Who doesn’t love a bit of drama, featuring everyone’s favourite mindless shamblers? No, I’m not talking about the latest episode of TOWIE, I’m talking about zombies. They make everything more dramatic, thanks to their unrelenting hunger for brains. Again, still not talking about TOWIE. From Resident Evil to Left 4 Dead, from State of Decay and Project Zomboid, to the current phenomenon of The Walking Dead, the undead are a constant threat. In Breach & Clear: Deadline they’re no different.
If that title sounds familiar, it’s probably because the PC version has been out for just over a year. Indeed, I reviewed it myself here, giving it a 7/10. AI issues and a few design flaws held it back, and unfortunately not much has changed for its recent console release, despite the year of porting time.
For those of you who haven’t heard of this indie title, published by the now mighty Devolver Digital, it’s a hybrid of twin-stick shooter and RTS born from a little known, but still successful, military strategy game. The original Breach & Clear was all about realism as you sent your Special Ops teams into dangerous situations, tasked with taking down criminals and terrorists in close-quarters firefights. Deadline isn’t too different in its approach to combat, using a similar tactical system in which you can pause the action to issue commands, but there are two very different additions that separate it from its big brother: the ability to play it as a twin-stick shooter, and of course, zombies. But the undead
aren’t your only opposition in this game, as deadly human factions have taken advantage of the infected zones and now control various strongholds in which they will shoot anything on sight.
This is the point where my original review criticised the game’s poor AI, as it often left your team confused, refusing to fight back even as they were shot at repeatedly. Happily this has been fixed now, and so fighting human factions is no longer a frustrating and broken experience, and the controller has been implemented well to ensure that everything moves smoothly. You can switch between squad members with a simple press of left or right on the d-pad, or select them directly with the cursor, directing them wherever you want with a press of the X button. Holding X and pushing the left stick will result in a more tactical movement, with the soldier actively aiming in whichever direction you selected. This is extremely useful when attacks are coming from all sides.
Breach & Clear: Deadline isn’t exclusively about fighting humans or the undead however, and things are at their most dramatic when the two are thrown together. A horde of zombies can either make an already bad situation worse or, if you have the right supplies and a bit of a mean streak, they can be your greatest ally. You’re pinned down, outnumbered and outflanked, and your only escape route has been filled by a nearby group of ravenous undead drawn in by the sounds of gunfire. You have one grenade left, it can take out that group of zombies easily but you would still have to deal with the gun-toting humans. You notice that signal flare in your pack and an idea begins to form in your mind, a devilish grin spreading across your face. You take a chance and toss the flare in amongst the humans, watching as the zombie horde rushes past your position and into the enemy camp. The same effect can be achieved by setting off a car alarm too, which was a lifesaver in one particular situation.
Of course, none of this is new to the PS4 version. In fact, other than a few improvements to the AI, I noticed no gameplay differences from the PC game. Unfortunately, considering I played the PC version on an ageing laptop, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that I noticed very little difference in performance on the much more powerful PS4. Sure, it looks a little better and the already pretty lighting effects are more noticeable, but overall it doesn’t look that much better than my 720p, low-to-medium settings laptop experience, despite the extra power of the new console and its 1080p resolution. I would say that my old laptop held a more stable framerate too, with only minimal drops in fps, whereas the PS4 version constantly freezes for a second or two at a time. If you’ve ever watched a livestream and the connection drops for a moment, you’ll know what it’s like.
The framerate isn’t the only issue either. Despite the overall lighting being good, with realistic shadows and particle effects, there are moments in which the lighting of an entire area drops out. There’s a visible divide, on one side it’s a dark night and on the other it’s like a bright summer morning, it’s a strange glitch that can pull you out of the game’s otherwise impressive atmosphere. The sound is the best thing in Breach & Clear: Deadline’s atmospheric arsenal, its bass soundtrack lending a sense of dread to every moment you spend wandering the streets. Thanks to the previous Breach & Clear, the realistic guns and gunfire sounds help punctuate the quieter moments when zombies emerge from the darkness of an alleyway.
Keeping those guns loaded is probably the biggest issue in this game, however. Ammo boxes are dotted around each environment, but the XCOM-like, stat-based hit ratio sees you haemorrhaging bullets and shells. You can at least craft more using scrap found throughout the game, but only if you stumble across a workbench, otherwise you’ll need to travel back to a safehouse to do so. Sidearms at least come with infinite ammo, but without upgrading they’re next to useless against anything more than a couple of stragglers. Levelling up your soldiers thanks to a nice, light RPG system will help with things like accuracy, damage protection and specialist abilities such as placing mines or reviving fallen teammates without the need for a defibrillator, making combat a little easier the more you play.
Breach & Clear: Deadline is a nice change of pace in an otherwise overcrowded genre, bringing a touch of strategy to the mass of zombie survival games out there. Whether it can find a home on console remains to be seen, especially with its lacklustre presentation and performance in an age where anything below 1080p/60fps is frowned upon (to put it politely), but it’s still worth a look.
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