I'm not sure why I feel compelled to share my experience with this game. It could be the many hours invested. It could be that I want to see if others share in the experience. It could be that I just hope that Ubisoft developers can try to take away something from a game that was negatively received even if there were still many people who enjoyed the game all the same. Regardless the following is my experience with the game - I have 556 hours clocked in as of writing, maybe others have more, but I can say with confidence now that in its current state the gameplay of this game is hands-down one of the most enjoyable for me even if it took some work to find what was best and let the game play to its strengths - I mean that sincerely, I love this game.
Coming out of Ghost Recon: Wildlands - the beta for Ghost Recon: Breakpoint was not necessarily a disappointment for me as it was something I've come to expect from the games industry as a whole. The Beta may not have been polished - which is implied - but the direction it was going already showed to me the game needed more time to bake and was clearly going to be delivered with issues that would for many be an alienating experience that would encourage them to never re-experience the game. Regardless Wildlands had been such a hit with me that I was hopeful it could be improved.
I will brief on this - as I experienced very little past purchase. The awful reception of this game - justifiably so - and seeing all my fears for the game come true as I played it for the first time made me realize that if I really wanted to enjoy this game I'd have to wait and see if Ubisoft decided to support a game which I fully expected them to discard. Thankfully they did choose to support it.
When Immersive Mode was added I decided to try the game again - while I'm going to breakdown in detail what I love about this game - I will say that it was this update that saved this game for me.
Terminators, Resistance and Rainbow:
Terminators was definitely a silly inclusion to the game - but I felt they spent too many resources on this update. Resistance I barely remember and I doubt that's a good sign. Rainbow I thought was excellent and I'll break down further later in this post.
Ignoring my disappointment with Frontline's announcement since it's simply not my cup of tea I focused on Operation Motherland. I found myself waiting nervously and hoping they'd deliver and in the end I will say that they did - for me at least. Once again I'll go into detail with how this update made this game into one of my personal favorites shortly.
My Experience - The Story:
Story - Act 1: Poor plot delivery, unpolished in-game cinematics and cardboard villains of the week. Act 1's story was bad yes - but if I could offer something more constructive I would say that at the very least I would have felt more invested if instead of flashback cutscenes to us and Walker we instead had to fight side-by-side with him in linear flashbacks to see him as a person and build a connection.
Story - Act 2: While I've forgotten a fair bit of this act - which leads me to believe it wasn't the strongest one in the game - Michael Ironside was there and as is his usual expertly portrayed Sam Fisher in the way that only he ever can. In the end you defeat the "Deep State" plot by helping him snag a corrupt man and that felt far more engaging and human - something which is a definite positive.
Story - Act 3: Hunting down Bodark collaborators was the first time that plot and gameplay came together to give me enemies that felt meaningful even if I knew little about them other than that they were bad. Taking them down with single shots, close quarters assaults and drone strikes all felt great and I loved that me and my friends were free to choose without the enemy having absurd health. It made them feel more real and in a way helps convey how these individuals - mortal as they are - can cause serious pain and suffering without having supernatural powers or survivability - i.e. Walker.
Story - Amber Sky: I apologize but I won't cover Terminators or Resistance further as I didn't really enjoy either or take them seriously. However Amber Sky was excellent and deserves a mention. The threat felt real and the enemy's willingness to use such a terrible weapon only increased my investment to see them destroyed.
Story - Motherland: The plot of Operation Motherland was a double-edged sword. On one-hand it invested itself in the Outcasts who I don't care much about for reasons I'll address later and on the other-hand I got to fight an adversary that felt more real and threatening. Ultimately the Conquest Mode's attachment to Motherland made it the best plot in the game - and the adversaries felt real.
My Experience - The Game:
Before I start I want to say that this is the part of the game I love most. It took me hundreds of hours before I was bothered to complete the story, doing a mission here or there. But the gameplay itself is in a completely different category. For many people I doubt they will share the sentiment so I will first explain how it's possible.
I only ever played Solo without AI companions or with friends in Co-Op.We - all four of us - only ever played on Extreme, Elite with a custom settings version of the Light HUD which removed Detection Meters and NPC Markers.Over the course of our gameplay we never disabled any enemy types, and after Motherland was finished we restarted Conquest with no plans to progress because Outcasts actually impact the game negatively and Bodarks impact the game positively. So minimizing Outcast presence and maximizing Bodark presence gives ideal circumstances.We almost never played story missions or even really faction missions unless we didn't feel like roaming.Almost all of our gameplay experience centered on us roaming base to base and systematically dismantling each while we each found out which role we were best able to enjoy and contribute.We only played with Leveled Gear once to see what it was like and immediately ditched it and haven't touched it since.
Now onto the gameplay review.
NPCs - The Outcasts: Mechanically I hate the Outcasts with a passion. These AI allies regularly alert bases and actively detract from the experience by making combat less challenging. In terms of plot I also dislike them because I never felt I was given a reason to care about them and even at their best I question their intentions and why I seem to be answering to any of them.
NPCs - Sentinel: Mechanically Sentinel isn't the worst. They present little challenge as you improve at the game but if you alert them too early they can punish you if your team isn't in an ideal position to fight in direct combat. Breachers, Heavies, Snipers, Radio Operators and Drone Operators are all mechanically threatening but the Rocketeers are completely useless and have never killed someone in my team. The appearance of Sentinel however is ridiculous. These guys look like complete fools with zero experience - their only advantage in aesthetics is the comments they make now and then.
NPCs - Wolves: Mechanically Wolves are fine. They present a decent challenge and encourage improvement. Their Snipers are incredible and push the tension way up with their ability to instantly down anyone with a single shot. The breachers are fine but feel uninspired next to Sentinel's Breachers. Ultimately their increased survivability makes them a little more dangerous without being so ridiculous as to make me feel like they're unrealistic. Aesthetics wise I love the commentary once again, but the appearance is mixed - they kind of look like edgy airsoft players but I think some younger people probably enjoy their appearance so it's not something I'll complain much about.
NPCs - Azrael Drones & Helicopters: Love them and their threat they offer, can't see why so many people complain about them personally - they offer a degree of tension as they are dangerous without being totally impossible to defeat.
NPCs - Drones: I know most people will disagree with me but personally I love the drones. I hated them initially as I felt they were unfair, but the more I played the better me and my friends got at defeating them and we've grown to almost respect them as an incredibly lethal and terrifying vision of what future combat can offer. The ground ones not so much, specifically the flying ones. I do feel developers of future Ghost Recon titles with this sort of enemy will need to respect these enemies as a rare and incredibly dangerous threat however as they're no joke to new players.
NPCs - Bodarks: Mechanically they are top notch. The regular enemies aren't anything special but the oppressor pushed me as my friend group's close quarters specialist to a new height as I had to quickly deal with these guys or watch my team be decimated. The tactician helped make our marksman prioritize targets more effectively as these guys ability to call helicopters proved very dangerous. The seeker was a threat that encouraged us all the scout a base before entering, just one of them guys with our settings meant we'd have to clear the base with thermals throughout the whole experience as their stealth made them next to impossible to detect - easily able to take out our whole team if undetected. The dreadnoughts are as pointless as the rocketeers though, they don't offer anything meaningful or threatening. I loved the addition of region-specific camouflage and with our settings lacking NPC markers and detection meters it made these enemies just a little harder to spot. Thematically I love them once again - weirdly enough their commentary wasn't as good as before lacking humor and self-awareness but their aesthetics and threat makes up for this.
NPCs - AI Teammates: Personally I don't use them or like them and they have no bearing on my gameplay experience. Others enjoy them though from what I understand.
Gameplay - Classes: I love the class system - I don't care what anyone says. The addition of a handful of special abilities helps it feel like each player in the team has a unique edge at something and the perks added customization on top. It also made me feel a need to figure out what I could be best at - even if I enjoyed playing them all.
Gameplay - Weapons: If there's anything that doesn't really need any work at this point in terms of its formula it MIGHT be weapons. I do think that combat could do with a bit more range at times - but I'm also biased admittedly since I handle close combat in the game and it's my personal favorite. The weapon variety and its attachments are excellent, it feels like there's something for everyone.
Gameplay - Combat: With the settings I have it's perfect. Animations are great, gunplay is great, enemies are lethal and die fast - players are lethal and die fast, it feels engaging, challenging and encourages players to try different approaches to any given situation.
Gameplay - Open World: Roaming the open world is core to this experience for me - I'm not a giant fan of open world games these days as I think linear progression helps give more meaning to what's happening. However I will admit that the ability to travel freely base to base with the combat this game offers was a key part of what I most enjoyed.
Gameplay - Vehicles: I found these pointless and could give the player too much power - I do however enjoy that enemies have access to them, albeit I'm glad its not more common as fighting multiple enemy vehicles would get repetitive and feel less engaging.
Gameplay - Customization: There's plenty of customization options in this game - enough that any player at this point can look pretty much however they want. I love the amount of effort put into this.
Gameplay - PVP & Raids: I apologize if you were looking for me to offer some real look at this - I'm sure someone else can offer insights here. But admittedly neither me nor any of my friends have bothered with the game's raid content or the player-vs-player content. I know some people love this but it's just not something we ever felt the game needed. Although if I can offer anything it would be that if the game had featured an opt-in/opt-out open world random encounter PvP when not fighting bases or if faction missions had simply had PvP missions I definitely would have opted in for this. While for the raid content I would have participated if they'd increased player limit to 8 and made these raids into massive fortresses with dozens of entrenched, lethal and varied enemies.
DLC - Free Updates: The free content offered post-release is a highlight of the commitment the game's developers made to trying to make a good game for its players and the commitment of the game's business-oriented staff trying to make up for losses and mistakes due to the launch. The fact both were committed in their own way is something I appreciate a great deal.
DLC - Store Content: The items offered I have a varied opinion of but it's not actually just negative. What I don't like is when gear regular players ought to have access to for customization is behind a paywall - I'd define this as any gear that U.S. Military probably have access to since that just makes sense. However the cosmetic items which are from different factions or is more creative being on the store doesn't bother me in the slightest as it offers dedicated players a way to show support for the game and get access to content that doesn't really make sense for Ghosts to have but provides players with something fun that they can use to play around or make their character feel more personalized.
DLC - NFTs: I apologize for being uninformed but I know very little about how these are being implemented or why people seem angry about it. I'd rather people save their comments on this for elsewhere since it doesn't really have anything to do with the game as far as I'm concerned unless they start trying to shove it in my face. Personally it just seems like a waste of Ubisoft's effort and while I encourage them to explain what they believe the value of NFTs is and how they can make the games I play better - right now it just seems like something on the sidelines that means nothing to me and contributes nothing to my game.
My Experience - The Summary & End:
I apologize if I didn't address something in here - if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll try to get around to them. Personally I love the game and while I know it's probably just boiled down to how me and my friends have chosen to play the game - I think at the very least if others share my love of these aspects of the game perhaps it'll encourage the developers to focus on these features. If you've had some difficulty finding what's fun about the game but can sense something under the surface try what I said above and see what happens. Sometimes all a game needs to shine is a good challenge for its players.
My Experience - Message to Ubisoft:
I started playing games with the Ubisoft brand as a kid. I loved Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon and Assassin's Creed growing up. I love that you try to change things up now and then for better or worse and while sometimes it feels you've given up on games I'm really glad you didn't with this one. I've tried to support each game release financially even if I don't always get around to playing them as much as I wish I could. I've even contributed through microtransactions even though I know many people despise them - if only because I want to see more of the games I love.
If there is one thing I could say that would be heard it's this. Ghost Recon Operation Motherland & Ghost Recon Frontline being announced at the same time provided a great contrast. On one hand you were adding free content to a game I love and it only made the game even better and despite the fact it was released free I bought whatever store content came with the update despite not personally needing any of it solely because the gameplay experience it has the potential to create means a great deal to me. On the other hand you announced a template game long past the genre's point of relevance and one which to me struck a nerve if only because I want to see Ubisoft creating trends and new game experiences rather than derivative clones and following trends of other developers. I know there's still staff in Ubisoft who are dedicated to creating the best game experiences they can because that's exactly what Breakpoint's gameplay gave me with the effort.
When customers and fans feel the company they're so invested in is going in the wrong direction you can see the impact in what happened with Ghost Recon: Frontline. A harsh negative response that turns away the casual audience you seek to bring in for their financial value. But if you take care of fans and the customers you do have they can take care of you - not just through direct contribution but the indirect contribution that comes from positive reception of announcements, influencer content and bringing in their own friends. I may not be an influencer - but I can say safely none of my friends would have played Breakpoint or given it a chance otherwise because of its negative reception and bad story - but I found the part of the game that shines and made sure they shared in the experience. I remain hopeful - stupid as that might be - for what you could do in the future. Thanks for the experiences thus far, look forward to more in the future.