“Damn this infernal mouse!” or more swear-y words to that effect. Basically what was coming out of my mouth every time I tried to do anything complicated in Breach. Before you go jumping to any erroneous conclusions, it's not the game's fault. It was the rubbish mice on offer at HMV's Gamerbase, the location for a free-for-all hands-on with the downloadable COD-'em-up multiplayer FPS. Maybe it was just the mouse pad. Something was affecting my play, anyway.
Breach's concept will be a familiar one to anybody who's played, well, any competitive multiplayer shooter over the past five years or so. Two teams of soldiers go up against each other, armed with automatics, shotguns and explosives, with the odd rocket launcher thrown in for good measure. The only mode we got to see was your average Objectives match, where each team starts at one end of a map with five objectives between them. First two get captured easily and then there's a big scrap over the middle one, or objective C in this case.
Atomic Games are perfectly happy to admit the similarities, but they insist there's far more to Breach than meets the eye. It might be difficult to see initially, but there are a few things in there that make this worthy of your attention, and not just because it's being pitched into the semi-budget price range at around a tenner or so.
First of all, the thing they're pushing the most: destructible environments. Peter Tamte, president of Atomic Games no less, is keen to point out how much the world can be changed. Picking the Rifleman class, he approaches a wall and places an explosive charge on it. Stepping back, we watch as the bricks crumble inward and a hole appears. Pretty standard stuff, until Tamte explains that the hole that appears isn't generic.
By that, he means that wherever you place the explosive, that's where the hole appears, all worked out using the Hydrogen engine and its physics mumbo jumbo. Tamte claims that Atomic are trying to create a visual language of destructibility, where it should be obvious what you can destroy, without painting big “Blow me!” signs everywhere.
Breach is aiming to go further than, say, Bad Company 2 by making buildings and cover more susceptible to damage, even to the point where they collapse in on themselves. There's huge potential for comedy japes here, like spotting the enemy on the roof, planting a charge on the floor and detonating it, watching your hapless foe tumble confusedly through the gaping hole. And onto your waiting bullets, of course. This works in reverse too, with falling rubble doing damage to those underneath.
You can also use your guns to cause smaller scale damage to be wrought on the scenery. Individual bricks can be shot out to provide useful sniping or defensive spots, or the flimsy wall your foe is hiding behind can be chipped away, forcing him to either abandon it or return fire. Some buildings are specifically built to offer opportunities for unique kills, with structures on the sides of slopes being propped up by conveniently placed wooden struts. Guess what you can do with them?
This can all be done with just the basic Rifleman, but there are others on offer, as you'd expect. The Support guy carries a shotgun and a smoke grenade, while the Gunner takes a heavier machine gun and frag grenades. Recon and Sniper classes were locked out, so we couldn't test then, but the latter should be obvious, while the former remains slightly more mysterious.
As for how it all plays, it's what you'd expect really. There weren't enough people playing to give a wholly accurate impression of how it'll turn out fully stocked with combatants, so the maps felt a little too big and there was too much trudging between spawn areas and the front line. There weren't too many opportunities to try out the scenery destruction in a proper combat situation, but enough hints were there to make one feel it could well work quite well in practice. Difficult to say, though.
Is Breach going to change the world? Not at all, but it's not really aiming to do so. Perhaps Atomic's last game, the ill-fated Six Days in Fallujah, was, but this is a safer proposition. It's priced at an attractive level and could provide those who've torn their hair out at Modern Warfare or Bad Company 2 with an alternative for a while. At the very least, if it allows us to shoot out the floor underneath our bitterest rivals and see them plummet into an abyss, that should earn it a few points.