Atomic Games first came to my attention when an open letter from Atomic’s current president Peter Tamte, former executive vice president of Bungie Studios, was posted on Kotatku calling out Activision’s President Bobby Kotick for a comment that was said during the 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference. Mr. Kotick is quoted saying “Bungie are a very unusual company. They’re probably the last remaining high quality independent developer.” The response from Tamte was, “If this is true, you’re screwed.” He said that simply because small independent studios like Atomic Games are what large third-party developers eat for breakfast in order for their games to be a little more regularly timed. Tamte challenged Kotick to produce just the multi-player section of Call of Duty: Black Ops and place it for sale by consumers. Perhaps Tamte wanted Activision to provide direct one to one comparison of a solely multi-player based game such as Breach, which is made by an independent developer who doesn’t have large amounts of cash to throw into making a game.
To ease into introducing exactly what Breach is comprised of, it is necessary to take a step back and look at Atomic Games as a whole. For over two decades, Atomic has been creating military based games Their most notable history came in 2003 when their title Close Combat Marine became the first commercial game to be Incorporated into the training of US Marines. In 2005, the investment firm of the CIA invested in Atomic Games. Needless to say, besides creating military games for public enjoyment, Atomic has been creating simulations for actual military use. However, one key distinction Tamte makes, is that they “…don’t make simulations for the public and [they] don’t make games for the government. “ To drive a point about Breach, it is a militaristic based game for consumers, but contains real world elements without completely being a military simulation.
By using technology originally invented for their title Six Days In Fallujah, which was pulled by Konami after strong objections to the sensitive nature of the content, Atomic was able to create a game more accessible and affordable to gamers. A key point to this seems to be that it is a multi-player only game, much like what Peter Tamte challenged Activision to make. A simple download on Xbox Live or PC is easy enough to do and, weighing in at a price of 1200 MSP for XBLA or $19.99 for PC, it seems to fit the bill. However, to call Breach a simple arcade game would be a drastic understatement. It instead does its best to show a realistic approach to a warfare game through the use of real weapons, real gadgets, destroyable active cover, and the fact that dying is just a very easy thing to do.
Visually speaking about Breach is difficult to do. The comparison of Breach to Battlefield: 1943 comes to mind. Simple character models, trucks, buildings and etc are found everywhere. While not stunning, do not detract from Breach’s sleek look. The maps themselves appear shoddy at points, though are very expansive for this title. At certain points, after running through an area and coming to a rest there seems to be a shift or lag in the surroundings whilst the game’s focus settles. Not being prone to motion sickness, it was a surprise to feel some sickness from the visual effect. This distortion is soon forgotten once commencing game-play and is easily forgivable as it may simply be the result of overwhelming texture and details.
Game-play itself is partially unique to the first person shooting world. Currently dominated by large titles such as Call of Duty, Halo or Battlefield 2; Breach breaks the format of running and gunning by introducing active cover once found only in third person shooter titles such as Gears of War or Wanted: Weapons of Fate. Forcing players to use cover is another thing but, while playing during review sessions, it was by a random developer that once people worked out how to use it the flow of game-play would shift drastically. This was evident though personal acclimation to the cover system and through observation as the week spent playing Breach progressed.
When Atomic combined their Hydrogen engine with Nividia PhysX (easily identifiable as a physics engine), they created an interesting system. Those lovely little boxes, bridges, buildings, windows, rocks, wall and everything else that can be use as cover can also be destroyed. That is right, simply detonate floors away from enemy snipers or deny sandbags from being used as cover. RPGs, grenades and other explosives will blow away bridges and walls leaving gaping holes where once a window used to be. This is what Breach is all about, taking cover and taking cover away. It is easy to see why they chose PhysX as handling little bits and pieces of everything flying everywhere cannot be an easy thing to handle. Of course, any system can be flawed and occasionally a bit of wall, rock, or sandbag will be left floating in air. Sometimes these pieces or even just normal pieces will cause you to be stuck and force you to move around them. Digressing, though, little glitches happen even in AAA titles and game-play does not seem to be adversely affected once you get the hang of maneuvering around correctly.
As if that were not enough, Atomic has added in weapons never seen in games before, perks mostly based on real world expertise and, gadgets used in real military operations. A word of advice is to quickly gain enough credits to spend on DragonSkin armor. Everyone seems to have it and without it you are left very vulnerable. Though if the DragonSkin armor works in real life as it does in Breach, every individual serving in our military should be outfitted with it. Progression in leveling is slow, xp is mainly earned by scoring kills though capturing points and performing other objectives will earn xp as well. Experience points are tallied both in a total amount and also per load-out you are using. Earn enough in one load-out and you earn the next weapon available. It is slightly disappointing that these load-outs cannot be changed while between matches but requires the player to back out to the main menu.
Matches are sorted into a few different modes, straying very slightly from modes seen before in other games. There is team death-match which is completely self explanatory, sole survivor aka no re-spawns, retrieval or one flag ctf, infiltration aka territories, and convoy. The only slightly unique game mode is Convoy. In convoy, one team escorts a two vehicle convoy (mounted with a turret and grenade launcher respectively), occasionally taking out barricades. The opposing team simply has to keep the convoy from advancing within the time frame. The only thing that is remotely close to this game mode that I can think of is payload in Team Fortress 2. The only thing Team Fortress 2 is missing is the fact that in Breach, the payload has weapons mounted directly onto it. For those that would like their matches to be even more realistic, each match can be set to hardcore and friendly fire. While friendly fire of course allows team killing, hardcore mode will turn off your hud and having both puts the player one step closer to reality.
Well all said in done, Breach simply packs itself full of quality maps, weapons, perks, gadgets and game-types, but still manages to be small to be called a Xbox Live Arcade game. Make no mistake here, this is no arcade game. For those out there disappointed in the lack of a single player game with no story line, just remember that there are full AAA titles out there that have done the same thing. It may take some time to get used to how this game is supposed to be played, but with a little effort and patience, great enjoyment is to be found. Still not convinced? The demo is available via the Xbox Live Marketplace.