Namco
Namco
Action
1
03.16.04

Breakdown


Breakdown takes place in Japan. You take on the role of former Marine, Derrick Cole. You wake up not knowing where you are, but you have a friend, Alex, who helps you. Derrick also goes through different states of mind, and has no idea what's going on. Hallucinations, and the feeling of going into another dimension are some of the things you'll be dealing with. This is all presented from a first person viewpoint. I was expecting this game to be awesome. Number one, because it's an Xbox Exclusive title from Namco, and secondly, it looked really good. Breakdown has a very nice cinematic approach to it. It turns out it's semi-awesome.

Gameplay

As I began playing this game I feltů

Breakdown was a game that was started off great, but never seemed to be finished to Namco's standards. Here I am practically unconscious, and this girl knocks out 3 soldiers by herself. About five minutes later, she can't do anything but stand there. It's as if the game is against you no matter what. This girl, Alex is helping you, but at the same time it seems like the AI is working together on this one. I say this because she will be standing in range of an enemy, and they will hardly even shoot at her. The control was very awkward as well. I also thought that the entire fighting system totally needed to be reworked. Great concept, but the idea of searching enemies for ammo and food just takes to long because your character has to pick it up, and then look at it. Instead of just picking it up and using it. This means that you can die very quickly. They should have made a shortcut where you don't have to look at every single item every time you pick one up.

This is how I felt an hour after play itů

Now that all the bashing is out of the way, Breakdown is really suspenseful. It turns out, all the bad stuff in the beginning of the game that I mentioned wasn't as bad as I thought. I was able to adjust the feel the game in the options, and it made everything change. The game starts to pick up a nice surge of gaming goodness, and gets a lot better at the second half of the disc. This game just keeps getting crazier and crazier, and that's why it's getting a respectable score. One of the main reasons it gets better is because for the first hour or so you can only kill other humans, and not these beast-like creatures (T'lan warriors). Oh how sweet it feels to gain the power of T'langen, and finally punch these guys into obliteration. Your character's arm starts to feel the power, and you'll realize what Breakdown is all about. Once I turned down the "turn speed" in the options, I could then control my character a hundred times better.

These warriors are absolutely crazy because nothing common can really kill them. They walk through fire, and take bullets like it's nothing. When you gain the T'lan powers, you absorb their energy after you kill each one of them with your bare hands, and you'll be able to block bullets and fight them.

As your playing Breakdown all you'll realize is that everyone is after you. You'll hear "Watch for Cole" quite often. Since your character suffers from memory loss, you have no idea what is going on, and you are trying to figure out what is going on the whole time. There's you basically by yourself (with the exception of Alex), the army guys, and the warriors after you. They are not on each other's side, however, so they are at a battle with each other as well.

You're essentially in a large building/city the whole time. Once in a while you'll be able to get a glimpse of the dismal, quiet outside. You'll eventually get to a lower level and see some outdoors (trees and the sky). The laboratories are pretty neat looking and have a nice sci-fi feel. There's a set way of where you have to go, and there's no free-roaming. The game has a movie feel to it because if something unusual happens, Derrick will sometimes stop and focus on what the next thing to do is. If Alex is talking to you, and you wonder off, she'll flip out because she's trying to explain to you where to go next.

Sometimes I don't know what they were thinking; there's practically no HUD, so you never know how many bullets you have. I had to pause it to see how many bullets I had left. I don't know if this is a glitch or some option that I have to put on, but I couldn't find a way to display my bullet inventory. You have your life meter, an access display, a target marker, and your T'langen meter. That's pretty much it. There is a boss, Solus who will come in contact with you every so often. Solus and Nexus are the main bosses in Breakdown.

The control of the fighting system is pretty good as you get used to it. L is a left punch, and R is a right punch, and you have your combos in the mix. He has a lot of moves to learn. This game is entirely first person, and everything is seen from the eyes of Derrick. The auto aim when shooting at things is not as smooth as it could have been. The rest of the controls feel the same way you would do everything in real life. Your hand goes out in front of you to open doors or pick up items. If you do a flip, you'll see the ground upside down how you would in real life.

Like I mentioned before, after playing for 2-3 hours, I realized this game is awesome. The game looks how a first person 3D game should look like. The fighting system brings about a nice concept. All the buttons are placed well. As you learn new moves and combos, you'll be able to do more of what you want to do.

There are some parts of the gameplay that are just simply trial and error. You have to be really good not to die in this game. Once you have the power to block bullets, your not even going to want to take out a gun and shoot anyone. Well, you will still use a weapon for shooting at people who are too far or too high to get to.

In some crazy way, this game reminded me of the Shenmue series. I think it was because you can sometimes choose what to do or say. Every so often in Breakdown you can choose what to say, not so much what path to take, but what questions to ask, or how to answer certain questions that may come up. You can also pick things up with the X button. But one thing that would be different from Shenmue was that you actually eat food in Breakdown. That was just the feeling I got when I first turned on the game. Also, before the actual action starts, the way the fighting moves are performed, oddly reminded me of Shenmue. The whole "drinking a can of soda from a machine" brought back memories. Other than that, it's nothing like Shenmue.

Graphics

The graphics are high-res and great looking. Namco did a nice job on the fire effects. A noteworthy aspect of the graphics is the smoke effects, and how they rise out of a building. The graphics are superb upclose, but there are some fogging/draw-in issues. Looking through a mirror, your character kind of looks like a Tekken fighter. The hallucinations are really freaky and they catch you off-guard sometimes.

Sound

Thankfully, the sound effects in Breakdown are something that was taken into consideration. The sounds of walking on glass, gunshots, and explosions are well fit. You hear the bullet shells and the soda cans hit the floor, but you never really see them after they drop.

Replay Value

Would I play through this game again even though I thought it was pretty awesome? I don't think so. The reason is because it's just a one-player game, and there isn't much to go back and explore. Like I said, the game is really awesome, so you might have the urge to go back and play it again. In the main menu, there are extras, but nothing super exciting. You can unlock galleries, but no new modes or anything. I would play through this game again if I didn't have other great Xbox titles.

Bottom Line:

Breakdown grew on me, and got better as I played it. This isn't another kill.switch, or the next Dead to Rights, this is something that I wasn't expecting from Namco. It's something new, and it is, however, something that offers a suspenseful story line. This Xbox Exclusive title is a must play, maybe not a "must" buy, but you must play it. I'm a little curious as to if Namco will be working on a sequel, because I sure would be interested. It offers a new style of gameplay not often found in games today. Breakdown from Namco can be either a good game, or a bad game, depending on how you look at it. You have to really have patience with it in the beginning to see how well developed it is. Once you take the time to learn it, hopefully you'll realize it's creative and has a lot of charisma.

Breakdown had me stumped in many places. I highly recommend the BradyGames Breakdown strategy guide when playing this game.

Related Links:

Official Breakdown Website

-Steve Melanson




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