Written by Tom Marks
I see a four-man squad sprint through a destroyed city street, cars overturned and craters in the road. I'm sure that any minute they'll rush to the door of a crumbling building, kick it in, and take down the terrorists inside with surgical precision. Instead, they run blindly through the hole in a nearby wall, begin wildly firing at a horde zombies, and throw my expectations back out on the street.
Breach & Clear: Deadline is the sequel to Breach & Clear, a turn-based shooter that felt like a top-down Rainbow Six, but it's not even close to the same experience. Deadline abandons turn-based play in favor of a real-time twin-stick shooter setup, with you controlling one member of your squad while the AI drives the other three. It borrows the structure of Diablo 3—having you explore pre-made overworlds before descending into procedurally generated “dungeons,” random loot drops, and NPCs sending you on quests—and strips out the terrorists for that horse we've all taken a turn beating: the undead.
Ronnie Hobbs, a producer at publisher Gun, told me that that the defining thought behind Deadline is that it “always has to be a Breach & Clear Game,” which he partly defined by their almost Arma-like level of dedication to realistic weapons and equipment. Based on the hands-off demo I saw, however, Deadline completely forgets what the experience of the original played like; spec-ops kicking in doors and clearing out room full of terrorists with a heavy emphasis on the planning phase. The switch from surprising terrorists to clearing away zombies—already a jarring addition to a series proud of its realism—has forced developer Mighty Rabbit Studios to push the game's pace to be much faster and less strategic than its predecessor.
The decision to leave a realistic setting seems like an odd one, but Hobbs assures me that “our fans, believe it or not, were asking for zombies,” emphasizing that fan suggestions are going to be important to Deadline's early-access development. So when I asked if they would add laser guns if the fans called out for them, I was surprised to hear his answer was no. “We can't do that, obviously, because then it wouldn't be a Breach & Clear game,” Hobbs said, but the inconsistencies in what falls under that label left me wondering what it is that makes up the core of a “Breach & Clear” game.
Deadline showed me a detailed and lush post-apocalyptic world that I could shoot my way through, but it's not anything I haven't seen before. While the original Breach & Clear was a unique experience, even on the PC, I'm worried that Deadline will be lost in the sea of top-down shooters and strategy games Steam already has to offer. I can't point to another game that was quite like Breach & Clear, but I can point to a dozen like Deadline. Still, fans of games like Alien Swarm could find familiar comfort in Deadline, but anyone hoping for an improved version of the first Breach & Clear built especially for PC, as I was, will leave disappointed.
Breach & Clear: Deadline will launch on Steam Early Access this fall .