For the first time in the franchise’s history, Ghost Recon Breakpoint sees the eponymous Ghosts on the backfoot, hunted by a superior enemy.
It’s a bad day for any organised force, and within the opening moments of the game, the Ghosts’ helicopter is pulled from the sky by a swarm of drones. As our heroes attempt to crawl to safety, rogue special forces soldiers swarm on the wreckage, mercilessly putting down any survivors they find.
Over the course of the game, players will find themselves stranded on the fictional island of Auroa without backup or reinforcement, with an ever-increasing number of soldiers and drones trying to ruin your day. In addition, a special unit of Wolves, your former colleagues in arms that are well-prepared, well equipped and well trained, are ready to respond to your guerilla tactics at a moment’s notice. Yikes.
To find out exactly how f***ked this U.S Army special forces unit would be if this was a real-life situation, we sat down with Emil Daubon, a former Green Beret who also just happens to be a writer and military technical advisor on Breakpoint.
“Within the realms of the fantasy we’ve created here, the Ghosts are the Ghosts,” says Daubon. “They’re unbeatable. In the world we’ve created, there’s no way that they can lose.”
Unsurprisingly describing the events of Ghost Recon Breakpoint as a “sensationalised premise,” Daubon says that the setup was designed to put the Ghosts into their toughest situation yet. “They’re the guys that don’t ever quit, do not fail and will not lose.”
“That’s where the premise of Cole Walker, of brother versus brother, comes from. What’s the most dangerous adversary a Ghost can face? Another Ghost.”
A bad day at the office
“As a soldier, you definitely hope that you would never encounter a situation where you’re fighting one of your former brothers, or where anyone would experience such a degree of disenfranchisement from the mechanism that they’ve firmly supported and believed in their whole lives to then suddenly completely reverse their loyalties” adds Daubon.
So, Nomad — the player character for the game, who Daubon describes as the “baddest MFer to ever step foot on the battlefield” will obviously succeed because of the fantasy.
“The Ghosts are always going to win, but it ain’t going to be easy. This island ain’t going to make it easy.”
But strip that narrative away, and the situation the Ghosts find themselves in would be a seriously bad day at the office for any real world soldiers.
So how likely would it be that a small unit could survive in enemy territory, with few supplies and highly trained soldiers relentlessly pursuing them?
“The Wolves — that sort of thing occurs” explains Daubon, referencing the elite enemies, defecting from special operations outfits from around the world, forming the most terrifying human threat in Ghost Recon Breakpoint. “I mean, there are enemy combatants that we engage as the United States that are highly specialised, highly trained — very efficient and effective warriors. The capacity humans have to sort of better themselves at whatever their pursuits — to include combat and tactical sort of capabilities — is untapped and completely immeasurable.”
In other words, combing all the factors at play in Breakpoint would result in a hugely dangerous situation — even for the best-trained soldier.
“It’s all manageable individually, but I think if you throw all of that together, you’ve got an overwhelming force of armed soldiers and a group of highly specialised, super-elite, motivated, unstoppable warriors. Not to mention super-advanced, highly deadly drone technology. So, yeah, you’re looking at a pretty tough day.”
Daubon laughs. “I would prefer to stay home that day myself if it was my deployment!”
The will to survive
Daubon advises that any real world soldier hoping to survive this would need to be in peak physical condition. Once soldiers had their boots on the ground, providing they were uninjured in the crash, they’d have their work cut out for them.
Survival on the ground without supplies is a tricky situation. Number one on the survival checklist? Soldiers hoping to need a positive mental attitude, difficult to maintain after being torn from the sky. However, even with all the survival skills in the world, if you don’t have the will to survive, you’re going to struggle.
Fortunately, special forces soldiers often do have all of the survival skills in the world. Combat survival is one of the last major phases in Special Forces training, teaching their recruits escape and evasion, how to resist interrogation and most importantly, how to stay alive in the wild.
This includes a variety of skills that are essential, including collecting water, foraging for food, lighting fires and navigation without tools. This training should provide recruits with the skills they need, but it has the side-effect of building confidence: being trapped behind enemy lines is almost definitely a worst-case outcome, but if the worst should happen, special forces soldiers will still be confident they can make it out safely.
No resupplies, no surrender
In the 1986 SAS Survival Handbook, Sargeant Major John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman wrote “Survival is the art of staying alive. Any equipment you have must be considered a bonus. You must know how to take everything possible from nature and use it to the full.”
This is really going to be essential because no resupplies from the supporting forces and the constant patrols from hostile forces are going to make gathering supplies difficult. Assuming the Ghosts came out of the helicopter crash as they do in the game, with no equipment except their sidearm, they could find themselves short of the things they need to survive at optimal performance.
However, many special forces soldiers will carry a small survival kit on their person, or a survival belt that contains many simple pieces of equipment that can be used to maximise the soldier’s chances of survival if they lose access to their main pack.
As an example, a standard Navy SEAL survival kit is in a hard case 4 by 2 by 1.2 inches, and weighs about six ounces. The kit has a bunch of survival-tastic gear, including a multitool, compass, lights, a fire starting kit, water gathering and purifying kit and a thermal blanket, duct tape, kevlar line and safety pins. All of this can be used for several different purposes, but the aim is that it’ll help you with anything you need to do on the ground.
The hardest part here, as it appears, will be the Ghosts trying to escape their pursuers long enough to patch themselves up and keep themselves topped up with food and water so they can continue to operate at peak performance.
The fictional Ghosts are part of Delta Force, which means they’re part of the U.S Army. The Army has put a lot of thought into how enlisted soldiers are fed, and if the Ghosts could get hold of even a few of the rations they came out with — which the Army promises are durable and delicious, as if anyone has ever wanted to hear something they’re about to put in their mouth as durable — then that should lengthen the amount of time they can operate substantially, with each ration taking care of the balanced
If those aren’t available? Well, try as they might, the Ghosts aren’t able to eat drones, so they’ll have to help they can forage and hunt enough food to keep them on their feet. However, as the human body needs to take in roughly the same amount of calories as its burning to maintain mass and the Ghosts are almost certainly going to be burning a ton of energy, it’s hard to imagine they could sustain the level of activity for more than a few days without starting to suffer adverse reactions.
Any injuries sustained out here may not be lethal, providing a special forces medic has survived. Considering that there are medics in Ghost Recon Breakpoint, we’re going to be charitable and assume that they are.
However, it’s unclear whether the Ghosts will be able to get enough medical supplies to treat a series of sustained injuries, even if the skills are present. Also, each casualty will require treatment and care, and with no way to evacuate their casualties, this is a need that will become more and more serious with every injury incurred.
Eventually, the time and equipment investment in keeping casualties treated will start to eat into combat effectiveness severely which could potentially mean more injuries, causing a snowball effect.
And what about the drones? Breakpoint has a series of different drones fulfilling a variety of roles. There are unmanned tanks, the Behemoths, rumbling around like a pair of fridge freezers strapped together and bristling with lethal weaponry, scout drones that can flush you out of hiding, drone jets that fly over the battlefield and relay information to your enemies on the ground, and a host of other drones.
Ubisoft claims there are 20 different drones in the game to cause trouble for you, and it’s hard not to feel pressured by them. Then there’s the ominous drone swarm, which is both keeping the island isolated, but also shows up to menace the Ghosts are various points.
We tried to speak to several drone manufacturers, but sadly, they were unwilling to comment on military tech in drones. Daubon’s knowledge of drones comes as a civilian, through researching the technology as part of writing for Breakpoint.
Drone tech is moving fast
The technology is moving so fast, that the information he gained as a serving soldier is now hopelessly outdated.
“AI is improving dramatically by the day, and autonomous sort of sentient technology is happening. A lot of aspects of the game are very plausible.
“Drone technology already is vastly advanced beyond where I was engaging with on my last deployment, which was a couple of years ago, and the stuff that’s coming out….
“When I heard of some of the research they did into drone technology with some specialists, I was blown away. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s, that’s real? That’s a thing now?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, they brought two of them by and showed it to us.’ Some of the video reference footage they have of actual drone operators– adventure operators with these small personal drones… the manoeuvrability, the control, the capability to carry, for surveillance. It’s really impressive.”
It’s a Tom Clancy game, so the tech is accurate
“This is a Tom Clancy title, so it’s the circumstances that sensationalise, and then the potential sort of calamities or catastrophic contingencies that could happen. But the technology, that’s on the money.”
While Daubon is keen to point out that the events taking place on Auroa probably wouldn’t happen in the real world, he’s clear on one crucial point: it would be a testing situation for any real-life soldiers caught up on the ground.
Elite forces would probably be able to, as Daboun has said, handle several of the several elements that Breakpoint tosses up for the player character. However, the reality here is that survival against the odds could be the real fantasy.