“Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint” is a hard game to demo. It’s best played with four players — which requires a level of friendship and comradery — and also helps if everyone is decent at shooters.
But being thrown into a room for a two-hour demo with another journalist, a developer, and actor Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite,” “Blades of Glory”) and suddenly having to coordinate makes it hard to ruminate and reflect. Because as a journalist, my job is to inform readers about this game. But because during this demo there were other people relying on me, I couldn’t pause the game to take down notes. I just had to continue trudging forward at the pace of the leader and not myself.
“Breakpoint” is a sequel to 2017’s “Wildlands,” the first in the “Tom Clancy” series to go open world. The game had good-to-average reviews, currently sitting at a 70 on Metacritic. It was praised for its co-op fun and its world, but dinged for its mission variety. The game sold well for publisher Ubisoft however, enough to give the open world co-op formula a second go, and the team is working on making this game better in every regard.
“At the end result of ‘Wildlands,’ we were very happy about the environment — and how you were feeling behind enemy lines — but we had the feeling that we could do more about how you actually felt yourself in the body of a spec op,” said executive producer Nouredine Abboud.” And hence the idea of working on the survival aspect.”
Mission variety has changed in “Breakpoint” thanks to new enemy classes. Sure, bad guys will still exist, ones that will run around but can also be taken out with a headshot. But in “Breakpoint’s” near-futuristic world, technology plays a greater role. There’s more enemy variety, namely with the use of drones. And it’s not just tiny drones that zip around and might shoot you in the back. Giant unmanned tanks that have massive firepower, and will require all four players to coordinate and attack with heavy force.
“For us, it’s also a very good way of adding inside the game the fact that we can have more character development. If the enemies are all the same, there’s a limit to how we can evolve,” said Abboud.
And while giant unmanned tanks that require rocket launchers barrages might seem unrealistic, it’s best to understand that the team isn’t going for an emulation of actual war. The team is well aware it’s creating an entertainment product that mixes both reality and fantasy.
“There’s a thrill to playing in that world. To feeling that you are part of one of these ultra-elite units that has a really high attrition rate, that has a very selective training, a really selective operation responsibilities,” said writer and military technical advisor Emil Daubon. “… ’Ghost Recon’ is built on creating that fantasy of being a Ghost and being the absolute best of what the military has to offer, and engaging in a variety of different scenarios. And I really think the thrill is to feel that fantasy.”
Daubon isn’t your typical video game writer either. He served 17 years in the military, 14 of which were in the Army special forces. And for him, it’s about bringing a certain level of authenticity to “Breakpoint,” and he’s been doing that mainly with the dialogue.
He’s making sure that both civilians and soldiers have believable writing. And it’s not just getting the jargon down and making sure each character only speaks in this militaristic language but realizing that soldiers of all walks of life have varying levels of vocabulary.
“Some speak in a very strict military vernacular, some not so much and sort of everything across the spectrum. Because in reality, contractors come from a variety of backgrounds,” said Daubon. “Whereas with the Wolves, we were able to give the Wolves a very distinctive oral signature without giving them a very strict and specific military vernacular. They’re efficient, they’re ruthless. They’re all business.”
The version of the game we played was far from perfect. The graphics still need to be tweaked, and there were some odd glitches. Of course, the team back in Paris has already patched those bugs as we were playing an earlier build. But overall, the game is coming together decently. The only thing the team might need to be careful of is creating too many bullet-sponge enemies or bombarding gamers with rushes of enemies. Variety will be the key to this game’s critical success. But variety can be difficult when there are four characters to manage, all with different skill levels. Sometimes the easier A to B mission structure is best for everyone to quickly understand.
Either way, the team still has some time to get “Breakpoint” right, as the game ships on Oct. 4th, 2019.