Breach developer Atomic specialises in realistic first-person shooters--a speciality born of its experience with creating simulation-like shooters for military types. This is the studio that would have brought us the controversial Six Days in Fallujah, before prospective publisher Konami got cold feet. In Breach, though, Atomic is preparing a download-only, multiplayer-only PC and Xbox 360 military shooter that takes place in a "standard hostile environment": a generic semi-urban setting that might be the Middle East, but might just as easily be Eastern Europe.
The deliberately generic location puts Breach in contrast with a game that would have re-created a specific battle, in a specific time and place, but it does have something in common with Six Days in Fallujah: Atomic's Hydrogen engine, which underpins the game's extensively destructible environments. Breach aims at a realistic, brick-by-brick simulation of battlefield destruction, rather than "choreographed" destruction, in which a certain kind of building is triggered to always collapse a certain way.
Against this destruction-ready backdrop Breach stages 16-player shoot-outs, across three maps, in four modes, with the points-based progression and weapon upgrades we've come to expect of a multiplayer FPS. The modes comprise Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, plus Infiltration, a capture-and-hold territories mode, and Convoy, in which one team has to attack and the other has to defend a convoy of vehicles as it makes its way to an objective point on the map. The two maps we sampled were based on uneven rocky terrain sloping down to roads with abandoned vehicles and scattered with plain one- and two-storey buildings, networked with tunnels and raised wooden walkways.
Three of the game's five classes were available to us: rifleman, support, and gunner. Sniper and recon classes will also feature in the finished game. As a rifleman, we started out with a basic assault rifle with an underslung grenade launcher. In accordance with Atomic's simulation approach, the guns felt heavy and solid, as did the player character. Similarly, it didn't take much to kill or be killed. There's an active cover system, with which you can enter into "sticky" cover and then pop over it and into iron sights. Munitions crates placed around the map give access to heavier gear, including the RPG--limited to one rocket per pickup, since it causes such massive destruction.
Though the graphics appeared workmanlike in our hands-on, the destruction element was entertaining. Single bricks can be shot out of walls, from inside or outside a building, and single floorboards out of floors. Shooting sturdier concrete walls produced clouds of dust, and taking out the wooden supports of a scaffolding-like walkway triggered a feasible plank-by-plank collapse, with the debris sliding down a steep slope into the road below. There was the odd visual glitch, and some abandoned vehicles appeared impervious, but if the wrinkles are ironed out by release, this could be a technologically advanced download-only release.
As a straight military FPS without the clout of a franchise behind it, Breach has its work cut out competing with the genre's big guns--even with its intended sub-£20 price tag. But as a showcase for Atomic's destruction engine, Breach has at least something novel to bring to the console download marketplace when it's launcheds in early 2011.