Breach Review

By Kevin Kelly - Posted Jan 28, 2011

Born from the blood of Counterstrike, Call of Duty, and Battlefield, Breach wants to give you that same experience in a squad-based, compact, downloadable title.

The Pros
  • Destructible environments
  • Lots of Perks and Gadgets
The Cons
  • No tutorial
  • Very buggy
  • Feels unfinished

You can’t take a look at Breach without referencing other games, and it has some of the DNA of Counterstrike, Call of Duty, and Battlefield in it. The entire title looks like it was inspired by Counterstrike, it has the loadouts and perks of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and the gadgets from Battlefield. Atomic Games has crammed all of those titles together and taken a shoehorn to the package to wedge it into your download queue.

Of course, much of this game is probably the direct descendant of their completed but never released title Six Days in Fallujah, which was deemed too controversial for release by publisher Konami back in 2009. So they’ve excised elements of that Iraq War-based title and turned them into Breach. But is it worth it? 

Compact Game, Compact Price

Breach is available on XBLA for 1200 MS Points ($15) or $14.99 on PC via Steam, although as of this review it’s on sale there for $11.99. So what are you getting for that price? Let’s break it down. Five gametypes: Infiltration – where you capture and hold points, Convoy – advance or stop a convoy on the move, Retrieval – capture and flag gameplay with teams battling over a bioweapon canister, Team Deathmatch (TDM in the menus) – which is exactly what it sounds like, and Sole Survivor, where you want to be the last man standing.

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You’ll also get four different character classes, which are fairly standard: Rifleman, Gunner, Support, and Sniper. Although once you master the Rifleman and Sniper classes, the game will unlock a Recon class, which is a blend of the two. Think a faster guy with a scoped weapon who doesn’t wear much body armor. Then there are 13 Perks and 9 Gadgets  that you can purchase as you rank up through gameplay.

The game promises five maps, featuring four different venues and one being a nighttime version of the same map. But during our multiplayer sessions, Peak, Ascent and Passage came up time after time. These all look very similar with similar color schemes, so it would have been nice to see some variety in the mix because we never saw Peak or Nocturnal, which is the nighttime version of Passage. We must have played at least 15 Infiltration games on Ascent, giving us time to learn that blowing up that curved wooden bridge is a very good idea, as it seals off that side of the map.

Destroy All Buildings

Of course, you’ll also get highly destructible environments with the game, which is the calling card of Breach. When it was first shown off at PAX East last year, the developers called a lot of attention to the fact that you can bring down balconies, walls, and even entire structures through explosive gameplay.

Is there a sniper giving you hell? You can blast an RPG at the supports on his balcony and watch him plummet to his death. Or you can aim at the ceiling and bring someone down several floors. Need a shortcut? Blast a hole in the wall, or even give yourself a small breach to snipe from. You can even close off entire paths by destroying things, so it’s definitely something you’ll want to pay attention to in the game. 

Perky Gadgets and Weapons

While Perks and Gadgets are nothing new, at least Breach has added some variety and whimsy into the mix. Gadgets range from the IR Sniper Detector that can pick up scoped weapons, to the M79 Pirate Cannon … better known as the “Blooper” grenade launcher. My favorite was the Bionic Ear which lets you hear and pinpoint enemies, even through walls.

Perks also aren’t run of the mill, with fun stuff added like the Vendetta perk that paints a target on the person who just killed you, letting you seek out your own revenge. Extra Sensory Perception is nice as well, giving you more accurate blind fire when you’re in cover. You’ll unlock these as you level up from Agent to Commander, and you’ll need to spend points to purchase them and add them to your loadouts.

The game also features 23 real world weapons as well, ranging from the M4A1 fully automatic carbine, to the TPG Tactical Precision Rifle for snipers. There’s some equipment in there as well, like the M67 frag grenade, and breach charges (which are fun to stick on people) as well. Sadly, you’re unable to pick up the weapons of downed comrades of foes, so you can’t pick up the gun that another player has been taking you out with.

The Tutor Has Been Eliminated

Sadly, what that price does not include is a tutorial of any kind. Not even rudimentary instructions. The only onscreen popups available to help out were the fact that you can hit “Y” to pick up RPGs at ammo stations, or use that same button to enter mounted turrets. Want to know how to swap weapons, take cover, or use a gadget? You’ll have to resort to frantic button mashing until you figure things out.

You can pull up the controller map in the options to give you some help, but in a world where FPS controllers are usually fairly intuitive, Breach drops the ball often and maps things to strange locations. Want to use your sidearm? You need to hit down on the D-pad. Want to know how to activate your Motion Sensor gadget? Trial and error are the only way to find out how. 

Sadly, The Bugs Aren’t Destructible

After playing many hours with Breach, the bugs throughout the game become more apparent, rather than those of the “Eh, I can live with that” variety. There are glitchy graphics, audio hitches, wonky physics (my grenades seemed to plummet to the ground like iron cannonballs after soaring a few feet away from me), and frustrating gameplay. More than once I would hammer bullets into an enemy who wouldn’t go down, and they would turn around and kill me with a single shot.

Also, the game seems to hard freeze whenever the host quits, and you’ll think your console has locked up completely since there’s nothing onscreen telling you what’s going on. Eventually it will shift to another host, but it would be nice to know that’s something is going on so I don’t just shut everything off.

The game feels unfinished, as if Atomic Games had a deadline to reach and got as far as they could before shipping out the title. The frequent glitches, lo-fi menus, and extremely simple presentation make it feel like a project that is still in the nascent stages of development, rather than a fully-fledged product. Character models and some portions of the map development are fine, but everything feels like it was hastily put together after a night of binge-playing other titles.

Once More Into The Breach?

With muddy controls, no way to ease new players in, and wonky graphical glitches, Breach offers up some squad-based gameplay that captures a shred of the games that inspired it, but it end up feeling like you’ve purchased a third of a game, or a game that’s still in development. Without the destructible environments, this would feel like a game from 1996.