STAFF REVIEW of Breakdown (Xbox)

Wednesday, March 31, 2004.
by Tony Ingrassia

Breakdown Box art From the minute I heard about Breakdown I was intrigued, I couldn?t wait to see how this ?New? way of playing would, well? ?Play? out, no pun intended. Breakdown is kind of in a category of its own, First person shooter meets first person fighter. With an interesting storyline that truly sucks you into the mystery of what is going on, to the original point of view and the cool glowing fists of power, Breakdown boldly goes where no game has gone before. Of course that leaves us asking the million dollar question?is it any good?

As Breakdown comes into view, literally, you wake up dazed and confused in a hospital with doctors milling around you, your first clue that this game is ?Different? is that you automatically start to have hallucinations. Now your not really sure why or what they mean, but that?s exactly how your supposed to feel, and exactly what helps keep the fascinating storyline rolling. Kudos number one?best story I have ever played through in a game, although a little aggravating at times?we?ll get to that a little later, Breakdown when completed gave me more of a sense of watching a deep, suck you in ?till the last minute, movie. As you slowly come to your senses all hell breaks loose and a mysterious woman embarks you on your quest for answers. Alex, the aforementioned mysterious woman, answers a lot of your questions but also leaves you hanging in terms of really giving you all the info.

I had mentioned that Breakdown is a combination of FPS and FPF (Fighter), well the meat and potatoes of Breakdown is in its dedication to the first person perspective, and fighting is the meat. After a brief ?Training? session, you discover that you are Derrick Cole with some incredible past and incredible abilities to match. The game never leaves Derricks FP view throughout the game, no matter what transpires, crawling, drinking, running, driving, and of course fighting, its all from Derricks eyes.

As you progress through the game more of your ?Powers? become available and more answers to exactly who you are become available through visions, the action kind of slows down and goes to an eerie glowing mode and you experience these visions, one of the early ones really had me perplexed and made me really want to know what the hell was going on as the flesh from my bones disintegrated leaving me a mere skeleton. There are guns in this game, the auto targeting system is simple yet aggravating at times when you try to switch from one target to the next, but as I said, this is more about the ?Mano a Mano? than anything else. Breakdown definitely has a learning curve, a little difficult at first but once you get those glowing fists rolling and master some of the wicked moves you will be impressed with what this game has to offer. Some of the combos will make you give out an audible ?OHHHHHHH!?, just as well as that same sound of pain when you get clocked and are dizzy and disoriented for a moment?keep in mind, you never leave the FP perspective.

For as much as I was impressed by Breakdown it?s not perfect, the gunplay is dull, but again understandable because it?s all about the fighting. The beginning of the game I fear may cause a few gamers to abandon this adventure due to lack of information and the need to just run. Let me explain, Breakdown goes to great lengths to progress the story accordingly, which means you don?t have a lot to work with in the beginning, forcing you to basically get away from your assailants. There were a few moments that I really got tired of being pinned in a corner and not being able to exit fast enough before being pummeled, having to replay areas just to find out the correct route, now that being said, once you find your game groove, your off and running.

Breakdown plays really well for a FPF, you?re able to recoup your health by drinking and eating. You?re also able to pick up weapons from fallen foes, and uncover other clues along the way. Aside from the fighting controls, which turned out to be a little easier to pick up than I first thought, you can also use some evasive maneuvers such as back flips, cartwheels, and blocks. I know this is getting repetitive but, ALL IN FP PERSPECTIVE. It does take a little getting used to, and early on you may fall victim to becoming disoriented after a flip or two.

Breakdown definitely succeeds in what it set out to accomplish, and I?m sure if Breakdown 2 comes to fruition it will address some of the minor problems, Breakdown may not be everyone?s cup of tea, but the story and originality of the game play are worth the price of admission.

HDTV enabled, Breakdown is hard to knock visually. Super clean, detailed levels abound. The ?Visions? are very stylized and creepy leaving you longing for answers. One of the best things about Breakdown aside form the FP Perspective is the transition from level to level, or checkpoint to checkpoint, there are no cut scenes, or transition menus or instructions. The game loads at the correct moment and you just continue form the exact view you were at without missing a beat, it just continues through the entire game without leaving the story or action. Well designed fluid characters utilizing some nice rag doll effects and range of motion. And if you haven?t heard by now, you do get to experience what I believe is the first FP vomiting in video game history, head down in the bowl and all, after eating a tainted hamburger.

In the sound department Breakdown continues to favor well, the dialogue while not enthralling, does contribute to the story and intrigue of the game. In game Dolby digital lends a hand in hearing the super human soldiers on your tail and definitely help in your evasiveness at times. Ambient sounds are authentic and accurate, from gun fire to the sound of your fists hitting a baddie. With the sound of alarms going off in labs, crackling fire heaps, echoes in corridors, Breakdown delivers a solid effort.

Solid first attempt at something new, and different. Can\'t wait to see how the sequel comes out, hint, hint.

Overall: 8.4 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.6 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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