UPDATE: Breach technically has five different maps, though one of said maps is a nighttime variant of another map. The review has been updated to clarify this.
Have you ever wondered what Modern Warfare would be like if Treyarch developed it...10 years ago? Worry no longer; Atomic Games’ Breach realizes that hypothetical with what is best described as "Call of Duty meets Darkest of Days."
Breach is a strictly online affair. Atomic Games did not see fit to include even the half-baked bots found in similar titles such as Blacklight: Tango Down. That means that, like said games, in a month or two when everyone stops playing, your $15 purchase will be completely useless. There is also no split-screen support for those who still prefer to go the Goldeneye route with a room-full of friends.
Breach features four maps (as well as a nighttime variant of a pre-existing map) shared across five different modes: Team Deathmatch, Infiltration (conquest), Convoy (escort), Sole Survivor (OLTL), and Retrieval (CTF). Hardcore variants are also available, but when your game has less maps than modes, you’re already off to a poor start. The maps are sizable, supporting up to 16 players at a time, and are reasonably well-designed, but they will get repetitive very quickly.
Breach’s key gimmick is its destructible environments, but anyone who played 2009’s Red Faction: Guerrilla (or even the original Red Faction from 2001) will not be impressed. Atomic has promised that the destruction would play an integral role in creating dynamic gunfights, allowing players to pop a brick out of a wall and use it as a sniping position, or to destroy the pillars of a building in an attempt to bring it down on top of the enemy team. You can collapse a few bridges/huts and blow holes in certain walls, but unfortunately the destructible environments rarely have a meaningful impact on the gameplay, and the pyrotechnics look somewhat dated.
The other gimmick is the cover system, which allows players to pop in and out of cover from behind certain objects. While in cover, the camera will switch to a third-person viewpoint a la Rainbow Six: Vegas, and taking suppression fire will cause the screen to shake erratically, reducing accuracy. The effective use of suppression is probably Breach’s sole worthwhile contribution to the FPS genre, even though I rarely encountered it myself.
Like every other game released after Modern Warfare, Breach includes a leveling system and customizable classes with unlockable perks and gadgets. You’ll have to put in your time before you can start unlocking anything, though. XP is gained by scoring kills and completing objectives, but most players will likely quit and return to Call of Duty before even reaching their first promotion. The pre-emptive exodus is not only likely due to the less rewarding unlock system than the one seen in games its trying to imitate, but also a number of fairly substantial technical flaws. Random glitches such as ghost players and questionable physics start the party off, but lag and the easily the worst grenade mechanic in any FPS ever make things that much worse. Also, every time I get a kill the game freezes for a whole second, which is frustrating to say the least, especially when another enemy is right around the corner.
Although Breach sounds like an incredibly exciting game on paper, its execution comes up short. The online-only content is very limited, and the action pales in comparison to pretty anything Infinity Ward has ever created. With so many superior alternatives, this kind of lackluster experience has no place in the modern market.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]