E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
Tim Rogers checked out the Ubisoft booth at E3, and shenanigans ensued. Watch the video for a look at Watch Dogs: Legion, a very intense staring contest,and the one question that has surely been on everyone’s minds: What, exactly, is a Ghost Recon Breakpoint?
E3 2019It’s time for the biggest gaming show of the year. We’ve got articles, videos, podcasts and maybe even a GIF or two.
I was playing Ghost Recon: Breakpoint as the assault class, Fixit. I had been doing my best to act as a tank for my teammates by getting out front and shooting people with my assault rifle. But my injuries started to add up: First I got nicked in the arm, then the leg. I didn’t have a chance to apply bandages, so I just kept fighting. Then I got shot in the gut. My character’s movement slowed dramatically. I needed to get behind cover to deal with my wounds, fast.
Ghost Recon: Breakout is the latest entry in the Ghost Recon franchise, and it comes with some new bells and whistles. One of those is a system of injuries that can sometimes impede your gameplay by making your character slower or making your aim shakier.
“It’s not always about being super strong,” Matthew Tomkinson, UX designer at Ubisoft, told me. “In terms of gameplay it brings a change of rhythm, and when you develop games that’s always what you are looking for—either by having new game design rules or systems, or having enemies that bring more variety.”
There is certainly variety in the enemy types as well. As I played, video producer Paul Tamayo and I were beset by enormous and powerful drones that we needed to team up to destroy, sometimes while we were being flanked by less powerful, human enemies. Getting an injury in these moments added an additional tension. Should I deal with it in the field, or wait until a quiet moment to patch myself up? During the demo I played, I almost always opted for the latter. As my character staggered around, clutching their gut, I realized that wasn’t always the best choice.
“You can have lesser injuries that you can use bandages for, to remove those wounds,” Tomkinson said. “You can also heal in the bivouac, where you would have a very graphic experience where you remove the bullet.”
The bivouac is a kind of camping system, which is new in Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. You can set up a temporary shelter called a bivouac, where you can deal with injuries, select a gameplay buff, craft items, or change your character class. The option of waiting until you camp to heal your wounds was tempting while I played—though by the time I was pulled from the demo for my interview, I was furiously wrapping bandages around myself in order to keep up with my team.
Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has other elements inspired by survival games, like eating and drinking. Unlike in those kinds of games, you’re not penalized for not eating or drinking. Instead, if you see a river and take a drink from it during the game, you get a buff. It’s the same in the bivouac. If you’re not injured, you can use your time at camp to do things like inspect your weapon, which gives you a small buff to weapon accuracy.
“It’s more of a positive design that makes you stronger than you were before,” Tomkinson said, “rather than negative design in telling you, ‘now you have to drink or else you’ll die or you’ll be less powerful.’”
In my time with Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the tension between the brief moments of respite when I could heal myself and the relative chaos of gunfights brought a lot of drama to our mission. While I was punished for my mistakes with debilitating injuries, overcoming those setbacks made winning a gunfight more exciting.
“It’s the same in my life when I get sick,” Tomkinson said. “What I really love is the moment where I feel good again, and that’s what we want to have in this game.”
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The first thing you might notice about Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the newly-announced follow-up to 2017’s co-op special ops shooter Ghost Recon: Wildlands, is its setting. The fictional Auroa islands are a marked shift from the previous game’s take on the real-world South American nation of Bolivia. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find more change: Instead of a cartel fronted by a charismatic kingpin, you’re facing an angry former Ghost played by actor Jon Bernthal. He’s backed by special forces operatives like the player character, but they’re supplemented by autonomous drones of varying shapes and sizes.
In Breakpoint, a mission gone awry strands you on the private archipelago owned by Jace Skell, whose SkellTech drones have been commandeered by rogue Ghost Cole D. Walker (Bernthal) and his team, known as Wolves. They’ve got plans for Skell’s drones, and you’re one of the few people left who can stop them. It’s a techno-thriller premise consistent with the game’s Tom Clancy branding, but it’s also quite different from what came before, perhaps in an effort to court those who found Wildlands fun but were repelled by its messy politics.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands took the tactical spec ops gameplay of the Ghost Recon franchise to a sprawling open world, mostly to great success. It looked good and played well. One of its biggest problems was its choice of locale and antagonist—here was a meticulously researched and elaborate game that worked hard to make players feel like a team of trained special operatives, and yet that same care and attention seemed absent in its portrayal of Bolivia, recasting it into a tropey narco-state to fit its needs.
Wildlands’ cartel-run Bolivia was a caricature to drape Ghost Recon’s jingoist realism against, a playground for carnage where the player character would shoot their way through South American villages, showing off their command of Spanish slurs while threatening to “ventilate” cartel associates, with a few oo-rahs thrown in for good measure. Our reviewer called it propaganda, and Bolivia filed a formal complaint with the French embassy over Paris-headquartered Ubisoft’s portrayal of the country.
When I brought the reception of Wildlands’ setting up to Nouredine Abboud, Breakpoint’s executive producer (and a producer on Wildlands), asking him if this shift was intentional, here’s what he told me: “When we thought about Wildlands, we wanted to have this big open world. Bringing the Ghosts into a military situation that was different from the classic ones that we’re used to, and the Cartel as an enemy helped us tell a different kind of story—while at the same [keeping with] the Clancy heritage. We believed it was the perfect idea, and we did the best with the story, the situation that we could.”
Abboud then told me about the dueling concerns of gameplay and story, and how, as a designer, the former takes precedence, since it’s the aspect unique to games, and what brings people to them.
“We always start, at the core, with the technology and the gameplay,” Abboud said. He called my attention to the hostile drones players will face in Breakpoint, noting how they solve the uniquely video game problem of making foes harder to kill without compromising the Ghost Recon brand of realism. “When you’re playing with high-level characters, you still want to keep the ‘one bullet one kill’ if you shoot someone in the head. Because the drones can be customized, they can increase the resistance, they come in all shapes—for us, it was a very good way to improve the interactions and gameplay elements of the previous game, while staying true to the brand.”
It’s a response that recalls Ubisoft’s attitude towards The Division 2, where developers leaned hard on the fiction of the Clancyverse and the technological achievement of its heavily-researched environments as a way to assert that the game was a somehow neutral work, free of ideas that ascribed to any sort of ideology. The game itself would quickly dispense with that notion, immediately dividing a post-collapse America into takers and builders, with lethal force the only law of the land once laws broke down.
Despite its developers’ reticence to talk about it at this stage, Breakpoint does seem like a work that’s trying to remove itself from a political minefield, and depending on your personal preferences, maybe it’s enough. It is, however, quite far from apolitical. It’s still a work of hardcore military fiction, a jingoist fantasy that fetishizes guns and spec ops training that filters the world into threats and the threatened. In its gameplay systems, Breakpoint doubles down on this with new features that emphasize the feeling of survival behind enemy lines, and the tactical preparation necessary to achieve success in the field. Its new setting on a wealthy capitalists’ private islands and emphasis on drone warfare also gestures at a new set of politically loaded subjects like the surveillance state and tech companies’ relationship with the military, subjects Breakpoint may overtly comment on.
In this first look, Breakpoint appears more palatable, more safely ensconced in the clandestine organizations of the Tom Clancy universe, but that universe remains one that’s as ugly to contemplate as it is fun to play through. Breakpoint’s biggest job might be succeeding where Wildlands struggled: Enticing you to dive into the pleasures of its meatier tactical gameplay, while hoping its new techno-thriller bend is enough to keep the full range of its players from being too troubled by what that fantasy means.
Ubisoft announced Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the sequel to 2017’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, during a livestream reveal event today.. Here’s everything we know:
The title is meant to refer to the game’s central theme of desperation, not, sadly, the Keanu Reeves film Point Break.
The new setting is the Auroa islands, a private compound owned by Jace Skell—the CEO of Skell Technology, which specializes in autonomous drones and artificial intelligence.
Like in Wildlands, you play as callsign Nomad, trapped behind enemy lines as your mission to get Skell’s drones under control after something causes them to go awry. You will not, unfortunately, be able to import your Nomad from Wildlands.
The Auroa Islands are an extremely video gamey setting, with every kind of environment a game should have. You know: mountains, swamps, a snowy region. There’s even a volcano, something that took Fortnite eight whole seasons to add. Terrain in these regions matter—rocky terrain will cause characters to slide and stumble, and a new prone camo system will allow you to blend into the mud and dirt any time you’re near some.
Alpha gameplay footage shows off the highly cooperative, open-ended gameplay from Wildlands with new touches, like a tech torch for breaching fences and brutal new takedown animations.
Classes are introduced in Breakpoint and you can swap between them at any time. Each class will have class-specific abilities. Four will be available at launch, with more to come.
Cutscenes will offer dialog choices, but they’re only for flavor and won’t affect the narrative, or how missions unfold.
The Ghost you create is shared between all modes: Solo, Cooperative, and Player vs. Player. (This time, PvP is included at launch.)
Every four months, a new major expansion episode will launch, including the very first raid in a Ghost Recon game.
In a fun surprise, the villain is Cole D. Walker, a former Ghost introduced in last week’s Operation Oracle DLC as an ally to your squad in Wildlands. He’s got his own small army of spec ops soldiers called Wolves, and they’ve taken over the Auroa archipelago and Skell’s drones.
Breakpoint introduces camps, called bivouacs. Players can set up bivouacs anywhere on the map, allowing them to treat injuries, customize your squad’s loadout, and even check the weather forecast and advance the time of day until your ideal conditions arrive.
At a recent preview event, Kotaku was able to play through a version of the gameplay demo shown, and learned a bit more about Breakpoint’s aggressive post-launch plans, which will include new story content, seasonal “events,” and raids, which were described as “hyper-difficult, highly replayable,” exclusively co-op experiences.
Does that sound a lot like The Division 2? Is the Ghost Recon team worried about that? I asked Nouredine Abboud, Breakpoint’s executive producer, and here’s what he said: “ The answer is very short and simple: One, if we deliver two games, it’s because we believe in them. But if I look at them just as product, I believe they are strongly different games”
Abboud also noted that, like Wildlands, which teased The Division 2 and had a Splinter Cell crossover, there’s potential for more Ubisoft cross-pollination in Breakpoint: “We brought The Predator to Wildlands, so it doesn’t mean that we have limitations.”
The game launches October 4, 2019 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
In the grand tradition of Ubisoft games leaking early, a store listing has revealed Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, the new Tom Clancy game that the publisher has been teasing recently. It’s a sequel to Wildlands, according to the leak. More tomorrow at 2:30pm ET.
Ubisoft’s love for microtransactions and map defogging missions may be tiresome, but the company’s propensity to support its games for a long time continues to impress. The mega-publisher just announced that Ghost Recon Wildlands, fresh off two years of post-release content additions (and two years of season passes, naturally), is now getting more free missions in year three.
Ubisoft announced the two new missions, called Operation Oracle, in a trailer today that also introduces a new character to the team-based stealth shooter set in Bolivia. The character, Cole Walker, looks to be played by Punisher and Walking Dead actor Jon Bernthal, though we’ve reached out to Ubisoft to confirm.
A Ubisoft press release describes the missions and Walker as follows:
Playable in single-player or co-op, Operation Oracle sends the Ghosts on a rescue mission for a Skell Tech engineer taken hostage by Unidad. This typical rescue mission will soon turn into something much bigger. Forget what you know about your enemies and friends as you meet Cole D. Walker, a Ghost Team Leader on the hunt for truth.
Unidad are Bolivian special operations troops who hunt the player throughout the game.
The update is free and will come out this Thursday, May 2, to kick off an extended free weekend of all of Wildlands on Xbox One, PS4 and PC from then through May 5.
Wildlands’ DLC has been wide-ranging. It has included big expansions, PvP and crossover content with fellow Tom Clancy-branded Ubisoft franchises Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon Future Soldier. There has also been a surprise crossover with the Predatormovie series and, earlier this year, the addition of several audio logs to tease the release of The Division 2.
Our reviewer found Ghost Recon Wildlands fun, but as with other Ubisoft Clancy stuff, the gameplay competes with a potentially off-putting political tone as the player, in this case, runs roughshod through a country wracked by drug violence with limited exploration of the consequences of your government-sanctioned violence.