Breach and clear: Deadline is a zombie A-RPG/tactical strategy simulation from Mighty Duck Studios and Gun Media. A follow up to 2014’s Breach and Clear, Deadline offers a new setting for the franchise, with the enemy this time around being a swarm of nasty-ass zombies. The original B&C got great reviews, I haven’t played it myself, and so does the second instalment deliver? Let’s take a look.
Breach and Clear: Deadline starts with a really nice tutorial mission. It introduces all the combat aspects of the game, but isn’t overpowering as a lot of tutorials are. There is plenty of action, and lots covered. Gameplay is broken in to 2 distinct phases, free movement mode, and command mode. In free movement move it plays like a standard ARPG. You have a squad of 4 characters, and at any one point you are in direct control of 1 of them. Your other teammates will either follow, or stay put, depending on the commands you given them.
Command mode is where things get real, and the strategy aspect of the game comes into play. In strategy mode you gain control over the flow of time, and your view retracts to give a view over the entire situation. You now have unlimited time in order to plan the individual movements and actions of each squad member. Members have a stack of up to three commands, so you can move them into position, set them to use an ability, then open fire as an example. Once all your soldiers have commands you’re happy with, hold space to advance time and watch how the action unfolds. If at any point your movements aren’t working out, you can stop time and set new orders, clearing the previous queue of unexecuted commands.
The ability to switch between the two at will is great as it means the pace of gameplay is not broken. If you’re working your way up a street, and there are 3 enemies in front, you don’t have to enter combat mode to kill them. You can just continue on your way in real-time combat. When you approach an area and the game automatically kicks into command mode, that’s usually a sign that shit is about to go down, and command mode is probably where you want to be.
At the start of the game you get to create your squad, and this includes picking each member’s speciality. For example, on my squad I have a Fireteam Leader, Scout, Explosives Expert and a Medic. The makeup of your squad is important, and will determine what skills you have available. Each soldier has skills that match their class. So my Explosives Expert can lay mines, and throw satchel charges, while my scout can tag enemies. Getting the right squad makeup to match your play style can really help. Each squad member also has a skill tree with skills from each tree available. You can put skill points onto any tree you want. So if I wanted to fill out the scout skill tree on my explosives expert I could.
These skills unlock better abilities, and like standard RPG skill trees, the more you commit to a single class, the better skills you unlock. Skill points are earned by levelling up, which is a natural progression as you complete quests and kill enemies.
As a squad of 4 elite soldiers, it’s your job to stop the spread of a deadly new breed of human monsters. You travel across multiple environments, completing main and side quests, collecting gear and levelling up. It’s a very traditional RPG experience. I especially like how much control you have other your kit. For each weapon and piece of gear you can rename it, upgrade it, and add attachments to make it more powerful. This is all done back at headquarters, where you have a workbench to perform your upgrades, and a locker to store any gear you might want later.
Weapons are upgraded using scrap, which is a resource dropped by zombies. It’s essentially the currency of the game, and can also be earned by scrapping weapons and gear that you don’t want. Gear also come in a range of levels, ranging from common to, what I presume is, legendary or something akin to that. I have collected white, green and orange named weapons, with the orange weapon being worth a lot more scrap than the others.
The environment feels free and open, and you feel totally in control of what you do. There are main quests, with a linear progression, but aside from that you are free to move wherever you want, searching for loot, side quests, or just kicking zombie ass to farm scrap and upgrade your weapons. The map is big, and movement speed is slow, so there are bus terminals scattered around key locations that allow you to fast-travel. This menu is one of the ones that need immediate attention. You go from a nice looking game, to a menu that looks place-holder. One of the uglier parts of the game.
The graphics are nothing to write home about, but it’s an ARPG. You spend most of the time zoomed out, so the graphics are fit for purpose. Nothing special, but nothing particularly bad. Some of the UI could use some work, as it feels a little un-polished in places, but overall it’s nice. The music is great also. High temp tracks when you’re getting down to business get you into the mood for a fight, and compliment the combat experience well.
From what I’ve seen so far, I think B&C:D looks and plays great. The UI for the most part is nice and easy to use, some areas are shocking and need immediate work, the graphics are up to par for what you’d expect from an A-RPG, and the gameplay is lots of fun. Yet, if you head over to the steam page, it’s sitting on an underwhelming mixed review average with 66% positive reviews, and lots of that points towards bugs and issues with multiplayer. I have 6 hours in the title, and I can honestly say I haven’t run into a single significant bug. Sure, I’ve seen a few textures flicker every now and again, but that’s hardly game breaking, and happens so seldom that you could easily forget about it. Multiplayer on the other hand is a different story.
At first I simply couldn’t find a multiplayer game open to join. Not a great start. I decided to host one, and jump into the game. Your single player save works on multiplayer, you just open the lobby up to others, which is nice. I played for around half an hour, and forgot I was hosting a lobby until the game paused on me for some reason. When you play online, and the other person pauses the game, it pauses yours also! It’s horrible. The person that joined my lobby just sat paused meaning I couldn’t do anything. Sure I could have kicked him, but I want to play online with someone!
I eventually had someone join and stay, but he left pretty quickly, and that was the end of my multiplayer experience, no-one else joined. Other have reported big problems with it, and the developer has since released an update saying a reset of the servers fixed a lot of issues. I wish I could say more, but I just haven’t seen enough of it. My experience as it took a while for people to join, and when they did I just ended up sitting on a pause screen. If you’re looking to play online with friends, I’d wait until people are confirming that the multiplayer issues are sorted.
Steam reviews almost unanimously give tales of bugs and an unfinished product. I understand this regarding the multiplayer, but I’ve not encountered a single significant issue in the single player in my X hour play time. My only complaint is that the characters move too slowly. Hardly a big deal. Maybe I came in after they had been fixed, but the Steam reviews don’t reflect the experience I have had so far. I’ve really enjoyed the 6 hours I have in the game, and will be back for more. I’ll also be buying the first tile in the franchise.
Maybe I missed the launch issues and they’re now fixed, or I’m a lucky one. But Bread and Clear: Deadline to me is a fun A-RPG, which great depth of control and good gameplay. Multiplayer is currently lacking and a feels empty, so take that into consideration if you like to play online a lot. I had fun with my team and look forward to finishing it.
Tl:dr – Breach and Clear: Deadline is a fun zombie ARPG, with a great tactical combat system. Graphics and sounds help deliver a good experience, and despite current Steam reviews I found no bugs or crashes. Multiplayer is both empty and flawed at the moment, so if you’re buying it solely to play online I’d hold off until it’s definitely sorted. I’ve really enjoyed playing the game, I currently have 6 hours in the title, and will be finishing it off.
Rating – 7/10
Purchase – Steam £14.99 (£10.04 until August 3rd)