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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint pits the ghosts of elite military units against rivals who are armed with killer drones. The game is a modern warfare third-person combat game where stealth is important, and we got a good look at it at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) game trade show in Los Angeles.
This tactical shooter is a big departure from 2017’s Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, where players fought in Bolivia. While the combat and landscape is very realistic, this one has a fictional setting on an island called Auroa.
As you can see in the embedded video, I was able to don a ghillie suit and play sniper. We stormed a compound and rescued a scientist. It was intense in part because I could hear my character’s breathing become more labored while sprinting. When I was wounded I started limping.
After I played the demo, I spoke with creative director Eric Couzian at Ubisoft. The game is coming to the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 4.
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Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: I just played the demo. What’s the larger context for what we played there? What part of the game is that?
Eric Couzian: What you played is not the beginning of the game. It’s a part of the world located to the south of the island. It’s all a fictional place, an island called Auroa, part of an archipelago. You’ve just seen one small portion of the world. We have many different kinds of environments.
GamesBeat: We were rescuing a scientist.
Couzian: Right. That’s only one type of mission. We have several storylines in the game, and depending on your preferences, how you like to play, you can follow the main storyline, or you can go and complete many different side missions.
GamesBeat: She knew who was coming after her, the guys with the drones. Are they the main enemies you’re fighting her?
Couzian: She’s a scientist for the company, Skell Technology, and they own the island. It’s a private island. They used to work on AI and robotics, until the Wolves, a unit of special forces soldiers, took over both Aurora and the company. Now she disagrees with the new direction the company is pursuing. But there are many different storylines. You have the main one related to Cole D. Walker, the leader of the Wolves, who’s played by Jon Bernthal. But you also have other factions in the world. I don’t want to reveal too much about the storyline. What you played there, though, was part of the main storyline.
GamesBeat: What did you want to show off? That big drone at the end was a kind of boss, I guess?
Couzian: Actually, you’re not forced to fight the big drones. There are many drones like that around the world guarding specific areas, especially the company’s antennas. We don’t necessarily give a lot of missions to the player. If you’re interested in getting rewards, especially pieces of drones to make your own drones, you can go and attack them yourself. The game is based on freedom of choice. There are different ways to play it. You can follow the main path in the classic way, or you can set your own objectives.
GamesBeat: It took me a long time to bandage myself up and heal. What did you want to accomplish around that? It seems like my team has to work to protect me while I do that.
Couzian: We’re still balancing the game as we speak. Things like that — in the version we have in Paris we’ve shortened the temporary animations. It’s something interesting to keep, that you have to put in a minimum amount of time to heal yourself. Especially in co-op, it creates a dynamic between the players, like you say. When you’re really injured and you can’t move, your friends can carry you to safety on their shoulders so they have time to heal you. All these dynamics create some interesting twists in the game. But nothing is scripting. It always happens just because you made a mistake. It’s a lot of fun when you’re playing with friends.
GamesBeat: What was the original vision for Breakpoint? Were there things you wanted to change compared to the previous Ghost Recon?
Couzian: As I said, the total freedom of choice was a big priority for the team. Whether you want to play stealthy or go in all guns blazing, everything is possible. Nothing in the game is scripted. We’ve reinforced that. We want to add a layer of authenticity in the game. We want to feel like you’re in the boots of real spec ops soldiers.
We have new features to reinforce your tactical choices, as well as survival mechanics. Maybe you’ve experienced the prone camo feature, where you can cover yourself with mud or snow depending on the type of terrain you’re in. The name of the game is “Ghost,” after all. It’s about becoming invisible, so that you’re the first one to strike and take the advantage. Blending into the environment is a big part of what you do.
The survival mechanics challenge players to analyze the terrain around them. Sometimes, in an open world, there aren’t enough consequences. Here, what we wanted is for players to look at the terrain and — for instance, you have a stamina gauge. Depending on the angle of a slope you’re hiking up, that will affect your stamina. You have to watch the map and consider things like — okay, there’s a hill here, so you can get a good vantage point up there, but at the same time you have to be cautious, because it might be too steep.
GamesBeat: How aware are the enemies? If you’re flying drones overhead and they spot them, will they follow them back to you?
Couzian: Yes, they can detect the drones, and they’ll definitely shoot them down. We’ve redesigned the AI for all the NPCs, so that they never cheat. What I mean is, in a lot of games they know exactly where you are. Here, we didn’t want that. We wanted to have a real cat-and-mouse game loop. They have your last known position, but if they can’t see you, they’ll patrols to check the area. If you’re very far from them, they’ll send a helicopter to overfly the area. But nothing is cheated. If you think you’ve been spotted, you can hide, or you can try to trap and ambush them. You might let yourself be detected on purpose to lead them into an ambush.
GamesBeat: I liked the flowers.
Couzian: Yeah, the red field there?
GamesBeat: That looked like it was pretty difficult to do. You can put together some interesting graphics now.
Couzian: In Ghost Recon we’ve always worked with experts, and our settings have always been inspired by reality. Here, since the island is set in the Pacific — all through the Pacific you find islands with their own particular ecosystems. You have all kinds of beautiful and unexpected landscapes in places like New Zealand. You can find fields just like that in real Pacific islands.
GamesBeat: What are some other kinds of missions you have planned for co-op groups to do?
Couzian: That’s a big focus and a big challenge. Since the game is designed in a way such that you can play how you want, it means that we’re not entirely in control of how you play. But there are many types of missions. Sometimes it’s about rescuing people. Sometimes it’s about destroying drones. Sometimes you have to capture someone or destroy a research center around the island. You’ll also meet people who live on the island who have their own plans and motivations. Depending on how you want to deal with those factions, you can help and support them. We have a lot of missions that aren’t just about destroying and killing.
GamesBeat: How do you create something that’s intense and dramatic, but still make it fun? These games are getting very visually real.
Couzian: As I say, we want you to feel like you’re in the boots of a special forces soldier. We have to have a gritty atmosphere. But as you say, at the same time, we want people to have fun. It’s a balance, and I think we’ve hit it. It’s faithful to the experience of actual soldiers, but when you’re playing solo or co-op, there’s a pure fun to the gameplay, with a lot of moments you can share with your friends.
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