It takes a brave developer to go head to head with the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield, Halo and Killzone; these titles tower over the First person shooter genre to such an extent that it would be easy to think that there is little room for lower budget competition. Developer Atomic Games begs to differ, however, launching Breach – a game with dreams of blowing the FPS house down; but is it all huff, and no puff?
Breach’s unique selling point is that of dynamic destructible environments, with the game’s publicity claiming that it features ‘the world’s most destructible battlefield’ – this is a powerful statement that squarely places the title in direct competition with the Battlefield series and it’s much vaunted FrostBite engine. A glimpse at Breach’s trailers would suggest that such confidence isn’t ill-founded, with the show-reel depicting an impressive video gallery of exploding, collapsing, disintegrating and crumbling buildings and other constructions.
It’s somewhat disappointing then that for most of the time the battlefields of Breach actually feel quite inert – even with the full quota of 16 players, the reasonably large maps struggle to achieve a sense of action or indeed dynamism. This can be put down to a number of factors, including the game’s somewhat subdued (or, even, bare-bones) audio, visuals that lack vitality and controls that are a little on the stiff side. Sadly, it’s also a result of the lofty claims made by the promotional materials – you expect an explosive experience of Jerry Bruckheimer-proportions; what you actually get is a FPS that borders on competency, with rare flashes of technical excellence.
In truth, the claim made by Atomic Games is not entirely unfounded; there is evidence here that Breach’s underlying physics engine is capable of producing some spectacular real-time destruction. Witnessing a precariously balanced wooden hut collapse into a heap of splintered planks after being slammed with a rocket-propelled grenade seems, in isolation, to be evidence enough that the developer has the technical chops to match its ambition. The problem is that such moments are few and far between, and the destruction of environments rarely feels like a significant game mechanic. There will be the odd occasion where you’ll have the floor collapse beneath you, or your cover will be blown away – but the need to skilfully and tactically pull the world apart feels minimal.
Ordinarily we wouldn’t dwell on one aspect of a game, but the sad truth is that with Breach, the underlying gameplay isn’t particularly noteworthy. On a technical level, the game needs polish, featuring as it does numerous bugs (including hand-grenades that fail to appear, or appear seconds after being thrown, to then sail off into infinity rather than arching gracefully through the sky) along with noticeable lag. Actually getting into a game can also be troublesome due to the slightly wobbly network code.
The gunplay itself is also pretty uninspiring and for most will feel a long way away from the heart-pumping adrenaline rushes served up by the genres big-hitters. The play modes included are also pretty bog-standard. ‘Infiltration’ sees teams battling to control capture points spread across the map; ‘Retrieval’ is Capture the Flag (with a canister!); ‘Team Deathmatch’ is just that; ‘Sole Survivor’ is a straight forward battle for survival, with no re-spawns and ‘Hardcore’ modes sees the amount of damage you can take greatly reduced. To be blunt, there really isn’t much among these to get experienced FPS fans excited.
Standing out from these modes is ‘Convoy’ in which, the defending team has to escort two trucks across the map while the attackers attempt to stop them. The speed at which the convoy moves is dependent on the number of defenders near it, and road-blocks must be cleared with C4. It’s a simple concept that – when it all comes together – can work well, offering a reasonably satisfying tactical ebb-and-flow.
Unfortunately, finding a fully populated game is currently quite difficult meaning that you rarely see even seeing this latter mode at its best. While this isn’t directly Breach’s fault, it is almost an inevitability when a game attempts to muscle in on an incredible crowded – and well served – market.
Despite all the criticisms, and despite the fact that it pales in comparison to its bigger-budget competition, Breach isn’t a complete disaster. The slower pace of play may well appeal to the slightly more cerebral and patient FPS fans and there is also arguably a lot of potential here. Unfortunately this potential will remain untapped until the game receives more polish, makes better use of the games physics engine and finds a larger user base. If it can do all these things, Breach could yet offer a genuine alternative for those tired of Call of Duty or Battlefield; until that time however, it is destined to remain a very small fish in the largest of ponds.
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