Last year Mighty Rabbit Studios released Breach and Clear, a tactical strategy game revolving around micromanaging your four-man special forces team through a plethora of anti-terrorism scenarios. The game earned many favorable reviews from gamers and critics alike. Breach and Clear gave you control over nearly every aspect of deploying elite forces into precarious scenarios. From team selection, equipment selection, to every action your team makes on the field. This game provided the kind of depth many gamers were yearning for in their tactical ops flavored games. When Breach and Clear: Deadline was released I was eagerly hoping for more of the same tactical goodness, deep strategic planning, and intense micromanaging gameplay. Thankfully, this game delivers on all the Charlie-Tango-Foxtrot expectations, with a precision snipe on its intended mark.
Deadline is a different game from its predecessor, even though there are many familiar aspects. I instantly noted the changes in atmosphere and scope this new chapter offers. As I started the game I was pushed into what is essentially an unavoidable tutorial for the game. Experienced players may get frustrated at being shackled in this way, since even multiplayer is inaccessible until this mode is completed. The entire first hour of this game felt like chewing tree bark. Sure there’s plenty fiber, but I would much rather eat something else. I began to fear that the depth and strategy I was expecting out of a B&C game would be missing in lieu of the typical zombie enemy stereotypical trappings. A group of eight or nine zombies will appeared and beeline straight into my bullets with some moans and groans. Go to the next area and the same thing happens. Good things can come to those that wait, as a great game experience awaits further on.
Once at the safehouse you meet main characters who start giving you tasks. Again, nothing crazy or genre busting to kick this game off. Go here, get a thing, bring it back. Go there, save a group of people, come back. My favorite mission giver is this guy who is the resident medical specialist. Well, he’s not a specialist, he’s not even a doctor, he’s apparently a nurse. A nurse who sits in a room with no windows, furniture, pictures, potted plants, chairs, rugs, or even a ceiling fan and he needs your help. His first mission: go to a bar and get alcohol to help with the injuries. This is an unintentional moral dilemma for me. If I am in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and I find a stash of whiskey…. I’m keeping it. It will help with my injuries when I drink it. Chugging whiskey will help me stay sane fighting flesh eating monsters. As a matter of fact, I’ll crack open a bottle of fifteen year old Glenfiddich as I play this game, just to prove a point.
After the safehouse introductions you are free to explore the game world. The lab where the tutorial takes place is destroyed and you find yourself in a city that is not only filled with infected, there are also rebel human factions that are aggressive and territorial. You are free to wander the streets and explore pharmacies, malls, and gas stations in search of loot and mission assignments. Enemies become more varied, the brainless swarms of slow moving zombies are mere moving meat shields, dangerous blue tinged foes usually follow. In later stages, tall zombies that launch lethal spit and hooded, agile infected will terrorize you next. Some scenarios have you pinned down in an exposed areas fighting multiple groups of infected enemies. With rebel human factions taking shots at you as well. The later mission design in Deadline will surely give even B&C vets a run for their money.
Finding loot and gaining experience is vital to your continued success. At the start of the game long weapon reloads, inaccurate shooting, long cooldown times on tactical abilities can hamper your infected zombie slaying fun. Locating upgrades for your weapons, metal scrap for improving your weapons, leveling up team members with skill points, will sharpen your team into a lethal surgical force. The amount of items available to upgrade, gear and costumes, weapon attachments, and explosive objects you can find is impressive. Your team may include a scout, explosive expert, heavy machine gunner, and a assault rifle specialist. I decided to maintain myself on the skill tree pertaining to the soldier’s role, which offers dozens of choices. You have the choice to mix and match from other disciplines to create your own unique special forces combatants. There is plenty of replay in Deadline to test out all the different skill trees and weapon combinations.
Something else I enjoyed with Deadline was the ability to forgo the strategic Command Mode view. Doing so allows you to run and gun, versus micromanaging each little action. I was grateful to have AI compatriots that will follow suit and logically fire on the nearest enemy. Occasionally I would have one AI friendly become stuck in some area and not tag along. This was usually solved by going back or ordering him to move via the command view. This ability to change the gameplay from micromanaged strategy game to third person action game on the fly is brilliant. It continually breaks up the more monotonous exploration areas and alleys you need to traverse through.
Survival is everything in a dark world filled with undead monsters. Thankfully that doesn’t mean your zombie game has to be ugly. Graphically the Deadline world displays nice lighting, ambient occlusion, and enough particle effects to bring your open world assaults to life. There’s nothing cutting edge about the graphical quality of Deadline, but it serves its purpose with satisfaction, blooming spark filled explosions and gored splattered zombies will collapse inches from your soldiers in a triumphant heap of flesh.
Soldiers move with tactical care, and animate smoothly in and out of cover. Cover is essential for defending yourself, and sightlines are logical and displayed accurately. Even if zombies attack your forces from outside their sightlines, chances are the AI will adjust their position for you, provided other targets are not in view, which is a nice touch. Soldiers are modeled with detail, change out weapons and equipment and it will change the look of your soldiers in the world view. Voice acting is a little hammy, but easily ignored as you line up your soldiers for the next onslaught. The soundtrack is eerie but minimal, and almost nonexistent but given the scope of this game it is understandable.
Co-op mode with a friend online is a great addition, but with some shortcomings. You can transition your single player campaign to online coop mode. Your partner will select 2 special ops characters to bring and take control of your missions. In parallel, your control will be reduced to two squadmates. This retains the balance and difficulty of each mission, while still allowing split micromanagement. In theory this should allow for better tactical micromanagement. During play testing, we came across plenty of awkward moments with the mechanics. For example, tactical actions can progress by holding down a button while in the command view. One partner could be ready to advance time, while you could be in the middle of rearranging your soldiers.
I found a couple of game breaking bugs in the game on my first playthroughs. Coop mode eliminated the minimap marker used to designate your current quest location, which confused us. During the single player campaign I would simply end up stuck inside a building that was not essentially a part of the game’s mapped areas. Most of these odd quirks have been eliminated thanks to persistent quick updates from the developers. At the time of this review, Deadline is up to Update #3 which solved nearly all of the buggy complaints we had with the game and improved the co-op experience.
The Breach and Clear series has added a flavorful chapter to their blossoming series in Deadline. It is not a smattering of new levels and zombies and being sold as a new game instead of DLC. Deadline is it’s own complete game and different experience on its own right. It successfully blends a bleak zombie apocalypse landscape with deep tactical gameplay and extensive customization and equipment options to keep you engaged for hours at a time. The game breaks up monotonous areas well, and the engagements and tactical action more than make up for the thin story or tacked on voice acting. Deadline tactically moves up the ladder and positions itself prominently in the crowded zombie-survival landscape.Steam GoG