The lesson of Ghost Recon Breakpoint is clear: not every game needs to be an RPG. I've been mostly fine with the shift in Assassin's Creed—though there's room for something like the earlier entries in the series—but at some point, Ubisoft has to realize the open-world RPG model can't be applied to everything; Ghost Recon, Assassin's Creed, The Division, and Far Cry need some differentiation. Meanwhile, 2017's Ghost Recon Wildlands managed to find a sweet spot between its military shooter roots and an arcade-style open world adventure.
"Ghost Recon Breakpoint doesn't have a clear vision of what it wants to be," I wrote at the beginning of my review last year. In trying to replicate the RPG-driven success of Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft Paris made a game that appealed to no one. The military fans were unhappy with the addition of gear score and loot, and the RPG adventure fans decried the lack of narrative player choice. And so Ubisoft, once again, had to knuckle down and try to drastically overhaul one of its games. The publisher has built trust by committing to and improving games like The Division 2, Rainbow Six Siege, and For Honor, but they probably shouldn't launch in such a state to begin with.
Eight months out from launch, Ubisoft Paris has delivered the Ghost Experience, known to most in the community as "Immersive Mode." It's not a single on-off switch that changes Ghost Recon Breakpoint from its loot-based launch experience into something more like the survival-focused game marketed to players; that option is available if you don't want to dive into menus. Instead, it's a whole host of options, opening up Breakpoint to players and letting them choose how they play the game.
Do you hate gear score? Turn it off. A realistic looting option means you're getting weapons that make sense off enemy bodies, instead of random equipment scaled to your gear level. There are now two different difficulty choices: Enemies and Tactical. Enemy difficulty changes how quickly enemies can detect you and how much damage they do. Tactical difficulty broadly tunes your player survival experience, though you can also get in the weeds and tweak detailed options for changing your stamina level, quantity of bandages, and health regeneration rate. All of these options can be changed on the fly and you can still play with others who are using different settings.
I'm not as hardcore as other Ghost Recon players, changing to Elite tactical difficulty, Extreme enemy difficulty, and a single weapon. Instead, I just went in and turned off gear score and kicked up tactical difficulty a bit. I played Ghost Recon Wildlands as my messing around game, something I jumped into occasionally to shoot some digital dudes. With the changes, I've been hoping Breakpoint could fill that hole.
I'm happy to say it's a large part of the way there. Right from the jump, the lack of gear score is a huge change to how you engage with the world Ubisoft has built. With gear level on, Breakpoint's action and exploration was constantly broken up by diving into menus to check your new gear. With the setting off, I found I spent far more time in Auroa, planning engagements, sneaking around, and stealing vehicles. I started to appreciate the landscapes and locations the developers have crafted because now, it all flows more naturally.
It also changes how you engage with enemies. Turning loot off also removes your inventory, meaning you only have the one or two weapons you have equipped. (Pro-tip: make sure you have your favorite weapons equipped before toggling gear score off.) This means you can't just dive into your inventory of 10-15 guns to adapt to a situation. I personally run with an assault rifle and sniper rifle, but this means I lack the stopping power of a shotgun or suppression of a light machine gun.
In one fight, I found myself adapting to a bad situation by hunting down a heavy enemy who I knew had a light machine gun. I killed him, took it, finished off his friends, and then went back to retrieve my weapon. That's the kind of tactical adaptation that Wildlands had that was originally missing in Breakpoint.
The new options also make blueprints far more important. With gear level on, blueprints allow you to create a specific weapon at your current level. With it off, blueprints allow you access to those weapons from a bivouac or the hub area. Since you no longer have an inventory, this is how you switch your loadout. Before, you'd likely run into a new version of your chosen weapon again if you killed a number of enemies. Now, the hunt of blueprints is key. You need that intel to figure out where your favorite weapon and attachment blueprints are.
Since you're generally using one weapon, weapon customization becomes more useful as well. Why customize a gun you're throwing away 20 minutes later? Now, you'll want to get in the gunsmith and tune your weapons, and maybe add a new paint job to it. The more I play, the more I see that the Ghost Experience options are the focus that Breakpoint was missing. It just took Ubisoft months to get there.
There are still some issues present. Drones remain annoying, with smaller drones having unlimited ammo, erratic flight patterns, and even varying outcomes to taking them down. PvP and raids are still based on gear level, so if you enjoy those sides of Breakpoint, then you need to at least play some of the single-player mode with gear level on. Mission difficulty, which was previously illustrated by gear level, is nebulous now. If you hadn't played Breakpoint before, you might not know that Behemoth or Wolves bases are harder than normal ones.
Breakpoint is still a Frankenstein's Monster of a game, with shooter and RPG elements fighting each other. But now, Ubisoft has at least given players the option to tune it more toward its shooter elements, which results in a much better game. It's not as good as Ghost Recon Wildlands, but it's much better and makes Breakpoint into a game I'm more likely to load up occasionally. The evil of gear score is mostly gone, praise be. Now if Ubisoft can smooth out some of those leftover problems, Breakpoint might stand as a proper sequel to Wildlands.