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Breach and Clear: Deadline brings tactical thinking to zombie slaughter

S. Prell, @SamPrell

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A zombie apocalypse is no excuse for sloppy tactics. That's the thinking behind Breach and Clear: Deadline, an undead twist on the top-down strategy genre and offshoot of the iOS/Android game Breach and Clear.

In Deadline, ransacked interiors and mangled streets are home to various forms of infected; parasitic worms capable of "hyper-evolution" have invaded the soft, squishy bodies of the former humans that once lived here.

Okay, so they're not technically undead zombies, but the upside is that Mighty Rabbit is using the hyper-evolving worms as justification for a new campaign, a wide variety of enemies and a fresh gameplay experience.

Gallery: Breach & Clear: Deadline | 5 Photos

Deadline is distancing itself from its predecessor in terms of tone and content, but ideally, not in feel. The original game was praised for the way it rewarded planning and careful execution of those plans as opposed to running and gunning. This is something developer Mighty Rabbit Studios hopes to keep.

Enter the Breeder: a bigger, nastier foe than the standard, shuffling zombie or gun-brandishing human. The Breeder, I was told, lays worms into the corpses of fallen enemies, reviving them as zombies. Along with giving players a priority target to aim their weapons at, the Breeder also challenges players to think before firing – if it's killed with anything other than fire, it will explode and send worms in all directions, potentially creating a new wave of zombies to deal with.

Deadline trades the armed gunmen of the original Breach and Clear for mutated monstrosities, but it also adds something for those who appreciate a more action-oriented experience: real-time controls. I was told that players will be able to switch between turn-based and real-time action, with the former allowing players to queue up three actions and the latter playing similar to a twin-stick shooter.

While I was told that the team is designing levels so that either option is viable, it's likely that the turn-based controls will be the most helpful in a fight. Enemies are more vulnerable from the rear, and while non-player-controlled squad members will still fire at the most prominent threat in their field of vision, movement is limited. In other words, if you want a zombie flanked right, flank them yourself.

Squad members may also possess different abilities, as there are currently six classes to choose from: Medic, Intelligence Officer, Weapons Sergeant, Fireteam Leader, Explosives Expert and Scout. Each class features a skill tree to boost their fighting prowess and role within the squad. Scouts, for example, become faster and more agile than their peers, but they can't hit as hard. This makes them good for quick in-and-out battles or for picking off stragglers, but they'll suffer in a prolonged fight.

I was repeatedly told that much of the feel of the game is in flux, as Deadline has hit Early Access and Mighty Rabbit is currently analyzing player behavior while asking for feedback. Features such as multiplayer and a challenge mode are on the table, and the length of the game's campaign is subject to change. What we see today may not be what we see by release, but the gameplay has a solid foundation from which to build.

Given its more methodical approach to the zombie apocalypse, Deadline has the potential to stand apart from the hordes. Mighty Rabbit and publisher Devolver Digital are aiming for a full release on March 20.
[Images: Devolver Digital]

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