games / Reviews

Breach (XBLA) Review

February 4, 2011 | Posted by Trace Aber

Online shooters have been all the rage the last couple of years, with the competition especially strong on the Xbox 360, which many people look to as the definitive machine for competitive online play. Unfortunately, with so many titles filling up the scene, it’s extremely difficult to get noticed and stand out amongst the others, especially if you’re a new franchise trying to get its foot in the door. Breach tries to stand out as a top tier title but gets lost in the midst as another mediocre and uninspiring game in a genre full of them.

Breach gameplay takes place solely online, so players looking for a solo campaign are going to want to look elsewhere. But with so many people getting shooters exclusively for their online counterparts, it’s not too difficult to see why developer Atomic Games decided to focus on one area. Despite this special focus, the gameplay still comes off as generic and dated, though it’s not like they didn’t try.

You have five classes in total to choose from in Breach – Rifleman, Gunner, Sniper, Support and, when you unlock it, Recon. Most will be familiar with these classes, as they are exactly what you’d expect. The variety of game types aren’t unique, either. You have your standard team death match (and a Survival version where there are no respawns), a domination-like mode called Infiltration, and retrieval, where teams battle it out over some bioweapons in a race to their respective drop points.

My favorite mode is Convoy, where one team escorts a slow moving vehicle while the enemy team tries to prevent the vehicle from getting to its destination. There will be roadblocks and attacks every which way, and when the vehicle is damaged those escorting must repair the vehicle at once. Breach truly shines in Convoy mode, as it forces players to examine the maps and experience the most intense moments the game has to offer.

There are five maps total, though four if you consider that “Nocturnal” is simply a nighttime version of “Passage,” but for the $15 asking price this is a fair number of maps (considering a Call of Duty map pack costs $15 for four/five maps). Most of these maps are large and varied and have multiple destructible elements. Unfortunately, the environments are not as destructible as one would like them to be – trees and cars are virtually untouchable and very rarely do the explosions have any sort of positive impact for your team. That’s not to say that it isn’t insanely awesome when you destroy a building and take out a few foes…it’s just that those moments are few and far between.

The majority of Breach’s depth comes from the leveling system, which should feel extremely familiar to everyone by now. Each class has its own set of perks, equipment, add-ons and guns you can unlock, which is done so through the use of experience points that you gain from matches. There are a lot of really cool things to unlock, including sonic imagers, bionic ears, and even the ability to earn double XP (at the risk of having half health). The problem is that the progression is so slow that it becomes a grind and an unrewarding one at that, especially when you want to unlock some of the cooler stuff. Players will need to have a lot of patience, with each kill netting you only 5XP and the lower tier guns costing 500XP. And when you factor in that each class needs to be upgraded individually, you’ll begin to wonder if they’re artificially increasing the game’s depth with slow XP progression. Oh, and if you’re ever hoping to unlock the Recon class, you’re going to have to max out both the rifleman and sniper classes, something very few will have the patience to do.

Breach also features a cover system, and luckily there are plenty of places to take cover during battle. Sometimes you may believe you’ve found the best cover in the map only to discover that everything around you just blew up, which is a rare instance when the game’s destructible environments pay off. Otherwise, the cover system is just like any other game you’ve played with cover, with it going from a first to third person perspective. Gameplay is otherwise what you’ve come to expect, which is to say you run around looking for enemies and try to kill them before they kill you.

Unfortunately, the graphics of the game are just serviceable. Atomic Games weren’t set to create the next A-list title, but the graphics don’t even approach B level. The environments are nondescript, explosions are subpar, and the animation seems jittery. The audio isn’t much better, only barely breaking decent. Some of the things your characters will say are cute at first, but after an hour or so in the game everything seems to be repeating and it quickly becomes annoying.

My biggest problem with Breach wasn’t that the destructible environments were disappointing, nor that the leveling up system became a progressively more painful grind, but the constant lag issues that I’ve had. Finding games takes a while when you must constantly refresh the server list, and then when you finally do find a game you’ll notice that everything tends to move slower than it should. There’s also the issue of constant host migrations which often cause everyone to leave the lobby in hope of a better connection. I’ve spent well over 15 minutes looking for a suitable match and connection more than once, which is something that should never happen.

The 411
Breach had a lot going for it, from the depth of leveling up, gameplay modes and destructible environments. Regrettably, the game fails on all of these levels. Leveling up is more of a chore than a rewarding experience, most of the gameplay modes are far from unique, and the destructible environments barely come into play. Combine that with a subpar presentation and severe lag issues and Breach becomes hard to defend, even as a budget title. It’s not awful, but you’re better off playing one of the other countless shooters before this one.

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Trace Aber
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