by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
How Zombies Work
Like so many games that I have written about this year, Breach & Clear: Deadline is a game with a lot of potential that shoots itself in the foot with some major shortcomings. A spin off to a more traditional modern military tactical strategy game, this sequel/spin off instead pits your squad of four deadly soldiers against a world overrun by the undead.
It’s a bit odd that the game is titled Breach & Clear, and that you are taught how to breach rooms in the tutorial mission, but then never really have to use it. I get how things like flashbangs or vocal lures make sense with our reanimated enemies, but does it really make sense that you can use suppressing fire to hold zombies at bay, or pin them down with sniper fire so they don’t move? I don’t think it does. By nature zombies are emotionless and relentless. It’s part of what makes them interesting. By making them afraid of fire, they are just people with a lot of health and no weapons. The whole game seems like it just took its solid military tactics base and replaced all the bad guys with the undead without stopping to consider which items and abilities actually made sense given the change in status quo. As it stands the premise seems a bit half committed to.
Tactics and Customization
That being said, the tactics and items that do make sense really are fun to play around with. While the game can technically be played entirely in live action, it’s clearly meant to utilize command mode, which freezes time and allows you to issue orders to your four crew members that may include movement, weapon and item usage, or ability activation. Not to be cliché, but the strategic options are very easy for those newer to tactical games to learn, but have enough to them that really mastering how to use your four unique soldiers is tough to master.
In fact, the uniqueness of your soldiers is the staple of what makes the strategy rewarding. Each soldier starts as one of six classes, and as they level up they can unlock different perks (each soldier’s class can also be changed right at the beginning when you award the first unlock point). Having my leader stand out in the open luring out zombies while my sniper picked some off, my demo man threw explosives at the bottleneck, and my scout shotgunned anyone who got to close gives you that nice sense of achievement that comes when everything comes together as you planned. Beyond choosing perks to unlock such as higher hit percentage with certain weapons, increased skill recharge, etc., you can also pick a name for each solder, choose their character model, as well as name and add attachments to all of the guns being used. It really makes the squad feel like it’s yours, which always earns points with me.
Irritations and Shortcomings
There are some little things that just don’t quite make sense that add up to be a bit grating. For example, right away in the first mission you are told to proceed through a building silently as to not attract attention. That being the case, when I come to my first door I select “Open normally” instead of an explosive breach. What does my soldier do? He kicks down the door with the might of Leonidas and sends the door flying, I kid you not, 20 feet into the room. Way to keep it quiet boss. Similarly annoying is that, for some reason, all on screen buttons prompts are set to an Xbox controller by default, which is strange given that I tried both and the game plays much, much better with a mouse and keyboard. It’s not a big deal to pop into the menus and change your input method, but it is an odd thing to have players default to.
Story and presentation in Breach & Clear: Deadline are definitely the weak points. The game environments look fine from a graphics standpoint, but they are very uninspired. You will fight through generic streets, buildings, and parks filled with the same scenery. Everything is very dark and grim, which makes sense, but I grew bored of the play areas very quickly. I would have liked to see them try some new locals to keep things fresh and exciting. Or, alternately, I might have had my attention held longer with the maps if I was given a compelling reason to be in them, but the story is one giant, generic cliché excuse to have to get into zombie skirmishes. You are a squad of skilled military members, your plane gets downed in a city, and you have got to fight zombies and find safe houses. Nothing is ever really explained, and there’s no developing narrative to speak of. I get that not every game has to tell a deep, complex story, but when you mix two of the most used genres in existence, zombies and modern military shooters, you have to give me something to make your game stand out narratively. Character animations similarly struggle, with almost all movement looking stilted and awkward, which is made worse by the semi-frequent drop in framerate to around 20 fps – not game breaking, but definitely not fun to look at.
Awesomeness buried under rubble
Despite some good tactical options and fun customization, Breach & Clear: Deadline ends up being a bit too cliché, with the zombie trope seemingly thrown in without enough thought or consideration given to how the shambling masses should act or be acted against. I haven’t played the game’s predecessor, which is a similar game pitting you against other soldiers instead of the undead, but I think I’m going to try it having done this review.
I really enjoyed the character specialization and tactical gameplay, but during most of Deadline I couldn’t help but feel that it just didn’t make much sense as a zombie game, and would be better if I was fighting other soldiers (there are humans you fight, but not comparatively often). With a story that’s not so incredibly uninspired, and some skills that make more sense against an undead foe the game would be an auto recommend. I will definitely be interested if developer Mighty Rabbit Studios chooses to make a sequel that can address my issues, but the base layer of awesome is just buried under a bit too much rubble as it currently stands.
Tactical options are fun to play around with, and there are lots of customization options.
Tactics don’t always logically blend with the nature of the enemy, and the game’s story and presentation disappoint.