Also On: iOS
Publisher: Gun Media Holdings
Developer: Gun Media Holdings
I have a bit of a chicken-egg dilemma when it comes to Breach & Clear: did the fact it's a mediocre, repetitive game make me more likely to notice that its politics are kind of appalling, or did its appalling politics make me take a dimmer view of its gameplay?
I'm inclined to think it's the former. After all, as horrible as the game's politics may be, I can think of plenty of times where amazing gameplay has trumped questionable ideology for me. God of War, Uncharted, even Reel Fishing: if I really think about what's going on in those games, I realize they go against a lot of what I stand for…yet at the same time, I'm too busy enjoying myself to stop and think about it all, so I'm able to look past it all.
Breach & Clear, by contrast, is a slow-moving tactical strategy game, which leaves plenty of time to think about the fact all the bad guys are wearing Middle Eastern garb, and about how the game almost lovingly shows them getting blown away in slow motion. You'll also have ample opportunity to reflect on how much the game glamourizes the military, with its breathless loading screen anecdotes about how amazing each country's special services units are. I get that war-related games have a vested interest in making the military look good, but it's so over the top here, I feel like even CoD devotees might look at this game and say, "A little much, don't you think?"
As I said, though, I could probably overlook that if the game was still fun. Unfortunately, Breach & Clear doesn't have enjoyable gameplay to counterbalance its uber-militaristic politics. Instead, you're in charge of fairly four standard-issue soldier men, and you endlessly blast your way through forgettable room after forgettable room. It attempts to alleviate the monotony by occasionally throwing you a curve in your objectives — This time you have to defuse a bomb, too! And now you have to shoot your way out, rather than in! — but neither of those alternative modes make the game more interesting.
What's worse than the monotony, though, are the annoying little details that make up the game. While it's easy to just look at Breach & Clear as a whole and say that it's not very good, the real failures come when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the game — in things like the little red dot you use to guide your troops (which is really difficult to see on the screen), or the way it combines touchscreen and analog controls (which can cause you to accidentally commit to actions before you're ready), or the itty-bitty screen text (like the red dot, not as visible as it should be). In all these ways and others like them, Breach & Clear finds ways to be less than it could be.
(Before moving on, however, I will say that there's one area where the details are surprisingly thought out: in the fighting itself. The game doesn't tell you what lies on the other side of a door until you've broken through it, which is actually a pretty interesting design choice. It's annoying, to be sure, to burst into a room without knowing what's waiting for you, but at the same time, considering how Breach & Clear presents itself as a true-to-life military sim…well, that seems pretty true to life. I don't know that I'd call it a point in the game's favour, since it aggravated me to no end, but on the other hand, kudos to the game for sticking to its guns in that respect — and pardon the unintentional pun.)
It's not like the Vita isn't perfect for strategy or tactical games. And we're not talking on some theoretical, "Wouldn't it be awesome if those mobile XCOM games came to the platform?", either — anyone who played last year's Frozen Synapse Prime knows how well the genre works on the Vita. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work here. Depending on your ideological persuasion, you might take a very dim view of Breach & Clear's politics, but honestly, its biggest, most unforgivable transgression is that it's simply not a very interesting game.