For Dallas Tanner, death was swift and ignoble. Bursting into the door of a tidy Kabul office occupied by Afghani terrorists, the brave fireteam leader made the fatal decision to turn right instead of left.
As he blinked through the lens of a holographic sight trained on an innocent pot plant, behind him his smiling killer emptied several rounds into his backside.
Breach & Clear is a turn-based strategy game where one wrong move is deadly, and every movement and action must be planned out to the minutest detail, lest accidents like the above happen.
It's a stern challenge, but an entertaining one, though in its current state a handful of issues are holding it back from greatness.Smash your back door in
Your job is to guide a four-man squad through a series of 'politically sensitive' missions, a euphemism for shooting terrorists in the head. You begin each assignment by positioning yourself outside one of a number of doors, choosing whether to enter quietly (lock pick) or noisily (frag or shotgun).
Naturally, the latter is likely to attract more attention, but there's every chance that you'll damage any enemies unfortunate enough to be standing by the door. Once you're inside, you manoeuvre your team through a series of rooms in turns that last mere few seconds, taking out terrorists with extreme prejudice until none remains.
You can choose from several squads to find the best fit for your current objective. With Navy SEALs, Special Forces, and Army Rangers as the other options, I plumped for JTF2, Canada's elite counter terrorism unit - if only because they're a relatively unknown quantity when it comes to virtual warfare.Fire and forget
Each has different benefits - light infantry units have better mobility and evasion stats, while the army's "premiere unconventional warfighters" (the game's terminology, not mine) are more accurate and boast longer health bars. That said, once you start levelling-up your team members it's all too tempting to stick with your first choice.
A brief tutorial takes you through the basics, with a series of short, silent videos showing what you can do with various equippable perks. Beyond that, Breach & Clear doesn't do a great job of explaining the benefits of different classes or weapons, and lessons are often learnt the hard way.
The thing is, mistakes are easy to make and it's not always your fault. Though the interface is fairly intuitive, adjusting your route (and, crucially, where you're aiming as you move) can be quite fiddly, and you'll often find yourself frustratedly cancelling commands.Frag 'em and bag 'em
It's also a little light on feedback: line of sight is tricky to gauge, and it's rarely clear why sometimes you'll succeed in taking out the terrorists when breaching a room while on other occasions you'll be the ones going home in a body bag.
Getting the perfect view of each turn as it plays out is surprisingly tricky. If you're keeping all four squad members together it's easier to manouevre the camera into position, but split them into two pairs and you'll hear fire from one side of the map without knowing what went down until you scroll across.
Even then, you only get to see the aftermath - there's no way to rewatch your turn, which is a pretty glaring oversight.High calibre?
There's a sense that a lot of that military authenticity is going to waste, too: it's one thing to have an accurately rendered rifle when you're firing it, but when you're hovering above the battlefield the difference between an Mk16 and M4A1 is hard to discern.
It's a pity, as when a smartly conceived plan comes together Breach & Clear is every bit as satisfying as Frozen Synapse or XCOM: Enemy Unknown, but too often it lacks the wonderful clarity of the former and the variety and polish of the latter.
That said, with Hostage Rescue and Bomb Disposal mission types coming soon, along with two more territories in Mexico and Germany, this is clearly a game with big ambitions. With that in mind, there's every chance this promising strategy could evolve into something special.