Genre: First Person Shooter Developer: Publisher: Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 27th Jan 2011 Platforms:
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Curse you Breach. Curse your black lying heart. I wanted to like you. Heck, I wanted to love you. On paper you sound like a dream come true. A first-person online-only shooter with five upgradeable classes, modern day real-life gadgetry at your disposal and physics based
destructible environments sounds like the business, doesn't it? Add a few unique play modes and an intuitive snap-to cover system and a hungry Indy developer - Atomic Games - at the helm, and I have to admit... I rode the hype train. Rode it all the way to the bottom of Eastwood Gorge in Back to the Future III, that is. How could something with such a whiff of promise come up smelling like such a turd?
For a online shooter, the amount of lag, other latency issues and difficultly merely joining a match in progress is beyond a joke. Playing on Xbox Live Arcade I'm always inclined to give a certain amount of leeway for connection issues - especially if there's no direct 'matchmake based on region' option. Throughout the course of a week or so, I tried countless times to jump into a Quick Match. Sounds simple enough on paper, doesn't it? In reality I'd get kicked, it would flat out refuse to connect, or I'd arrive to a host migration screen, that more often than not, would boot me back to the main menu. Not the most auspicious of beginnings. Considering the dedicated servers that PC gamers have access to this was an extreme disappointment, and it was only the beginning. (Ed - Having played the game on the PC, I can confirm that the situation isn't a whole lot better.)
The lag issues followed me through almost every single match, in every single mode. With no way to choose a server or check players' ping, you are forced to just cross your fingers and hope for the best. Some of the worst cases had me moving at a single frame every ten to fifteen seconds for over a minute at a time, making any sort of gameplay a moot point. It was some of the worst latency I've
experienced online, and I've invested over 500 hours into Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops - both on console - in the last few months alone! When it did stop crapping itself the connection issues remained apparent with most weapons - barring a sniper rifle at a distance or a shotgun at point blank - having very little effect, and even these worked spottily at best.
There's just so many things not thought through. Take the leveling up system, where you get allocated XP for kills and team based actions per class. You can only upgrade weapons or purchase new items by backing out to the main menu. What if by some freak miracle you get on a roll and don't want to abandon your team? Why not get access between rounds?
While we're talking upgrades, where most other online shooters literally throw XP at you encouraging you to level up and taste everything their multiplayer has to offer, Breach is more miserly than Ebeneezer come December 24, doling out a pittance of XP for kills - offering a paltry 5XP fro a standard kill. Considering that the very first weapon you unlock in any class will cost a minimum of 500XP, Atomic Games is kidding themselves if it believes players will invest dozens of hours to maybe get a single new addition to their arsenal -
assuming they're lucky and it doesn't lag out.
When I wasn't watching a slideshow there were a few brief glimpses of hope. The physics based destruction - one of the primary draw-cards - seemed hit and miss, with some exploded bridges leaving single planks miraculously hovering mid-air... not really reflecting what I'd seen in development videos and developer diaries. When it did work though, it was glorious, especially when bringing an entire building down on top of some camping gunner. The snap to cover seemed janky as well, though I will give points for effort (and take back half for final execution).The real world gadgets such as motion detectors and sonic imaging devices required far too many hours of play to access, and with the aforementioned connection issues were not even worth unlocking for the most part. When I did manage to join a playable round, one of the unique game modes - called Convoy - was where I spent most of my time.
The concept is simple enough. One team follows a convoy down a specific route, the other tries to kablammo it. There are certain roadblocks along the way that must be cleared with charges (found in the lead truck), and if any truck in the convoy takes too much damage, it must be repaired. It also doesn't move forward unless a team member is alongside or inside manning a turret, which is a neat condition, clearly inspired by the likes of Team Fortress 2.
To encourage players to take the risk of riding shotgun, you acquire a temporary damage resistant boost when in close proximity - to stop enemy snipers kill-farming. But this mode and the map design in general are not without issues. Most maps set you up in choke points that are a camper's bottle-necked kill-fest, and coupled with uninspired map design that has you respawning near enemies with only one way forward and a cover-less cave behind you leaves a lot to be desired. I was expecting a damn sight more from Breach and was pretty much let down across the board.
Breach is barely worth the effort, a plodding experience that sucks you dry of your time offering very little long term reward and a minuscule amount of instant gratification. Almost every other online shooter has what Breach offers, does it better and without immersion destroying and debilitating lag. Do yourself a favour and skip it, believe me, you'll thank me.