Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Ghost Recon Breakpoint didn’t get an especially positive reception when it launched last year, with fans of the previous game in the series, Ghost Recon Wildlands, objecting to a new focus on The Division-style stats and RPG-like gear score ratings that lacked the depth of that other Ubisoft military shooter with Tom Clancy branding. There were, not to mention, some terrible bugs, and an oppressive system of paid downloadable content. The game also failed to really make good on some of the interesting mechanics hinted at in its trailers, which suggested that it would be a survival-based experience under extreme conditions, with players having to scavenge for supplies or pull injured buddies out of harm’s way. In a post-Death Stranding world, though, anything short of taking care of a baby while scaling a cliff in snow that kills you is just… less than nothing.
Recently, though, the developers at Ubisoft introduced a new “Immersive” gameplay mode to Breakpoint that strips away a lot of the, for lack of a better term, video game-y crap. No stats, no numbers that say one pair of boots is better than another pair of boots, and no arbitrary limitations on where you can go and what you can do. On top of that, you can adjust certain difficulty factors whenever you want, stripping away additional video game-y crap like regenerating health and magically appearing weapons and vehicles, if you so choose. I never played Breakpoint the original way, which is still an option in the settings, but I’ve been putting a lot of time into this Immersive mode, and I’m surprised to say that—for a game that is quite broken in spots—it’s kind of awesome.
I had been looking for something relatively mindless that I could use as a coronavirus distraction, and I thought a stealth shooter where I had to cautiously sneak through enemy bases would require just enough attention that I could forget about the terrible things going on in the world without getting stressed out by excessively complex mechanics or unfair difficulty (a test that Doom Eternal failed because of those goddamn ax guys). With the Immersive mode, Breakpoint basically has no stakes beyond successfully sneaking or not, which means it’s entirely up to me if I can complete objectives. On top of that, there’s no pressure to do things a certain way or use a certain piece of equipment, so I can approach enemies however I want and tailor the game to what I want to do and only what I want to do.
Generally, that means digging through the endless list of side missions and collectible intel, picking a spot on the map where I think something worthwhile will be (Breakpoint has a very cool optional feature where mission locations are given as hints rather than just highlighted right on the map), zipping over to it with a helicopter, then HALO jumping behind enemy lines like Naked Snake in Metal Gear Solid 3. I have no idea where I am in the story, I have no idea if I’m going through anything in the right order, and I have no idea if the game will stop me from rolling up to the main villain (TV’s Jon Bernthal!) and taking him out. Frankly, I don’t care about any of that. To me, Breakpoint is just a toy box of stealth mechanics where nothing really matters, nobody expects anything from me, and I don’t have to hear about this stupid virus, our stupid federal government, and the stupid people who are putting us all at risk by letting their whole damn family crowd around me when I’m at the stupid grocery store.
But yeah, Breakpoint is surprisingly fun, and now I’m going through a mission where I get to be friends with Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell games. He gave me a pair of his night vision goggles so we can dress the same, which is a little forward, but it’s not like I’m going to ignore an opportunity to dress like Sam Fisher. He’s the second- or third-coolest spy guy in video games! And yes, I may have also paid a little bit of real money so I could get an eye patch for my character and dress like the number one coolest spy guy in video games. It’s coronavirus self-care, leave me alone.