Breach! It's a download-only class-based multiplayer FPS coming in Jan 2011! Oh yes it is.
I went pottering along to a preview event on Wednesday for some hands-on time. As it turns out, Breach focuses on encouraging some authentic military tactics, and, more excitingly, boasts some really advanced destructible environment tech. Atomic Games president Peter Tamte laid out for me like this:
Peter: So, the only multiplayer FPS with destructible environments that I can name is Bad Company 2. But the destruction of walls and stuff there is semi-scripted. At Atomic, we call that "Destruction 1.0".
Peter: Then you've got games like Red Faction: Guerrilla, where the destruction is dynamic, and you can blow apart walls and ceilings in whatever way you want. We call that "Destruction 2.0".
Peter: So, what we have in Breach...
Peter: ...we like to call "Destruction 3.0".
Summarised, Atomic's "Destruction 3.0" means that in addition to being able to create dynamic holes in walls and ceilings and blow apart pillars and support beams, players can also knock out individual bricks and sandbags. As such, Breach is a game that encourages mouse-holing, a tactic wherein you punch small holes or slits in walls to shoot out of, like this:
Breach also boasts a dynamic cover system that adapts to not only how high a given object is, but how much of a particular wall is left (or is still there at all). Breach is, in fact, a pretty cover-centric shooter, so if you're one of those mad fellas who thinks the addition of cover mechanics to shooting games is a bad thing, well, consider reconsidering your position. You're mad!
Destruction 3.0 doesn't extend to terrain deformation, and the maps (predictably) boast a great deal of indestructible stonework, and I'll admit to being disappointed by both of those things, but I still had an awesome time when I got to actually play Breach. The way the guns and maps are set up creates a very, very long-range FPS, with players sprinting between pieces of cover and making heavy use of grenade launchers and RPGs to blast apart whatever your enemies are peeking out from behind.
You can see Destruction 3.0 at work in the following awesome and somewhat staged screenshots.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this isn't staged, and is in fact a shot of Breach's as-yet unannounced Dance Studio: Behind Enemy Lines mode.
Army of Two Wet Blankets, anyone?
Back on track: At one point playing Breach I was firing out of the window of a fragile wooden house, and a loud explosion came blasting through my headphones. BOOM! Clearly someone had blasted a chunk off the house, but I couldn't see any damage from where I was standing. Yet I knew my world had been reconfigured- I didn't know if the upstairs was there, or if the porch had been destroyed, or whether the closed room behind me had become a new entry point into the house. It was fun.
Equally fun are the moments in Breach where you fire a heavy explosive at some distant piece of cover, only to see the enemy you were shooting at come sprinting out of the subsequent dust cloud, unharmed. That fucker! You'll get him next time.
A final feature of Breach that impressed me is something I've been longing for since the original Red Orchestra - a mechanical disability for when you come under suppressive fire. In Breach, sitting behind a piece of cover that's being pelted by bullets causes your view to narrow and fuzz around the edges, simulating a kind of panicked tunnel vision. Atomic's goal with this isn't simply immersion- they want enable the real-world tactic of one guy suppressing a target while the other advances. As a machine gunner, that's exactly what I longed for in Red Orchestra. Tripwire! Steal this idea for RO2 immediately.
If you want to take a look for yourself, here's a video of Breach from PAX. I expect Jim and I'll be getting in a good few rounds of this when it's released. I also expect we'll be seeing a lot more of these fairly unique, cut-price download-only shooters next year. Battlefield 1943 sold absurdly well, and Breach is the first response to that.