Breach | Review (XBLA & PC)

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Breach | Review (XBLA & PC)
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Breach is the new multiplayer-only, fps title from Atomic Games available on XBLA and PC. Atomic is the studio that made a huge splash last year with their controversial game Six Days in Fallujah, which is currently on hold. They reportedly took some of the technology developed for Six Days and incorporated it into this downloadable title. Breach touts its “Realistic Weapons and Gadgets”, “Unique Active Cover System” and “Fully Destructible Environments” offering an experience that cannot be found in any other game at any price.

Breach offers five distinct maps, five game types, four character classes with a fifth class unlocked after two of these classes have been mastered, nineteen weapons with varying upgrades, ten “spy gadgets” and thirteen perks. Weapons and their upgrades are unique to each character class while the perks and gadgets are shared across all classes.

The game types include:

  • Infiltration: In which the objective is to capture and hold strategic points on the map.
  • Convoy: Where one team attempts to escort their vehicle convoy through checkpoints while the other team tries to stop them.
  • Retrieval: Which is a variation on the traditional “Capture the Flag”.
  • Sole Survivor: A Team Deathmatch variation with no respawns and
  • Traditional TDM.

For an added challenge, “Hardcore Mode” can be activated in any of these game types. This mode removes all aspects of the HUD, including the mini map, ammo counts and even the weapon fire mode indicator. All that the player is left is their aiming reticle and a count of the number of “Quick Toss Items” available. According to the developer, playing Sole Survivor in Hardcore Mode is the way real operatives train.

During play, points are earned for each kill and each objective completed, such as capturing a location. Typical for the genre, each player’s cumulative point total determine their rank as well as the weapons, gadgets and perks available. These points are then used to purchase upgrades.

After downloading the game (be prepared, it is a 1.2Gb download) it does not take much playtime to realize that Breach is not a $60, full retail game. Many factors reinforce this fact:

  • The graphics are less that expected for a current generation game.
  • The quality of the sound effects is mixed. While guns and explosions sound convincing, the sounds of footsteps and the limited dialog are poor.
  • The grenade mechanic simply does not work. While throwing grenades in some games is greatly over exaggerated, here players are fortunate if they don’t take collateral damage from their own tosses.
  • Bullets occasionally have the ability to magically penetrate completely through armored vehicles or solid rock to hit a player on the other side.
  • It is not uncommon to see body parts or even weapon barrels extending through walls and even lead to kills.
  • The extent of the destructible environment is less than expected. While certain elements are destructible, others, such as vehicles, are seemingly impervious to even the largest weapon. A RPG may take out the entire side of a building. However, it won’t even scratch a derelict pickup truck, even when fired from point-blank range.

In spite of these issues, the game is not all bad.

  • The maps are all good sized and laid out well to maximize both the used of active cover and environmental destruction. Re-supply caches are distributed well and there are numerous respawn points.
  • Most of the weapons feel realistic in use with accurate recoil.
  • Games are drop-in/drop-out without hiccups, unless the host leaves the game.
  • Spawn Kills are virtually eliminated, even in 16 player matches.
  • Large group matches can be frenzied and enjoyable.
  • The environmental destruction is addictively fun! Players can get a long-range headshot in nearly any multiplayer game and some even allow a degree of environmental destruction. However, the variety of destruction available here is unique and taking out numerous enemies with one carefully placed shot is extremely satisfying.

In the end, the question is; does the game live up to the hype. Sadly, that answer has to be no. While Breach does do some things well, its problems are too large to be overcome by these high points. It also does not help that there not only is no single player campaign. The only thing that one player can do is simply wander around a map and wait for others to join.

The limited number of maps and game types available, when combined with the previously noted problems, make the $15 XBLA and $20 PC pricetags feel a little high. Although the game may go on sale down the road, if it does appear to you, it would be best to purchase it early rather than wait for a sale. This is one game that is certainly best enjoyed when large teams are involved. Unless bonus levels and/or modes are added soon after launch, the game lobbies will quickly dwindle to only the truly devoted fans, thereby making match sizes small and far less enjoyable.

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  • Zotz Mein

    Excellent review, but I must take issue with one of Pat’s points. Mr. Leavell cautions that Breach is not a sixty dollar game and therefore our expectations should be lowered. Plenty of game designers are putting out high quality games (audio, graphics, and storyline) and price pointing them for fifteen dollars. Each design house has different distribution deals with publishers, but I would venture to say that some game creators walk away with less money per unit sold, than Atomic will on this title. Minimizing distribution and retail intermediaries, digital downloads, in-house physics engine, utilization of social media for market, all insure Atomic Games is maximizing profits while minimizing costs.

    This game has been hyped for well over a year, plenty of time to produce a quality game. Whatever quantum leaps were made in physics and ultra realism doesn’t mitigate the overall lack of quality. I applaud Pat Leavell for writing such a wonderful review. I look forward to reading his next review, and the next, and the one that follows that review…

    Warmest Regards,
    Zotz Mein

  • Pat

    Zotz, thanks for your kind words & your criticism. I may have to try to reword part of the review. I agree that there some excellent, $15 downloadable titles available and I did not mean to imply that this price was a valid excuse for the poor quality of this game. I was trying to point out that the problems with the game make it painfully clear this is a downloadable game & not a full price, AAA title.

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