Breach & Clear plays like a cross between XCOM and Commandos. As such it offers a tactically vast and interesting strategy experience that relies on your team using their expertise to survive against heavy odds. It’s a difficult challenge to begin with, but once you master the mechanics it becomes a highly satisfying experience.
You take control of a team of four elite soldiers, each with a specific role within the team, such as demolitions and heavy weapons. To match their specialty, each soldier has an ability to aid their team in combat. The demolitions expert can throw an explosive charge, the heavy weapons specialist can supress the enemy with a hail of bullets, the medic can stabilise fallen team mates, and the team leader can target enemies increasing the damage they take. Using your team’s abilities and taking advantage of the environment is the key to winning each battle, with cover and environmental hazards playing a big part in your success or failure.
Primarily you’ll be facing off against the undead. A mysterious infection has turned the majority of the local population into zombies and you and your team are stuck in the middle trying to survive and escape the area of operation. The zombie horde consists of your standard shambling flesh eaters and a selection of special infected with unique abilities, meanwhile, in line with zombie apocalypse tradition, there’s also human foes looking to loot and kill indiscriminately.
Facing off against the undead is a test of endurance. Zombies come at your team in waves and mean to overwhelmed you. Human foes are less numerous but their ability to shoot back makes them a far deadlier foe. Shifting your tactics to best deal with each is a crucial skill, meanwhile, facing off against both at the same time provides opportunities to pit the two sides against in each other.
However, Breach & Clear: Deadline isn’t about just moving from mission to mission facing off against the horde and the looters, instead you’re free to roam around the areas with little restriction, completing side mission and the primary missions at your leisure. This gives it an RPG feel, further enhanced by upgrade trees and experience points for your individual soldiers and copious amounts of loot to equip your team with better armour and weapons, as well as scrap to turn into ammunition.
It’s a great setup that helps provide some variety to what is otherwise a fairly predictable and samey set of missions. Additionally, the ability to roam freely and switch between the tactical command mode allows you to approach combat in multiple different ways.
Whilst roaming the dilapidated streets, woodland, coast, buildings, caves and sewers of the local area, Breach and Clear: Deadline plays like a twin-stick shooter. You can switch control to any of your team and move and shoot around your environment, with your team following and shooting at any nearby threat. The friendly AI does a fair job of path finding, although they occasionally get trapped in doorways or behind cover, but for the most part they shoot at threats swiftly and avoid becoming a hindrance. If you prefer a stealthier approach you can have your team stay in one place as you move alone.
When you come across a large group of foes or entrenched looters, the strategic command mode kicks in, pausing the action and allowing you to plan out your attack by stacking orders for your soldiers. Holding the right trigger starts the action, meanwhile, releasing it pauses it again, allowing you to make changes to your attack plans without the action overwhelming you. It’s a great system and one that can be activated and deactivated at will. Sometimes taking control of a soldier directly with the twin-stick mode is a better option than any tactic planned out in the strategic mode, so being able to switch between them at will is terrific.
However, this is where the friendly AI shows its limitations. In strategic mode your soldiers become mindless. If you order one of them to stand in the middle of the battlefield, they’ll stand their getting shot or eaten until they fall. Occasionally they’ll show some freewill and fight back, but other times, especially if flanked or attacked from behind, they won’t react at all. It’s a trade-off that makes sense however. Having your soldiers follow your order so precisely means you have ultimate control in this mode, so your grand plans are never compromised, but it leads to failure more often than victory if you aren’t paying attention.
Unfortunately, we ran into a few bugs during our time with Breach & Clear: Deadline. Some side missions wouldn’t complete, and we were able to leave an area during a battle which then prevented us from being able to progress, requiring a restart. We also suffered a few hard crashes, forcing us back to the dashboard, as well as many achievements not popping despite being achieved. However, Mighty Rabbit Studios have told us that patches are on the way and many of these issues will hopefully be quelled soon enough.
Breach & Clear: Deadline does a great job of tactical variety thanks to the two engagement modes of twin-stick and strategic command, a wealth of items and abilities to unleash, new weapons and equipment you can find, the upgrade trees for each soldier, and the zombies, special infected and human foes. Furthermore, the procedurally generated dungeons of buildings, caves and sewers provides an enjoyable challenge for those brave enough to face it. However, the environments are limited and samey, and the story takes a back seat to the action, hurting the drive to see it through. Additionally, long load times moving between areas and after death is frustrating.
Thanks to Xbox and Mighty Rabbit Studio for supporting TiX