In case you missed it, I attended the Ghost Recon Breakpoint preview event in San Francisco last month and had the opportunity to interview Creative Director Eric Couzian where we discussed level scaling, gear progression, crafting, map size, and cross-play, and monetization and microtransactions. I also wrote up an impressions piece after seven hours of play where I came away just plain bored and frustrated.
More recently, I had the chance to hop into the Ghost Recon Breakpoint beta this weekend. Fortunately, keyboard and mouse controls were implemented, but almost immediately, my same frustrations from the preview event build reared their ugly heads in this beta. Having now played Ghost Recon Breakpoint for the second time in as many months has completely soured my opinion of the game, and man, I’m just so damn annoyed. Let’s discuss, shall we?
For a quick recap, here’s what I said in my preview event impressions piece:
“Ghost Recon Breakpoint is not a game I’m ‘cautiously optimistic’ for as so many outlets tend to be when coming out of preview events. Yes, it’s still in development, and the build we played is no doubt outdated. Terrible UI, lengthy animations, bad vehicle handling, an extremely generous revive window in PvP, and uninteresting characters propping up bland writing don’t fill me with confidence. But I doubt these fundamental gameplay elements will be changed drastically to my liking in time for launch.
Ultimately, I didn’t love Ghost Recon Breakpoint. I didn’t hate it either. I was left feeling something far worse: bored.”
Literally every single one of these issues persist in this beta build of Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Of course, one must provide the usual, “it’s still beta and things could change in time for launch,” caveat. But Ghost Recon Breakpoint launches today for Gold and Ultimate editions, and on Thursday, October 3 for the Standard edition.
Realistically, addressing and rectifying these frustrations in time for these launches is completely out of the question. To me, this just confirms that these issues I laid out above are foundational to Ghost Recon Breakpoint and comprise the core mechanics of the experience.
The (Singular) Good
Before I dive headlong into exactly what these frustrations are and why I’m so annoyed, allow this brief respite to discuss what I actually did enjoy. Keyboard and mouse support is finally implemented, and to be frank, the implementation here is phenomenal. You can remap every single action for both a primary and secondary key. You can finely control mouse sensitivities for look, aim, aim acceleration, the lot.
As a result, the actual aiming and shooting in Ghost Recon Breakpoint were so damn accurate. I felt far more confident in gun fights with a keyboard and mouse than I ever did with a damn controller during the preview event. Headshots were easy, as they should be with an objectively superior input method. Ubisoft have done great work here to expose virtually every ounce of fine control to PC gamers, and this must be recognized.
The Bad and The Ugly
But honestly, that’s the only positive I took away from the beta. Let’s start with the UI. The UI is still a disparate disorganized mess. Nothing really changed here from the preview event. It’s still cursor driven, which, with a keyboard and mouse is slightly less annoying. But this doesn’t change the fact that it’s still over-designed. It’s still unnecessarily cumbersome to select and engage skills and missions. I spent far too much time simply trying to select the right thing in the UI then I ever should have had to. It’s just atrocious. For the love of all that is holy, Ubisoft, just design a straightforward, traditional, tabbed interface with collapsable lists for once!
Animations are still lengthy. The animation to get up from a crouched position takes far too long. This legitimately impeded any urgency I had to ready up my gun during a gunfight. Movement was again incredibly sluggish. Keyboard and mouse accuracy couldn’t help here because my soldier, just like in the preview event, didn’t stop on a dime.
Her momentum was maintained, decreasing my confidence in quick, precise movements around cover, or even to simply take in the view atop a cliff. I had no confidence in whether or not she’d actually stop, or take that extra step and plummet to her death. Maybe Ubisoft should stop chasing realism in this regard and instead focus on what is required for good gameplay: responsiveness.
Vehicle handling didn’t feel improved either, and I doubt it was changed at all. It was still that classic Ubisoft driving physics of slow to respond at first, and then over-responding. Once again, I had no confidence that I had control of my vehicle at any point in time. Given that you need a vehicle to traverse the vast expanses of this Ghost Recon Breakpoint, it’s maddening that such a core mechanic foundational to gameplay is utterly lackluster.
The writing and performances didn’t change either. The writing remained the bland, completely uninteresting, awful slop from the preview event. Character performances remained unchanged too. Literally none of the characters sounded like actual human beings. It seems like these actors read the lines without emotion, or anything approaching the weight of the actions they were about to carry out.
As a result, I had zero investment in any of the characters because I was too distracted by the vile drivel Ubisoft passed of as “story.” As with the preview event, I felt zero compulsion to do what I was told to do. And as someone who genuinely does want a good story from the games he plays, this merely compounded my frustrations.
Visually, Ghost Recon Breakpoint isn’t terrible. But it’s a blurry mess, even when maxed out on the highest possible quality settings. The antialiasing appears far too aggressive, blurring any semblance of detail in the mid and far ranges. And no, AMD’s FidelityFX Sharpening did nothing to counter this. Character models appear plasticy, vegetation appears chunky in parts, and all this genuinely hindered my enjoyment. Being unable to clearly see what’s in the distance in a game so open ended as this one is a legitimate disadvantage when you’re trying to plot your route. It is in direct opposition to the tactical, methodological gameplay Ubisoft is so desperately attempting to recreate.
I care quite a lot about graphics and the visual and technical makeup of games (see my Control ray tracing analysis), so the lackluster presentation in Ghost Recon Breakpoint absolutely impeded my fun for these reasons.
Additionally, the performance impact in this beta was extreme when maxed out. Again, this code could be optimized, but considering the launch is today, I doubt it. On my i7 8700k, RTX 2080 Ti equipped PC at my native 3440 x 1440p resolution, I was consistently in the 47-55fps range when using max settings. Just for a moment, think about just how much power I’m throwing at this game. This performance makes zero sense given the return on visual fidelity. It goes without saying that this perceived lack of performance optimization simply added to my already sky-high frustration levels.
Tell Us What You Really Think, Shank
If you can’t tell by now, I deeply despised the Ghost Recon Breakpoint beta. My frustrations from the preview event carried over through to the beta, and merely made me far more annoyed with the game.
I came out of the preview event bored. I left the beta feeling genuine anger and frustration. The UI, vehicle handling, character animations, character movements, writing, character performances, visual fidelity, and performance all compounded my irritation with the game. Nothing was changed. Nothing was improved upon.
From what I experienced in the beta, Ghost Recon Breakpoint simply isn’t a good game. It’s not one that I will pick up any time soon. I doubt I’ll even buy it if it goes on sale. First impressions are powerful, and Ubisoft have completely lost me on this one. What a damn shame.