Breach Preview (PC)

"Was that you Joe?" "Oh, I'm sorry Gareth, were you in the middle of something?" "You know killing me isn't going to improve your chances of getting an exclusive." "Oh, that's too bad..." Headshot. "You know, I was JUST lining up a shot on you." "I'm sure you were Gareth..." There's nothing quite like the banter that's generated when people get together for some lightly competitive gaming. Even within the professional relationship of PRs-Journalists, once we'd picked up the controllers there was nothing stopping me schooling him like the little bitch that he was (sorry Gareth).

Surprise, Bitches!
The fact that Breach, the new multiplayer first-person shooter from Atomic Games, felt so familiar yet so distinct helped instantly created that friendly banter atmosphere, not to mention made it easy for me to utilise my leetness. It's also a testament to its potential, as well as its influences: As most first-person shooters are finding these days, you can't help but feel you've played it all before. But the interesting thing with Breach is that developer Atomic Games don't try to hide that - they're actually kind of counting on it.

In fact Peter Tamte, the president of Atomic Games told me (when he wasn't busy laughing at the banter) he expected most of Breach's potential community to have played Call of Duty, or Battlefield, or Medal of Honor. For him, it's about taking the best bits from games like that and taking them one step further, providing an experience that's both new and familiar, along with good gameplay. In terms of approach, that of a downloadable title (although it will be available at retail on the PC too) he specifically cited Battlefield 1943 as an interesting ample, as that quickly became a best selling downloadable title on the consoles even though it was essentially a stripped down version of a AAA game. But Atomic think they can take this one step further, and provide a cheap, downloadable online game that's as fully featured (minus a single player campaign I guess) as any retail game.

Like its name implies, Breach's action revolves around destruction, but also other key ideas like cover, and teamwork. A lot of the developer's history lies with the US Army Training community (as well as the Close Combat series of World War II strategy games, which were awesome, by the way), and so unsurprisingly Breach's combat revolves around real-life special operations. Sound familiar? Well despite the thematic similarities with Activision's behemoth, Breach still has its own very distinct style.

Taking cues from Battlefield's destruction mechanics, as well as Red Faction's introduction of actual physics, Atomic Games have created what they're touting as Destruction 3.0, which is totally a Web 2.0 thing to say, but whatever. Not only can you punch holes in walls, but you can shoot out individual bricks, blow out floors/ceilings, destroy supports to cause a structure to collapse, destroy cover... whilst they've deliberately held back from total destruction, their Hydrogen engine really lets you do some interesting things.
Click, click BOOM
Breach's cover system takes it into the realms of the 'Tactical-shooter' sub-genre. Almost exactly like Rainbow Six, you spend the majority of your time in first-person mode, but if you tap a button near something valid, you switch to third person. This system is more of a hybrid between Rainbow Six's functionality and Gears of War's style, but it works pretty well. Being able to review the situation, scout out ahead without being hit... helps to slow the pace down a bit. Although saying that, with all cover destructible, the pace is then quickened again as you have until your cover disintegrates to figure out what to do.

All of this helps create tactics that were directly inspired from the military community. Shooting out individual bricks in a wall is call 'mouse-holing', and can help open up new lines of fire. Shooting out a support and causing someone to plummet to their death is called the 'wicked witch' and so on. This is a very team focused game, and there are no free-for-all game modes. There are however basic team deathmatch, An Attack/Defence that revolves around a moving convoy, Retrieval, and a Last man Standing game mode. On top of that, they've got classes, with lightly customizable loadouts, gadgets and perks. We're not sure to what extend yet, but these really help you feel like you're part of a special ops team, and help you develop specific gameplay styles to suit you.

Visually, the game looks as competitive as anything on the market, and the effects of collapsing a wooden building are especially quite lush. The only thing we noticed that could have been better was the effect of shooting out a single brick in a wall - the rectangular hole it created looked a little too smooth, if you get, but this is a minor point. It looks very slick, with decent effects that help compliment the action.
Oops, I missed. My Bad
With its clear emphasis on destruction, cover, and team-based gameplay, Breach may have the tight focus that the more recent Blacklight: Tango Down lacked in order carve its own little niche in the first person shooter market. At 1200 Microsoft Points, Atomic hope you'll get everything you'd get from Call of Duty of Battlefield and more. There's certainly enough here to give it a chance, but a lot will depend on post-release DLC and whether or not they can add it. We're optimistic, but this will be one to keep an eye out for as we draw closer to its January release. In the meantime... Headshot. "Was that you AGAIN, Joe?"

Most Anticipated Feature: Shooting out structures from underneath people looks like its going to be fun.


By JustCommunication (SI Core) on Oct 31, 2010
I have to say, I'm more interested in this than I was Blacklight: Tango Down. Whether or not this will be a major hit remains to be seen, but I can see this being popular at any rate.