With its Iraq War shooter Six Days In Fallujah still in publishing limbo, developer Atomic Games is working on a new plan of attack with its new multiplayer shooter Breach, a game that's about finding a new angle on warfare.
Breach's most talked about feature during our hands-on time with the Xbox Live Arcade and PC first-person shooter was its take on destructive environments, which Atomic Games president Peter Tamte calls "Destruction 3.0".
How did the developer of Breach arrive at that third generation version of blowing shit up? Tamte calls the destructive capabilities in Breach a generation beyond what we've seen in games like Battlefield: Bad Company and Red Faction Guerrilla. Breach offers a chance to take apart buildings brick by brick; to blow out roofs and floors; to topple buildings by taking out their foundations; and to kill enemies on the battlefield by crushing them with crumbling buildings.
The makers of Breach are also touting its buzzword-worthy "Active Cover System", which brings the popular third-person shooter mechanic into the first person. Active Cover lets players hide behind structures, vehicles, Jersey barriers, wherever cover can be found, offering a safer spot to blind fire, lean around corners or just take a breather from the action. The most impressive feature here is that it just works, a quick pop-in, pop-out with a click of the right analogue stick, the right amount of cover "stickiness" to alleviate common cover frustrations.
While the Active Cover mechanic adds an interesting facet to the multiplayer mechanics of Breach, it's the environmental destruction that will likely steal the show. During our hands-on time against a group of Atomic Games developers, we set up breaching charges that blew big holes in walls to make new doorways, then chipped away at bricks and planks bullet by bullet to open up new firing vantage points. Later, I had to quickly find new cover when a 50-calibre mounted gun picked apart the stacked sandbags I was hiding behind. And one lucky toss of a grenade blew apart a wooden bridge, cutting off a pathway between a mob of enemy players and my squad.
The greatest example was when the rocket propelled grenade I launched at the underside of a cabin tore the whole thing apart, the falling debris crushing an opponent at the base of a hill.
Also cool was the fact that Active Cover and the dynamic destruction of Breach worked well together. After punching big holes in walls, the cover system recognised the newly formed boundaries of the those improvised entryways.
Breach's suite of classes, weapons and gadgets that players can equip are based on those of the CIA's "secret army", the Special Activities Division. The classes that players will be able to select from may feel familiar - the general purpose Rifleman, the long range skilled Sniper, the heavy machine gun wielding Gunner, plus two more - as may the unlockable "battlefield perks" and Death Streak bonuses.
More interesting were the gadgets that players can equip. The first that we tried out was the Bionic Ear, which detects the sound of enemy gunfire and footsteps, displaying that sound as a visual pulse at the bottom of the screen. Equally useful were the Sniper Detector, which highlights the glint of a sniper's scope in the distance, and the Slam Charge, a claymore-like mine that acts as a fantastic and deadly support unit for snipers. There are a dozen of these gadgets in Breach, all based on real-world technology.
Atomic Games' Peter Tamte says the developer is trying to "disrupt" the tradition of games released as full-priced $US60 sequels with its Xbox Live Arcade multiplayer shooter - the game is aiming for a $US15 price point - an effort that looks to capitalise on the success of more compact experiences like EA's Battlefield 1943. Breach's combination of gadgets, destructive tech and solid shooting mechanics made for a multiplayer experience that was instantly addictive, so Atomic may have a shot at delivering a new way for first-person shooter fans to get their thrills this summer.
While Atomic polishes Breach and we wait, here's a batch of new screens from the XBLA and PC shooter.