Breachshot006_300dpi In a video game world recently dominated by first-person shooter sales last year, it is pretty easy for the smaller titles to get overlooked and not get the attention they deserve. This is especially true for FPS titles, much less titles in a majority of the other genres. Atomic Games, a developer pioneering in military action games, has brought the multiplayer-only title Breach to the Xbox Live marketplace and Windows PC in an attempt to compete with the larger retail games.

On the surface, Breach appears to be just another FPS clone with classes, weapon unlocks, perks, gadgets, and a few game types. While the game does have these, it also has a cover system, set in a third-person view that gives you extra protection from bullet damage. The only drawback to this cover mechanic is the fact that you can’t get a look at what is behind you. You can pan side to side, but not being able to get a full 360 view of your surroundings leaves a pretty big blind spot that can leave you vulnerable if you’re not aware of your surroundings. For the most part, I didn’t have any major issues utilizing cover, and I was actually excited to have the feature in the game. There are plenty of cover points scattered throughout each of the maps, and I was a little disappointed when I couldn’t duck in cover in certain spots, like behind vehicles and against a few of the guard rails. The actual mechanic can be a little finicky, and can make a difference in a firefight if you don’t line yourself up correctly against certain cover points. I found myself thinking I was about to jump into cover by clicking the right analog stick, only to be still standing and hit by bullets leading to another kill by the enemy.

Breach_sonic-imager04 The other problem I ran into was with the throwing. I wanted to throw some smoke or a sticky grenade, but I couldn’t figure out which button was supposed to do this. The in-game control help menu shows the right bumper as quickfire, and this is fine and works well when in cover. What took me some time to figure out was that the right bumper also throws the grenades. The majority of the time, I didn’t even know a grenade was being thrown, until a few seconds later an explosion went off with no enemies around. Once I figured out that the grenade throwing didn’t work too well, I began to only utilize them when I had the time to press the bumper several times and hope one of the presses would actually throw one.

When the grenades worked, it was nice to take advantage of the destructible environments and hidden passages that could create new ways to maneuver around the maps. At various places around the map and buildings, you can blast a hole in the wall and have a new way to sneak up on enemies or post up and snipe enemies without their knowledge. Breach_Mar26_5 I tried a few times to take advantage of the destructible objects, but could never actually get a kill using the technique. With a combination of good timing and practice, I’m sure after a few more hours of gaming, I’m sure I’ll get better at it, but right from the start, it doesn’t feel easily accomplished.

The gameplay feels generally slower paced than a retail multiplayer game, as well as feeling a little easier because of it. Even while sprinting, it still felt like a light jog and I never really felt a sense of urgency that the bigger retail releases offer. This might turn off fans of the bigger FPS games, but for me I actually liked it better. The other players in the public matches appeared to be playing the title like any other FPS, and this is unfortunate as they never really took advantage of neither the cover nor the destructible environments. When asking teammates about these features, most didn’t even know about them or acknowledged they were there, but said they felt they wouldn’t make a difference. For me, I can tell you I performed better when using the cover, and enjoyed it more than most of the current FPS multiplayer experiences out there.

Breachshot004_300dpi The graphics and sound feel like they belong to a budget title, and I wonder why they look the way they do, given the fact that the game was a pretty hefty 1.2 GB download on the Xbox Live marketplace. I’ve seen better looking smaller titles, and definitely noticed a big difference between this game and the bigger retail releases’ multiplayer. Now, of course graphics and sound don’t make a game, but with the spotty controls and hit or miss mechanics, I have to wonder how good the game could have been if it had been delayed just a little while longer.

Overall, despite the shortcomings, I have to give Atomic Games credit for the attempt they made at making a unique first-person shooter. I still had a lot of fun playing the title, and hope to see the bugs fixed in a future update. For the achievement hunters out there, the 200/200 is very attainable with XP milestones and simple 100 kill requirements for each class. If you give the game a try, at least experiment with the cover mechanic and destructible environments, or you’ll be missing out on the complete package the game offers.

Title : Breach
Format : XBLA (also on PC)
Developer : Atomic Games
Publisher : Atomic Games
Release Date : 01/26/11

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

*Atomic Games provided with a promo code for a review copy.