games these days has to do with crossplay and cross-save. Will that be available for Breakpoint?

Couizian didn't have a lot to say on the subject, but he didn't rule it out, especially since there will be new story content, new missions, and more features released in the months following release. "We have a big plan for the post-launch with episodes and many things to come. Crossplay is something that we are looking at," he said. Multiplayer is a huge part of the Ghost Recon brand, so we'll see if crossplay will become an option.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there's a lot to break down with Breakpoint. The game is full of new features and improvements over Wildlands. When Ubisoft claims that it doubled down on the tactical elements, that certainly seems to be the case. If all of it will come together in a cohesive package remains to be seen.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint hits PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4 on October 4, 2019.

Carli Velocci
Gaming Lead, Copy Chief

Carli is the Gaming Editor and Copy Chief across Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. Her last name also will remind you of a dinosaur. Follow her on Twitter or email her at