PlayStation 4, PC
Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a conflicted mess of an open-world experience. It is unreliable in almost everything it offers, from tactical firefights and enemy intelligence to open-world exploration and mission flow. Developer Ubisoft Paris also didn’t solve the issue of repetition that plagued Ghost Recon Wildlands – it’s even worse this time around. Flashes of brilliance are scattered amid the turmoil, but no matter how much you try to latch onto them, the game finds another way to pull you down and upend your progress.
When Breakpoint works as intended, it delivers thrilling four-player cooperative strategy. This includes satisfying stealth, fun drone surveillance, heavy firearms that kick like mules, plenty of useful loot, and maybe even a gripping story sequence that makes you look forward to the next mission. When things don’t go as planned (which is more often the case) Breakpoint is broken. Bosses come back to life, teammates respawn over a mile away, your character is inexplicably unable to aim over a barrier, and enemies stop dead in their tracks right in front of you. In some of my play sessions, a mission would go off without a hitch. In others, my squad couldn’t do anything without some kind of glitch (like one of us falling through the world geometry) throwing a kink in our strategies.
The game’s set up is quite good: You and a small group of Ghosts have been deployed to Auroa to handle a terrorist threat that just happens to have a connection to your past. Cole Walker, a former Ghost who you ran with back in the day, wants to weaponize the island’s innovative drone technology. You need to stop him. From Far Cry to Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft often struggles to deliver interesting villains, but not with Walker. He is immediately imposing, and brought to life exceptionally well by actor Jon Bernthal. Walker holds your interest, but the story doesn’t deliver much to grasp onto other than him, and ends up hitting the same dull note repeatedly. The side stories, of which there are many, also don’t have much of a pulse, even with some moments offering player choice. Breakpoint’s story is better than Wildlands’, but that isn’t saying much. The scenes with Walker are usually captivating in disturbing ways, but that’s about all the narrative successfully delivers.
Ubisoft’s decision to create a fictional place is a success that pays dividends from start to finish. Auroa is an island where the brightest minds in technology congregate to improve the world. Aurora’s scenic mountains, valleys, swamps, and tundra, feature pockets of sci-fi like industrialization. Many buildings look like artistic sculptures, and the people who work here live like royalty in homes with open views of the stunning landscapes. Helicopter rides give players a chance to fully appreciate this beautifully realized world, which is filled with side missions, random points of interest that hold loot and collectibles, and some areas are even used for fun 4v4 PvP Ghost War battles.
The belief that you are a part of a thriving world is more defined than in Wildlands thanks in part to the introduction of a social hub called Erewhon, a small village tucked inside of a mountain cavern. Erewhon, as interesting as it is for the fiction, is sadly used as a mission destination too often, forcing players to fast travel excessively. Why can’t we just call the mission giver on the phone to get a 10-second update before having to head out again?
Outside of this unwanted pitstop, mission setups are usually interesting, giving players numerous interaction points, including some that require a little detective work, like tracking down a document or interrogating a high-ranking official to learn where a dangerous target is. As varied as the mission setup and objectives are, the act of completing these tasks is repetitive, and you are rarely challenged in different ways. Ubisoft’s other open-world shooter, The Division 2, did a fantastic job with mission flow, taking players to through long and well-conceived areas. Breakpoint is the exact opposite, pushing players to either aggressively or stealthily reach a point of interest and then move on to the next. As empowering as it is to enter a location however you want, the lack of structure makes every mission feel routine. With few enemy types to confront over the course of the entire game, most assaults usually end up feeling the same, too. Being able to spawn a helicopter from any bonfire means you don’t really ever need to use any of the other vehicles to explore the world. The best path to success is doing the same things over and over again.
That said, stealth in Breakpoint is handled admirably. The auto-stick cover system creates damning problems for shooting over obstacles, but it works fairly well for sneaking, and the enemy observation meter fills slowly enough to allow for quick course correction should you get stuck on the wrong side of a wall. If the enemies are alerted to your position, they attack with everything they have and can kill you and your squad quickly. However, they don’t stand a chance if you hunker down in a protected spot. They are too aggressive, and will funnel to you one by one until their entire division is wiped out, making most missions fairly easy if you can find such a location. Most areas are filled with rooms you can use to exploit the A.I. Guns feel great and are varied, but what you use them against rarely puts up a good fight.
Enemies drop plenty of loot, and Ubisoft does a nice job of making most of it meaningful. As you progress, you slowly advance in rank (with 150 being the ultimate goal to topple the final mission, which you can access from the beginning). The loot is awesome in how bountiful and varied it is, but none of it makes much sense. Yes, a +7 gun is better than a +2 gun, but you also find a low green-ranked baseball cap offers more protection than a rare gold-ranked helmet. The rags-to-riches path of making your character look cooler as the game goes on isn’t here, and instead seems to be completely random as to what the most powerful items in the game are. My final form consisted of a stocking cap and plastic surgeon gloves.
The most telling moment in Breakpoint came during the final mission. My team successfully took down the final boss, and then hacked a computer to end a crisis. My character nodded approvingly and smiled awkwardly, and then, just when it seemed like the credits would roll, my squad reappeared in the world, and the boss was back. This time around, he was invincible, and ended up wiping us out with ease. When we respawned, the mission had reset to its first step. It was an unfortunate bug that wiped out a good hour of work.
This final moment with Breakpoint sums up the game perfectly. There was a sense of victory, and then it all fell apart and became a maddening mess. I had some fun playing with friends, but constantly found myself wondering how this follow-up could go so wrong.
Summary: Ubisoft’s newest open-world experience struggles to deliver reliable combat and interesting things to do.
Concept: A sloppy open-world experience that offers plenty to do, but hardly any of it is executed in clever or stable ways
Graphics: Auroa is the best part of the game – an island filled with beautiful forests, mountains, and cleverly designed near-future settlements
Sound: The noisy pop of the guns is satisfying, but isn’t enough to compensate for the awful dialogue
Playability: The guns feel great and allow players to line up shots from great distances. Enemy A.I. is hilariously bad and can be exploited for easy victories. Your character can’t walk on most inclines without falling, which is odd
Entertainment: Playing with friends can be fun, especially when stealth is working. But whether the game “works” is the key question at all times
Updated October 8, 9:10 AM
Today on PlayStation Blog, Sony provided an update for its next-generation console, which is now officially called PlayStation 5 and is releasing during 2020’s holiday season.
Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president and CEO also outlined changes to the PlayStation 5’s controller. “There are two key innovations with the PlayStation 5’s new controller,” he wrote. “First, we’re adopting haptic feedback to replace the ‘rumble’ technology found in controllers since the 5th generation of consoles. With haptics, you truly feel a broader range of feedback, so crashing into a wall in a race car feels much different than making a tackle on the football field. You can even get a sense for a variety of textures when running through fields of grass or plodding through mud.”
The second feature is what Sony is calling “adaptive triggers,” which allows developers to determine the resistance of the L2 and R2 buttons. Ryan gave the example of drawing a bow as a way a developer can make the button a little harder to push. He also noted that developers have early versions of the controller.
Elsewhere, Wired has also dropped some information on the upcoming system, specifically the console’s main U.I. It’s being expanded so that players can see what’s happening in a game without having to boot it up. So from the main PS5 menu you can see which multiplayer matches are available in real-time or what single-player missions and/or rewards can be tackled.
To no surprise whatsoever, PlayStation 5 is now officially slated to go against Xbox’s yet-to-be-named Project Scarlett next-generation machine in holiday 2020. It’s unlikely we’ll get full reveals of these machines until the 2019 holiday season is behind us, but it’s nice to see Sony providing an early update on what is coming next.
Set roughly during the third season of The X-Files show, the 1998 PlayStation game of the same name follows FBI agent Craig Willmore as he tries to track down Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. This point-and-click adventure uses a full-motion-video technology called Virtual Cinema, which offers up a number of choices called … wait for it … UberVariables.
The Game Informer crew is playing through the opening moments of this forgotten gem and will do their best to not butcher X-Files legacy in the process. Enjoy the episode, and we’ll see you again live in seven days!
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Xbox One, PC
In the opening moments of The Surge 2, my character looks like a walking junkyard. He had ridged red armor on his left arm, a bulky yellow metal casing on his right, grey leg braces, and a jumble of circuitry on his chest. His weapon of choice is a spinning sawblade that looks like it should be used for construction work. Flash forward dozens of hours, and my character stands tall like an angelic being outfitted in unified white armor, a gold halo on his back, and a staff that sizzles with magical power. This strange rags-to-riches journey is just one reason why The Surge 2 is notably better than its predecessor. Developer Deck13 Interactive sticks to its guns on what The Surge is, yet improves upon the predecessor’s systems and flow to create a thrilling pursuit of power backed by excellent combat encounters.
Much like Resident Evil’s Umbrella Corporation, the through line between Surge installments is CREO Industries, a tech conglomerate that may not have the best intentions with its breakthroughs. CREO’s latest blunder leads to a plane crash that you just happen to be on. You awaken months later in Jericho City, a once-thriving metropolis overrun by a CREO-produced nanite plague. Jericho is now at war – monsters roam the streets, and citizens fight to protect what is theirs. This narrative hook has more flesh on the bone than the original entry’s, which primarily explored the innards of CREO’s facilities. Jericho is a city filled with people to talk to, and far more interesting areas to explore than new sectors of a facility. The dialogue made me cringe at times, and some of the side missions are a bit strange (like planting flowers for a robot), but the overall vibe established in Jericho is engaging, which enhances exploration.
Taking inspiration from the Dark Souls series, The Surge 2 is a difficult game – but it isn’t just enemies that you have to worry about. Figuring out where to go is part of the challenge, and the cluttered environments don’t make it easy. My progress frequently came to a screeching halt because I didn’t know where to go next. Getting stuck is frustrating, but it also comes with benefits; being forced to explore every darkened corner and questionable pit meant I was grinding through enemies to earn currency I could use to enhance my gear and level up my character. Deck13 also rewards thorough exploration with meaningful shortcuts that extend from the safe zones. Clearing out a zone completely can create four or five shortcuts leading to different sectors and directly to bosses.
Any foe can give you a run for your money if you aren’t careful, but The Surge 2’s combat offers a deep well of strategies that should give you the upper hand. You can even change from a heavy weapon such as a hammer to something agile like Wolverine-like claws with just a press of the button, giving you the option to essentially change classes on the fly. Evasive maneuvers are handled well, and enemies are fairly easy to read, although their lunge attacks are a little to magnetic and can make odd turns to hit you. Some foes can also power up with a rage ability, and others carry shields that require different strategies. In addition to switching weapons on the fly, you can also create several loadouts with specific foes or regions in mind.
The Surge 2 introduces a powerful (but difficult to master) directional parry that stagger almost every foe if you can time it right. I relied more on my drone to knock adversaries off balance, but it the parry is a nice defensive technique to try to use when you have your back against the wall.
Most of the enemies (of which there is a nice variety) are outfitted in different gear, and if you like what you see, you can target the limb holding the desired item and lop it off as the final strike (a returning feature from the original). You send heads, arms, legs, and torsos flying in almost every battle, making The Surge 2 extremely violent in an oddly strategic way. Given just how tight the combat mechanics are and how aggressive the A.I. is, getting a new piece of gear always feels good, as does reaching a safe zone to bank your scrap. You also earn dozens of invaluable implants that can enhance your base skills and give you small advantages, such as having more healing options.
Deck13 included a number of new weapon and armor types, all of which can be upgraded extensively, again putting heavy weight on the act of grinding, which is a bit excessive, but thankfully it ends up being fun. If you like the idea of cobbling together armor sets earned by felling difficult foes, give The Surge 2 a try. You may get a bit lost in the world at times, but every encounter is fun and well thought out. The bosses in particular are nicely designed, exotic in look, and push you to play with brutal precision.
Summary: Deck13 Interactive’s sequel showcases notable improvements and plenty of limb chopping.
Concept: A direct sequel that turns limb-chopping into an art within a sprawling (and confusing) world
Graphics: Environmental architecture is more varied than the first game, taking players into the wilderness, sewers, and into run-down city streets. Enemy designs are easy to read, giving you a good idea of which limbs hold the most valuable loot
Sound: All about the clanking of steel and grinding of gears. Combat is rightfully loud
Playability: Battle mechanics are fluid and filled with strategies, even allowing players to switch weapons on the fly or call upon a drone to attack a distant target
Entertainment: The Surge 2 is challenging, but finds ways to continually reward the player, whether it’s a new piece of armor, weapon, or a life-saving shortcut
Replay: Moderately High
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Today’s PlayStation State of Play livestream began with a wild look at Humanity, a new game from developer Enhance Games (Tetris Effect) and the oddly named Toyko-based design firm tha ltd. Humanity is slated to release in 2020 with optional PlayStation 4 support.
The exact point of Humanity remains unclear, but Enhance Games’ press release states that massive crowds either work together or fight against one another. The concept for Humanity began at tha ltd. over three years ago, and was eventually pitched to Enhance Games and its CEO Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
“From the first early demo I saw, I couldn’t get Humanity out of my head,” says Mizuchuchi. “The whole look and feel of it – manipulating these teeming masses of people – was mesmerizing, especially in VR. I knew right away it could be something special, which is why I couldn’t be more excited to help a visionary like [Yugo Nakamura] realize its full potential.”