Review | 7/31/2015 at 12:00 PM

Breach & Clear: Deadline Co-Op Review

Better killing through semi-tactical planning.

Zombies. Kill 'em, burn 'em, spray 'em with explosive firepower. It doesn't matter, they just keep on shambling. TV shows and video games have handed us just about every zombie apocalypse scenario in the Big Bag 'O Dramatic Tricks, and the solution is almost always the same: get to killing. Breach & Clear: Deadline does something different, and it's a better game for it.

Breach & Clear: Deadline drops your squad off in a post-apocalyptic world where worms have turned lots of people into zombies. Yes, worms. Brainstem eating worms. The resulting chaos turned everything into shambles, and you're here to save the day. Or is it eke out a living? The story isn't exactly Breach & Clear: Deadline's strong point, but you're probably not here for a fairytale. You're here for the zombie killing, in which case, Breach & Clear: Deadline's got you covered.

Breach & Clear: Deadline gives you two modes to play with: tactical and action. Action is used for moving between set pieces, picking up scrap, gathering dropped items or weaponry, and so on. You can also switch to action mode during tactical mode in case you're in the mood to hoof it and kill off some zombies with good old fashioned manual gunfire. You'll use it more often than you think, and it provides a great foil for the slow and steady strategy of the main mode.

Most of your time will be spent in time-paused tactical mode, and this is where Breach & Clear: Deadline excels. When things get strategic, the camera will switch to an overhead view and the action will pause. You can pan around the area to get a look at your surroundings, taking note of zombie positions and places where you can take cover. Move each squad member to a location where they have a clear line of fire, choose any special items or tactical actions to perform, then play god as you manually push time forward and watch everything play out in all its bloody glory. You can pause and readjust anytime you like, which is especially useful when those worm-infested shamblers surprise you by walking up from your flanks. Regroup! Regroup!

The manual time control is an amazing feature and gives you full control over how the tactical sections pan out. You won't feel any kind of pressure to choose your next move, allowing you the luxury of surfing menus and tweaking deployments until you're ready to go. There's no rewind button, only incremental forward motions, so please do take all the time you need. Time frozen zombies aren't going anywhere, and any mistakes you make tend to hurt. Bad.

In addition to standing and shooting or taking cover, squad members have unique abilities you can deploy to give you a slight edge. Scout, intelligence expert, medic, and explosives expert give you a wide range of abilities to choose from. Better still, those abilities unlock in branching skill trees, offering up even more customization for your zombie slaying pleasure. You can even pull open your inventory and toss out a flashbang grenade when things are looking especially grim. Breach & Clear: Deadline gives you a lot of tools to upgrade, equip and augment. Step into the safehouse, walk up to the workbench and start tinkering.

Breach & Clear: Deadline is a very militaristic game, tossing in lots of combat terms and keeping things as regimented and realistic as it can. This doesn't mean the game eschews big explosions or hot weaponry (it's a zombie game, after all), but expect to see lots of tactical military speak and characters with names ripped right out of the last war movie you saw. Like, I dunno, Saving Private Ryan or something. It's "gritty", which is a bit of a naughty word these days, but the game doesn't really take itself too seriously, leaving plenty of room for you to enjoy the tactical planning and zombie killing instead of shoving its grit down your throat.

Co-op works like you'd expect, but there are some limitations. Two players join in online matches, each controlling two out of the four squad members. You play through your local save games as a team, providing a seamless integration between single player and multi. When your co-op buddy joins, they take over the characters you didn't choose, and when they leave, you take back control. Pretty straightforward.

Sitting in a tactical session with your co-op partner is either fun or frustrating, and that entirely depends upon who you're playing with. Many of Breach & Clear: Deadline's battles don't require much tactical thinking. It's obvious where you should deploy, obvious what you should do. In these instances each person just goes through the motions, which is fun in solo, but a touch maddening in multi since you're essentially out of half your job. For the occasional mission that does require smarts, co-op works a lot better. For the most part, though, adding another player means you'll be splitting the fun, not multiplying it.

Breach & Clear: Deadline was obviously made with gamepad controls in mind. Keyboard and mouse works well enough, but there's some fumbling when it comes to menus and issuing commands. Plugging in a controller eliminates those issues. Hope you've got one sitting around.

All in all, Breach & Clear: Deadline presents a top down tactical zombie shooter that just crosses the above average line. The maps are a bit bland, and the actual tactics tend to be on the lighter side, which you can interpret as a flaw or as an "accessibility feature". The co-op works for pulling in an extra online person to experience the tense militaristic world, but it doesn't truly enhance the experience like a good cooperative feature should.

But still, it's lots of fun to set your guys up, toss a frag grenade into a group of zombies, then play it through in glorious slow motion.