The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Firaxis Games' XCOM: Enemy Unknown proved that there's still
a hungry audience for tactical strategy games, even on mobile platforms. Breach
& Clear hopes to reach an even larger audience by marrying the popular formula
with a military theme, but while the moment-to-moment action is entertaining,
the limited offerings don't provide enough content for extended play.
Breach & Clear tasks players with creating a four-man
squad of elite soldiers to take on an unnamed terrorist threat in different
areas of the world. You can choose between several military branches, such as
Navy SEALs and Army Rangers, each of which offers different starting stats. Individual missions play out similarly to XCOM
but with a few key differences – the most important of which are the fact that
the player and enemy make their moves at the same time, and firing takes place
automatically. This means you won't be mulling over aim percentages or when to
switch up weapons. Instead, you simply plot out the routes of your soldiers and
which direction they should face, while occasionally performing a special
ability or using items like frag grenades and flashbangs. The abbreviated
decision-making keeps battles moving at a quicker pace, but also limits the
importance strategy plays. The lack of permadeath means there are no
consequences to throwing caution to the wind other than having to possibly
restart a minutes-long mission, which let me to adopt a riskier approach to
combat than slower strategy games.
The simplicity of Breach & Clear's engagements makes
open-area maps less interesting, as they often boil down to maneuvering behind
cover and hoping that your soldiers' accuracy, reaction, and evasion stats are
better than the enemy's. Close-quarter maps, like the claustrophobic corridors
of a Chinese freight ship or the narrow alleyways of a Turkish bazaar, are far
more engaging. These situations give you a greater sense of control due to the increased
importance of placement and timing, and abundant flanking opportunities. I enjoyed
these missions the most, even if I never ran into a scenario that couldn't be
solved by shooting around a corner or doorway and chucking a few grenades to
clear out entrenched enemies.
Breach & Clear's paltry perk system did little to change
up my tactics. Players choose from six classes when forming their four-man
squad, but you can't trade out soldiers after creation, so two of the classes
go unused unless you start over with another squad. Ultimately, it doesn't make
much difference. Each soldier unlocks five unique perks, but leveling up
becomes painfully slow around level 15, and all the useful perks are at the end
of the linear progression. Don't bother choosing a medic – since death and
injuries don't carry over between missions, there's no point in patching up
soldiers on the field.
Missions are downright boring on easier difficulty levels,
but the standard, advanced, and expert levels offer more excitement. The
increased number of enemies requires more thoughtful planning, and seeing a
score of enemies pop up when entering a new room leaves you scrambling to adapt
on the subsequent turn. Unfortunately, these difficulty levels are unlocked by
the star ratings you earn, and completing a mission on a harder difficulty
doesn't automatically earn you the stars of easier levels should you skip them.
This means you'll be playing each map up to five times just to get the full challenge.
The fact that I enjoyed the basic gameplay enough to continue on speaks Breach &
Clear's replayability, but I would've rather skipped straight to the harder
levels, and the game desperately needs some different objectives.
Breach & Clear's foundation is solid, but at this point
that's all there is; the "coming soon" features list is longer than the list of
what's actually in the game. The game lacks a single-player campaign (or story
of any kind), a multiplayer mode, and two of the three mission types (bomb
defusal and hostage rescue) haven't been implemented yet. This leaves terrorist
hunt as the only option, which is a simple shoot-all-the-bad-guys mode played
out over disconnected maps. Your only weapon choice at this juncture is assault
rifles (shotguns and SMGs are planned), and the game lacks a replay feature. If
one of your soldiers is gunned down while off-screen, you have no way of
knowing what happened to him. All of these missing features make me more
interested in what the game might become than what it currently is.
One thing that did make it into the release is the in-game
store, which should come as no surprise to seasoned mobile gamers. Breach &
Clear charges in-game currency (that can of course be bought in bulk with real
money) for new weapons, weapon attachments, gear (which is currently limited to
helmets and camouflage patterns), and even one-time-use consumables. That last
one isn't as bad as it sounds – you only need to buy grenades, which are dirt
cheap. The weapons and attachments are expensive and largely inconsequential, and
everything has a downside. Sure, you could save up for hours to buy a gun that
offers +15 accuracy at the expense of -15 mobility, or you could just buy a ton
of grenades and call it a day.
Breach & Clear's monetization scheme doesn't interfere
with the gameplay, and although strategy plays less of a role than I would
like, combat is still fun. However, the progression system and customization
options fall flat, and the game needs more than one simple mode and 15 maps to
remain entertaining. Mighty Rabbit has plenty of content planned for the future
(most of which will be free), but at this point there's not much to keep
strategy fans coming back after the first few hours.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.