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We’ve seen a handful of downloadable multiplayer-only shooter games in the last year, such as Battfield 1943, Monday Night Combat, and the less-successful Blacklight: Tango Down. Now there’s a new entry into this subgenre; Breach by Atomic Games.
Breach is a military game set in the present day. It uses classes, with customizable equipment, an active cover system, unlockable perks, and highly destructible environments. On the whole it feels like a combination of popular elements of other shooter games wrapped up in a new franchise, and well, that's pretty much what it is. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for shooter fans looking for their next conquest.
At the start, players have access to four classes, Heavy Gunner, Sniper, etc, with a fifth unlockable class as well. Playing a match with one of these classes will gain you experience with that class, and as you level up that class, you’ll unlock better weapons and accessories. Playing with any class will increase your overall experience points, and this gives you access to new gadgets and perks. Perks apply passive bonuses to various stats like protection against headshots, or increased damage when using certain types of attack. Some of them are particularly handy in specific gametypes; the increased stamina lets you run faster and that’s quite useful when playing a game based on capturing locations, or ferrying objects back to bases. Some of them are quite creative, such as a marker that indicates who killed you most recently so that you can exact vengeance! There’s also one which provides increased experience points, but at the price of reduced hit points. It is appropriately called “The Bad Ass”. The gadgets add another layer of variety. Many of them are explosives and one in particular let’s you booby trap the stationary gun turrets found around the levels. There are also gadgets that make it easier to keep track of your opponents, including a handy sniper detector.
Breach also has destructible environments. In fact, “Destructible” isn’t descriptive enough; the environments are downright flimsy. You can blow holes through just about any sort of structure, and the game gives out explosives like candy on Halloween. Go to just about any building and you can find a crate of bazookas. Half of the gadgets let you blow holes in stuff, several classes have frag grenades, and you can unlock an M203 grenade launcher. Many building and bridges are made of wood, and can be turned into swiss cheese by an ordinary rifle. All of this leads to bridges and bases being annihilated over the course of the match, changing the available paths for players to take on their way to destinations. It can also lead to satisfying kills as you blow the floor out from under enemies, or take out enemies by just blind firing through a wall. The destruction isn’t quite as heavy as some of the Battlefield games where entire maps can be leveled over the course of a match, but Breach has plenty of stuff to blow up, and freely gives out the means to do so. This is arguably the best part of the game.
This is a lot of fun when combined with the game’s Active Cover system, which let’s you take cover behind objects. It works much like the cover system in Gears of War, or the most recent Brothers in Arms game. Just get close to a wall or vehicle and you can press up against it, then peek out to shoot. You can also blind fire, which sometimes leads to a stalemate, until someone comes along with a grenade launcher...
There are only a handful of maps, but they’re well designed with plenty of nooks to snipe from, and paths to sneak around in. The selection ought to be enough to hold most players interest, but only when combined with the various game modes. Breach has the obligatory Team Deathmatch mode, and a Last Man Standing/ King of the Hill, but it also uses some more strategic modes. One is “Infiltration” in which teams must capture and hold bases, just like in Battlefield. There’s also “Retrieval”, which is a lot like Capture the flag; players have to grab a canister which spawns around the level, then bring it to a base. The most unique game mode is “Convoy” in which one team has to escort a pair of humvees through the level before a timer runs out. The other team has to slow them down by damaging the vehicles, or guarding barricades along the way. It’s fairly unique, and is based on a timer, rather than the typical Escort missions which task players with shepherding suicidal AIs.
Breach is not trying to break new ground here. What the developer, Atomic Games, does with Breach is offer a varied and competent version of the sort of gameplay that is typically found in big budget titles. It is recommended for shooter fans who have grown tired with their last game, but don’t want to invest in any of the recent blockbusters. It has a nice low price point which makes it a bit more enticing; Steam and Direct 2 Drive are selling it at $11.99 at the time of this writing.