Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
Xbox Live Arcade 1200 points
In game Dolby Digital
1.22G game file size
Atomic Games has had a rough time leading up to the release of their new XBLA game, Breach. Originally the company began developing the controversial Six Days in Fallujah, which had publisher Konami pull its support. Atomic went on to salvage what it could to produce this multiplayer-only downloadable first-person modern military shooter.
These days, it's difficult to produce a modern military shooter that doesn't waste away in the shadow of the genre's juggernauts — games like Call of Duty and Fallout, not to mention Battlefield and Socom. Breach has mighty shoes to fill, but can it?
Breach’s graphical flair can be summed up in 3 words — lack of polish. On the outside the game looks pretty good, but on closer inspection you can see the gaps and miscues. Animations and movement can be a little weird and robotic; they almost look like the characters in the Far Cry games. There are minor things, like characters not blinking, which only makes a difference if you're sitting in cover (which shifts the camera to a third-person view) for an extended period of time. Breach also has a considerable amount of screen tearing, which really takes you out of the experience and exacerbates how generic the visuals can be. The environments look great from a distance but ugly in a lot of areas up close. I didn’t find the graphic shortcomings too distracting overall. I also found the frame rate to be somewhat steady although the game does get hit with terrible bouts of slow-down, and healthy amounts of clipping. I assumed that the problem was with the connection rates within the room, but since there are no single player modes I couldn’t really tell if it was the graphical horsepower or the game's connection. Which leads me to the next point. You cannot check your ping or the speed of your connection to a server in the server browser — this seems very weird.
Other than the game's intro and a few other odd places Breach has no music to speak of. In quiet areas on the maps you can hear birds chirping or the wind blowing by, which I thought was proper for what was happening on screen. In the fighting modes the sound effects are true to form, each gun having its own distinct sound, and so do the vehicles. I thought the game's various explosions were a bit weak, but they are more than accurate in conveying the message. Breach runs in Dolby Digital Surround and for the most part is very well done.
I liked Breach’s premise of multi-player only play. It reminded me of the old Rainbow Six days with its impressive although sometimes clunky cover system.
Breach is a first-person multiplayer shooter that utilizes the innovative Hydrogen Engine to give players inventive ways to use destruction, within the game's environments. Gamers can stun, manipulate, and eliminate their opponents with a whole host of new tactics that the destroyed environments uncover. While gaming you can punch holes through floors, breach both interior and exterior walls, crush enemy fighters by collapsing ceilings and balconies, and even shoot away individual bricks to create one of my faves, shooter holes. The idea is cool and exciting, but the execution is a bit marred.
In game players take on the roles of some of the most elite field operatives in the U.S. The CIA Special Activities Division officers are the teams sent in on real-life black operations when no one can ever know the U.S. was involved. This secret world of black operations is brought to life with accurate weapons, gear, and real-life spy gadgets that you can use with real world tactics to defeat the enemy.
Breach is strictly an online affair, there is no single player campaign to work through. Some gamers may balk at that fact (initially I did) but because it forgoes the mode entirely and focuses on the competitive multiplayer games it gives the game a bit of an adrenaline shot. The game has a total of five classes: Rifleman, Gunner, Sniper, Support, and an unlockable class called Recon. Like the classes, the modes won't surprise any shooter enthusiasts although the Convoy mode is quite intriguing. Also included are Team Death Match, Infiltration, capture the flag called Retrieval, Sole Survivor (last man standing), and the aforementioned Convoy.
Convoy requires a little explanation because it's one of the few places Breach brings something innovative to an already overdone genre. In this mode players take turns defending and escorting a pair of vehicles through a map. Along with sticking close to the cars that you move with, you will have to blow up road blocks and fend off attackers who are working to disable the vehicles. If the vehicles are taken out, you will have to repair them and get them moving to your destination before the pre-determined time runs out. This mode is not only inventive and fun, it is easily Breach's best mode. The design and premise of this mode should make other game makers add similar modes in their games. I also found the mode provides ample opportunity to try out its environmental destruction; trying to hide behind things is no longer all that easy. As a result it makes players fight much more intense battles, for the duration of the match. Best of all, because it's a moving goal the battlefield continues to change and forces players to adapt their tactics to what cover and materials are available on a moment-to-moment basis. In a group friend setting you could assemble a team and take on other teams across the XBLA network. I do find if you are on your own that the fun factor is somewhat reduced, as you are dealing with complete strangers. The mode is by far the most addictive especially if you hook up with a good communicative group.
Besides Convoy, Breach doesn't really have all that much to offer that other games haven't done better. It has a cover system that switches from first to third person when you run up on an object and get behind it. This makes me remember when Rainbow Six Vegas did this although now without the moments of frustration because you're not pressing the cover button on just the right piece of terrain to activate it. The developers have touted the destructible environments, and on occasion they do make the game fun and intense when you blow up a wall or take out a roof to crash in on a group of enemies. Honestly the effects are fairly limited compared to other games of this genre. But I must admit, taking out a few bricks to snipe across the map has an incredible amount of appeal to it.
You can work your character up in Breach just like most other shooter games. It has a progression system where you can unlock new powers and options for your classes. Each kill you get or round you play builds up your experience which in turn allows you to buy new guns, accessories, and perks etc. The problem I found with the system is that the progression is comparatively slow to what other similar titles are doing, making it feel very unrewarding. Moreover there's no way to alter your class in between rounds without completely backing out of a match and doing it from the main menu. In games like Call of Duty you can change your class every time you die and re-spawn.
Breach handles very much like other games of genre. In fact, other than a few button placements my habits melded right into its flow. I thought it would be a bit tough at first, but give credit to the development crew as I think this may have been done to ease confusion.
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