Picking up the pieces left from the announcement and subsequent dropping of its last game--Six Days in Fallujah--by Konami, North Carolina-based developer Atomic Games has thrown its talent for creating military-themed games into the recently announced Breach. Based on the clandestine and utterly deniable operations of the CIA's Special Activities Division, Breach is a download-only online multiplayer shooter for the Xbox 360 and PC that uses much of the same technology that Atomic showed off with Six Days in Fallujah.
You'll be able to choose from several classes in Breach (you can switch classes in between respawns), and each class has a different weapon and gear loadout. The gunner, for example, is equipped with a powerful and inaccurate M60 machine gun, while the recon class sacrifices raw firepower for a more accurate rifle. Of course, there are more ways to get a kill in recon than with an accurate headshot from 100 meters away. Thanks to an enhanced version of the engine that runs Six Days in Fallujah, nearly everything in Breach--from standard concrete cover to entire buildings--is entirely destructible.
"Nearly everything" means just that: you can bring down buildings on top of enemies by shooting out their support columns; you can take out the floor underneath a player and watch as he falls to the floor below him (which may or may not injure him in the process). That said, Atomic developers realized early on that when players are given the opportunity to destroy everything, they'll do just that: destroy every single thing on the map. Because of that, Atomic made the design choice to make some objects of tactical importance impervious to damage. So, while you might be able to punch holes in a building, you won't be able to take out a staircase that will lead you to the second floor and a great perch for sniping.
Breach's comprehensive destruction opens up some interesting tactical options when you're fighting for your virtual life. For example, you can shoot out an individual brick from a wall and use that small opening as a sniping window. Or you can plow through walls with abandon using a rocket launcher as you chase down an enemy operative.
Though Breach is a first-person shooter, it does have a cover system, similar to that found in Gears of War. To initiate cover, you move to a wall or obstacle and click the right stick (on the Xbox 360 controller); the camera pulls back to third-person view, and your character will take the appropriate cover position (which may differ depending on the type of object you're hiding behind as well as its particular state of degradation). From cover you can peek around corners, blind fire, and, of course, line up shots from relative safety, short-lived as that safety may be thanks to Breach's ever-present destruction.
Cover systems and rampant structural chaos aside, one other aspect of Breach's gameplay brings another element of fun: gadgets. This is the CIA we're talking about, and the gear SAD operatives roll with is the ultimate in high tech. According to producers, all of the gadgets in Breach are based on real-life equipment, and we got a chance to see a couple of examples in action. The first was a bionic ear, which amplifies and localizes sound; when it's in use, an onscreen meter will appear that will give you a visual indication of where enemies are around you, even if you can't see them. Even more useful is the sniper locator, which will help you pinpoint sniper locations from the light glares emanating off their scopes.
With eight-on-eight gameplay, Breach isn't going to compete with a game like MAG in terms of sheer numbers. Where it will compete, however, is with its pricing. This download-only game for Xbox Live and PC will come in at a low price--Atomic producers told us they are aiming for a $15 price tag (though the final price will be set by Microsoft). It's an aggressive pricing strategy that could prove successful if Breach's content does more than simply justify its budget price. We'll find out when the game is released this summer.