Atomic Games’ Breach steals from the best: feeling like Counter-Strike and Battlefield: Bad Company’s love child, it combines the realistic visual aesthetic of the former and the building-busting physics of the latter. Sadly, it becomes readily apparent that the North Carolina developer could’ve used a little more time to polish; Breach shows some pretty clear cracks in its foundations even while you’re having a good time.
The game sets up an everlasting conflict between the CIA’s Special Activities Division and the now-ubiquitous Russian “OpFor” as a back-drop for endless multiplayer sessions in one of five game types. There’s the classic “TDM” (team deathmatch); “Infiltration,” which acts as a Battlefield-Conquest-esque-capture-and-defend mode; “Convoy,” a mission where one team escorts a, well, convoy, while another team tries to destroy it; “Retrieval” is capture-the-flag if the flag was a bioweapon; and “Sole Survivor” is a variation on TDM with no respawns.
There are 5 character classes to choose from, each with its own progression and weapons to unlock, although the “gadgets” and perks are more or less shared among the classes; if I buy body armor in my rifleman class, my support class has it available. Like BFBC2, you actually have to use the character class and weapons in order to progress with them, so no unlocking seemingly at random like in COD. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily, but I would criticize the decision to use fairly low numbers (and seemingly random numbers) for earning XP.
For example, I’ve been playing the game for a while and I have about 2000 XP to go before my next weapon unlock. At an average of 5 XP a kill, that’s quite a time commitment; I already really have to like Breach in order to work towards the 400 kills I need in order to unlock that weapon, whereas if those weapon unlocks came a little sooner, I’d be more motivated to play that “one more round” to earn that reward. Atomic Games did a great job of securing the rights to realistic weapons and I understand that this is a downloadable title, but setting that bar a little lower and giving more weapon options really would’ve helped keep my interest.
Compounding that, it’s not clear which actions earn you what numbers with XP. I frequently play the sniper class and the thing that throws me is that my one-shot kills regularly earn me 5 XP, while two rounds or more get 9 XP. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?
Another big issue is a control scheme that really could’ve used some smoothing out. It’s hard to explain, but it’s most noticeable when playing as the sniper (one of five classes with unique weapons); the game doesn’t really seem to acknowledge diagonal look. It does X/Y axis just fine, sharply even, but trying to move with any kind of subtlety and carefully put a set of crosshairs on somebody’s brainpan becomes a real challenge. Breach’s main attraction is the destructible environment system, and I’m actually a pretty big fan of how this was executed. You can place breaching charges on buildings, walls, roofs, and dynamically enter a structure, take the floor right out from under somebody, or collapse the building entirely. I have two critiques here; first, the length of the timing fuse on the breaching charge; I’d put my charge on a building in Ascent to kill a sniper, and while I’m waiting for it go off my teammate has already gone through the “traditional” door and killed my target. Second, taking down a building takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, in fact, I’ve never seen it done in-game, I just know that it can be done because I’ve seen it in promotional stills. Giving the breaching charges a little more power might’ve made this feature a little more interesting.
One of Breach’s major problems is that not only are games hard to get into, they’re hard to stay in at times. There are plenty of people playing, which is nice, but in my experience the game will frequently freeze in the loading screen, and if the host quits, the game is probably over. I only say “probably” because I’ve never been in a game where the host has left and everyone has stayed long enough for the host to migrate. Loading times are also pretty lengthy, and tried this gamer’s patience more often than not. Further, any time I use “Quick Match” I play on one of the two same maps, over and over. Unless you create your own games, I hope you really like Ascent and Passage.
The character animations also have some trouble; tossing a grenade looks like a combination of a shot-put throw and a downward high-five, and your melee attack is so slow it looks like you’re swinging your arm through jell-o, although reloading and the weapon models themselves do look pretty good. Occasionally your target will “teleport” from one place to the next, but it’s not a consistent issue, so whether it’s a real flaw or a connection issue is hard to tell.
All of that being said, will I be keeping Breach around? Absolutely I will.
I am part of a small community who hates COD: Black Ops. Specifically, I think it’s a terrible game that shames the franchise and that Treyarch couldn’t develop a decent shooter if they had a decade to work on it and I flatly refuse to play anything they make for the rest of my life. The problem becomes that everyone I know wants to play COD: BO all the time, while I desperately need an alternative in a time of year that is devoid of quality new shooters. Breach is an imperfect, snack-sized game that will tide me over whenever I get tired of playing the same games I’ve been playing for the last few months. That, to me, is worth both the price and the irritation.