Waiting For Reinforcements - Breach & Clear - iOS - www.GameInformer.com
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Breach & Clear

Waiting For Reinforcements

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.

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