Hands-on: Breach (XBLA)

Breach wants to go after Battlefield 1943. Atomic Games president Peter Tamte summed up DICE's digitally distributed title as a "stripped down version of a retail game," and believes that Breach can outdo last year's surprise XBLA hit with its accessibility and sandbox-style destructibility.

Atomic hopes to have the game on XBLA this summer with a price of $15. Focusing on eight-on-eight multiplayer with combative and objective-based game modes, the game heavily emphasizes utilizing cover ... and blowing stuff up.
There are a total of five different classes, though only three were available during my demo: Rifleman, Gunner and Recon. The Rifleman sported a M16 and was a good balance between brute force and agility, while the Gunner had a light machine gun for the "spray and pray" crowd. Finally, Recon sported a scoped weapon, the perfect option for the anti-social killer who likes to keep a distance -- though Atomic really emphasized getting in the mix and utilizing Breach's cover system.

The cover system itself felt functional, if rudimentary and a little robotic. Once propped against a piece of cover, the camera jumps out to a third-person view, permitting blind fire and the ability to lean out and aim. The complicated controls made using this feature cumbersome but it still has time to streamline the input needed to lean out of cover and aim properly.

Otherwise, the game's setup should be familiar to the Call of Duty crowd. Left trigger aims down the sight and clicking the left stick in lets you sprint. The D-pad is utilized often and switches between weapons, as well as firing modes for those weapons. (It's akin to turning the M16's grenade launcher on.) In the heat of battle, quickly and effectively augmenting your loadout and approach to the current predicament is paramount, so the time it takes to scroll through things here quickly became a nuisance.

In the end, the explosives are king, so just leave your weapon on something that can blow junk up. Thanks to the seemingly limitless amount of destruction you can wreak, there's hardly a need for regular ol' bullets -- especially when explosives get the job done in a far more satisfying fashion. I was able to blow up a wall to kill an enemy walking by. I saw a sticky bomb placed on the floor below another enemy, and took him (and most of his shack he was hiding in) with him. I blew up the stilts on a hillside shack and watched it crumble down the hill in a very realistic and dynamic way. Breach succeeds in such a wonderful way through these moments of destruction.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of destruction and by how much it could affect the course of the game. A great example of the game's potential: Peter Tamte showed me how a sniper could take out a single brick in a house and used it as a prime spot for assassinating enemies. Even at this early stage of development, the spontaneity of destruction makes Breach stand out. With a few tweaks to the game's graphics and controls, Atomic can get closer to its goal of besting Battlefield 1943 as an elaborate downloadable shooter.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.