I am not much of a FPS gamer. My kill/death ratio in any online shooter is a sight to behold for all the wrong reasons. But still, I persist, because they are so enjoyable. So when we had the opportunity to play the test version of Arena Breakout, I was all over it, and, after playing it for a while, I can confidently say it has all the tools it needs to succeed.
A truly comprehensive equipment system
The sheer scale of Arena Breakout is one of the first things you notice, from the equipment to your abilities. Before deployment, you can equip armor and helmets to protect yourself, and up to three weapons for offense. That’s not all, though. You also have a Chest Rig and Pockets for your ammo and meds. But wait, you also have a Backpack to store anything, but if your ammo and meds aren’t on your rig, you can’t use them, so you need to plan ahead. Do I take all three weapons, or just one so I can carry more? How many mags are on my Rig, and do they have bullets or should I find cover and switch them for those in my backpack? Or do I have an empty backpack for more storage?
You will need to balance your loadout needs with the reward potential for your next venture. Yes, I could take two more magazines for my AK-74, but then I will run out of space for loot more quickly. Or I could take a long and a short-range weapon, but again, I would need to use more room for the different types of ammo or take less ammo for each. It is a very interesting cerebral challenge each match, and I absolutely adore these types of decisions. It feels more real and interesting than – “This is my machine gun and I have 2,000 bullets and I can carry the sun and moon in my jacket pocket if I choose to.”
Ready, Set, Scavenge
This is all before we enter the meat of the game, the Tactical Ops. After putting together your gear, you can take your operator into multiple warzones in a quest for the one true equalizer amongst gamers; loot. Standing between you and it is every other player operator, as well as Militant bots and the occasional operator bot, and in Arena Breakout, you are not Rambo. You have a finite number of bullets on you, and they will run out fast if you attack everyone you come across.
Luckily, you have a visual representation of sound on the screen, showing you which direction nearby footsteps and gunshots are coming from, so you can either ambush or hightail it out. If you die, you lose basically everything on you, so it’s a constant balance of risk vs reward which makes every encounter feel critical. You are definitely fallible, so you will constantly need to check how many bullets are in your mags, where the sound is coming from, whether you can see enemies, check the locations of the extraction zones and how long are they open so you can escape with your loot. It gets intense, and it is this level of risk that makes every game so exciting.
What is incredibly surprising, though, is you have a huge range of things you can check and monitor. Because of that, you might expect the UI to be incredibly cluttered. I was massively surprised by just how clean Arena Breakout is. I never felt it was in the way, and the only time I pressed the wrong button was a result of big, clumsy thumbs. It is quite impressive how they managed this.
A fake mustache and glasses are the best disguise
So, what happens if you are struck with extraordinary bad luck and lose all your equipment and empty your extensive storage in a series of catastrophic losses? I suppose you could load in with zero gear and hope for the best, or you can use the absolutely genius Covert Ops mode to replenish your armory.
Covert Ops has you go undercover as a Militant, complete with a full set of randomized armor and weaponry. You head into a map as you normally do, and are fully able to loot and rampage as you would in your normal gear. The amount of benefits this mode has is immense. You get to keep any gear you loot and add it to your storage, so it is zero risk high reward. Also, the militants won’t attack unless you attack first so that nearly halves your enemy count. You can walk straight past them, or do what I did and spot someone with a cool mask, pull out your pistol, stand in front of them and instant headshot them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t loot the mask, so Kenneth was sacrificed to Majora, the god of masks, for nothing.
The AI fear is somewhat relieved seeing these bots
As great as this game is, it is not all sunshine and flowers. Arena Breakout does have one flaw that hampered it for me. I was playing on a Test build, so I didn’t come across many other players, I mostly fought against bots who make the Stormtroopers look like Olympic-level shooters. Of course, I understand the bots aren’t there to destroy players, instead, they are fodder for us to kill and get some easy loot, but I fear the developers went too far the other way.
Once, I was looting a box in the wide open, and suddenly found myself getting shot at by three bots and took zero damage. I even stood still as a test and wasn’t hit. In an ambush, 3-on-1 scenario like that I should have at least had to use a med kit or repair my armor afterwards. It is good that bots won’t immediately wreck players, but they must be at least somewhat of a challenge. Hopefully, they get some tweaks after the worldwide launch.