Developer: Atomic Games
Hoping to bring a new level of multiplayer combat to our little gaming world is Breach, a multiplayer-only FPS from Atomic. The premise of the title is as basic as them come; one side is the Black Ops division of the CIA, the other is a nameless resistance / terrorist / bunch of gun-toting non-Americans, and you need to go and shoot the other team in the face, generally make it a very bad day for them. That’s pretty much it, which is perfectly fine for a multiplayer-centric offering where the focus is on the gameplay. Atomic have boasted about its “destruction toolbox” being the defining factor that separates it from other FPS titles, allowing you to blow up buildings and cover to keep the matches in a constantly evolving state, as well as an unlock system with weapons, gadgets and tools to acquire as you shoot your way up the ranks of the various classes you could choose from.
You’re probably thinking that this may all sound somewhat familiar, and you would be right; so far I’ve come somewhat close to describing the Battlefield: Bad Company games. Breach does have one additional feature to separate the two games; a cover system that switches you to third person.
So basically Bad Company with a slight hint of Rainbow Six: Vegas then.
Still, if you get past the first glance you’ll realise that for a downloadable title it’s an impressive list of features, but the all-important question was if Atomic had taken advantage of this opportunity and given the FPS fans a reason to move on past the mainstream titles. Being the brave, intrepid, snappy dresser of a man than I am, I decided to jump out of cover and see for myself how well things had come together.
Upon loading up Breach you are greeted with a set of option on how to get into the action, with the ability to create, find, or automatically join a quick match (as well as the usual option for a Party Lobby). Unfortunately this is where my impressions began to slowly fall, because getting into a game isn’t easy, at least at the time of writing. I initially used the Find Match option, which brought up a standard server browser which was easy enough to navigate through, but loading up the server list was a slow process. On top of this the first three or four servers I selected failed to connect me, which in turn forced me to refresh the server list and put me in an annoying loop. Bad start so far, but I was eventually granted access to a match and I was on my way to getting in on the action of the Team Deathmatch mode.
The first thing I got to do was choose my class, each with their own weapons, from a selection of five; Rifleman, Gunner, Sniper, Support, and slightly-overpowered-looking Recon (which will only unlock after you have “mastered” two of the existing classes.) Having always taken the support / medic route with similar games, I of course selected Support, which put a shotgun in my hands and sent me on my merry way. Little did I know that I would be doing little in the way of support, because no matter which game mode you pick all the classes only have one thing to do; kill the enemy. I was at least expecting the Support class to be able to heal people but after a deeper look it turns out such an ability is only purchasable once you have been promoted four ranks and is useable by any class, which to me felt like it negated the whole point of having classes in the first place.
Upon getting into the game the first thing I noticed was the feel of the controls being slower and heavier than most contemporary offerings (so if you disliked Killzone 2’s controls initially or can’t handle anything other than Call of Duty’s pacing you may want to steer clear) but it’s an approach I felt catered to the overall feel of the game. Once I adapted to the pace I immediately entered the fray, shooting every which way and making use of the cover system, which I will admit seemed a tacked on feature to begin with but with more use became an important tactic for survival. Funnily enough though, it was my first experience with cover that was also my first experience with the destructible environment; the concrete block I was using for cover got blown away by a nearby grenade and left me in a hail of bullets.
It was fairly brutal.
While it is always fun to see things being blown apart piece by piece, it’s important to note that there were limits to the destruction on offer, as on more than one occasion I saw random pieces of stone and wood floating in mid-air having managed to avoid the explosive punishment of players and laughing at gravity in the process. It also seemed mighty difficult to cause a building to collapse, with the support pillars stubbornly refusing to fall apart. Wooden bridges that provide alternate routes on your advances towards the enemy are also destroyable, but in doing so it highlighted a point that is either the tactical genius the game wanted to portray or an area of concern, depending on your viewpoint. In taking out the bridges it forces players to enter one specific area or path and creates bottlenecks in the action, something that happened every time I was in a match. On the bright side it was from these intense battles that I felt that the weapons were reasonable well balanced, which is always a good thing.
As you play, you earn XP that goes towards increasing your rank and your progression towards unlocking weapons for the classes you use. It also acts as a form of currency with which you buy gadgets, which range from better armour to better enemy awareness, and perks, which offers better stamina for sprinting and faster reloading. Getting XP proved to not be too much of a chore when in a match, getting 500 XP taking around an hour or two of gameplay which provided a promotion and enough to get one upgrade. There’s plenty to choose from as well, allowing for some good mix-and-match opportunities with your class builds.
Currently, there are only three maps available to play on (with a night time variation of one map also thrown in) which a fourth ready to be released when the community achieve certain goals. While I like that as an idea, it forces players to have to play the same three maps over and over again. However, this is offset by a variety of game modes including the usual suspects of Capture the Flag and King of the Hill modes (named Retrieval and Infiltration respectively) among a few others, although my personal favourite mode is Convoy, which has you escorting two vehicles across the map before the timer runs out (I blame my yesteryears playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s multiplayer.) While the various game modes do breathe new life into the same maps, additional venues for the carnage would have made the overall experience a whole lot better for those willing to invest the time to go for the best abilities.
I had some other gripes with Breach, some more pressing than others. I tried my hand at hosting a game and while everything went fine, there was some notable stuttering for me as I played. Also, because of the P2P nature of the servers, prepare for some games to suddenly stop if the host disappears, although the system does at least try to switch hosts upon such an occurrence. Getting into a game proved a challenge at points, and even using the Quick Match option would have me getting failed connections. Having various respawn points on a map has its flaws as well, with one being close to the action and the other forcing you to run for a good 20-30 seconds to get back into the fight, causing a break in the flow of combat. A lack of health or sprint monitor is another thing that I found annoying, and although I did learn to deal with it after a few fights newcomers may find the lack of such information.
But despite all of my nit-picking, it’s a decent shooter, and of good quality for a downloadable title. While the promise of a fully destructible environment ends up shallower than advertised it’s always fun blowing up the enemies cover, and while it doesn’t present anything hugely different from the big boys of the FPS genre it’s a good alternative if Call of Duty or Bad Company hold no interest for you and you’re after an online shooter to entertain yourself. If after reading this review you’re even just a tiny bit interested, be sure to try-before-you-buy with the trial version and decide for yourself.
- Blowing up your enemy’s cover never gets old.
- The cover system adds a tactical element to surviving the carnage.
- Plenty of varying game modes and Perks/Gadgets to keep you busy and entertain you…
- … but the low number of maps on which to play is disappointing.
- The destructible environment, while awesome to watch, is a little shallow in function.
- Unstable servers may make a good game a chore.
The short version: While it can’t quite compete with the mainstream goliaths that inhabit the FPS kingdom, it does its best to stand up and be counted, even if it does fall short in some areas. However, it’s a good effort for a downloadable title and at the very least worth checking the trial version. If you’re looking for a different shooter experience online you could do far, far worse.