Breach: PAX East Hands-On

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Atomic Games, developer of the unreleased Six Days in Fallujah, intends to throw a monkey wrench into the online shooter arena this summer. Breach, their new multiplayer war game, offers most of the features of big shooters in a tiny package – a mere $15 download on XBLA and PC. With a booth situated dead-center in one of the two exhibition halls at PAX East, I found myself passing by often and hearing the same mantra: “For the price of a map pack.” Eventually I had to check it out, and was met with a mix of pleasant surprises and rough edges.

Breach’s feature set sits somewhere between Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield: Bad Company 2. It offers a mix of perks, gadgets, and death streaks unlocked as you play. There are no vehicles, but the game does offer big maps, destructible environments, and a cover system that pulls the camera out to a 3rd person view a la Rainbow Six Vegas. A class system splits load-outs into distinct categories like Riflemen, Sniper, and Support, allowing you to unlock new weapons and gadgets within them.

PhotobucketIn the final game, 16 players will fight on four maps, with two more planned for free release down the line. At the booth, the game was limited to half of one map, with two teams of four competing in a capture point-style gametype. Getting my hands on the 360 controller, most of the controls were intuitive, with a layout similar to other games in the genre. I started out with the gunner, hoping some of my Bad Company medic skills would make the transition. That, and I wanted to see the game’s suppression mechanic in action. A PR representative for Atomic (dressed in full fatigues, no less) explained how suppression works – they wanted to put the fear back into the line of fire, so if bullets are whizzing by your head you lose accuracy. “The screen shakes and it becomes nearly impossible to hit your target,” he explained. I found that when I was firing with my light machine gun, laying into targets with my 200-round clip, I rarely caught any return fire. However, I also never felt the effects of suppression myself, so it’s still not entirely clear how well it works, but it’s a fantastic idea regardless.

Environmental destruction is another big aspect of the game. While seemingly not as unique as the suppression mechanic, Atomic’s destruction technology is far more detailed than other games. While Bad Company 2 only lets you knock out entire walls, Breach gets down to minute detail, allowing you to shoot out individual bricks or bring down supports on an entire building. Demonstrations of the tech look incredible, though for some reason it rarely factored into my matches the way it does in Bad Company 2.

PhotobucketBreach also includes a cover system that allows you to huddle up behind objects and survey the scene from a 3rd person view. You can jump behind cover with a simple click of the right stick, leaning around corners or peeking over low walls, blind-firing to your heart’s desire. The destruction also plays into this, with new holes blown in walls becoming new points to peek from. Cover systems have worked well in other multiplayer shooters – but with a pace closer to Battlefield than Gears of War, the risk/reward of taking cover may not be very beneficial.

In my time with Breach, it was clear the game still needs some work before it’s ready for showtime. With a planned summer release, development time is getting tight. I had some concerns, so I spoke with QA Lead Nick Heikkila – he had some reassuring words. For one, the build we were seeing on the show floor was actually a few weeks old. This means that a lot of the choppiness on display at PAX will most likely be gone. With a solid frame rate, the game still won’t look quite as stunning as other shooters, but it’ll be pretty impressive for an XBLA game. I also asked Mr. Heikkila about the game’s stiff, unforgiving aiming controls. He was happy to tell me that he’d been hearing that a lot at the show and there will be a ton of tweaking to get it right before the game’s release.

PhotobucketDespite these potential issues, and despite the possibility that Breach’s unique systems could fall flat, it still manages to be a compelling title. Working around the demo’s issues, the hunt for enemies in a tactical environment managed to be as fun as ever. I had my breakaway moments, impressive kills, and embarrassing deaths. I imagined this all working smoothly, with everything balanced and all the kinks worked out before the final release, and I realized Breach could be something genuinely amazing.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

One comment

  1. msaddict /

    i’d be playing this instead of cod6 when it comes out. unless, sniper: ghost recon or ghost recon: future warrior’s multiplayer online lobby drags like any other shooter then i’ll stay with cod6. when will devs learn that nobody likes to wait in the damn lobby for 2min.

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