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From the Osama bin Laden compound raid to the rescue of hostages from Somali pirates, small military strike teams have grabbed more and more headlines in recent years. It's only fitting that video games, which so regularly imitate soldiers' actions via first-person shooters, would follow suit. Breach & Clear is a celebration of the slow, methodical, and tactical side of combat, with your squad of four soldiers tasked with taking out enemy combatants in a series of engagements. You set their paths and then let them loose, watching as your decisions pay off or get your men killed.
Simple taps are all it takes to command your troops to their locations, but you're going in blind. Until you enter a room, you never know where the enemy is hiding, so it's important to command the troops to corners and set their resting view for safety. For even more delicate situations, you can throw a flashbang grenade, proceed at half-speed, or even set waypoints so they can stop, reassess, and then proceed. Unlockable, class-based perks offer extra abilities, giving boosts when teammates are nearby or allowing you to draw enemy fire.
The 15 missions do a good job visually differentiating the three locales (Afghanistan, Turkey, and the South China Sea), and each map is unique enough to offer its own challenge. Story is nonexistent, however, and you’re never given any details on the reasons behind the missions. Some context might have lent a bit more authenticity and intrigue to the stages. In every other respect, though, authenticity isn’t a problem. Breach & Clear takes great pains to fill itself with military terminology, equipment, and weaponry, not to mention interesting facts during the loading screens. For military aficionados, these are quite the treat.
It’s also a game that, at least at its most basic levels, is extremely short. Only the three countries (with a handful of missions each) are available right now, and each mission tends to last less than five minutes. Playing on Beginner or Novice will let most players speed through with ease, probably without even touching their squad's extensive upgrades and equipment loadouts. The Standard challenge option is where Breach & Clear starts showing its real tactical potential, with additional difficulty levels above those to unlock. At the higher levels, getting through each stage alive requires a much greater degree of preparation and care.
Those divided difficulty levels do lead to some repetition fatigue, though. New stages and difficulty levels are unlocked by a cumulative star ranking, and each difficulty level contributes to that total. It would have been nice if achieving a certain star ranking at a higher difficulty level subsequently awarded it for all lower levels as well. Despite its short length and repeated quests, though, Breach & Clear is a smartly balanced tactical game with a smooth difficulty curve and mind-boggling attention to detail. Tactics fans, or those with a passion for the military, should test their mettle.
The bottom line. Breach & Clear is a short-lived but smartly designed tactics game with impressive military authenticity.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Smart tactics needed on the higher difficulty settings. First-rate military authenticity.
Repeating missions is necessary for stars. Short campaign.