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Veteran Member - Level 13
Just about every serious gamer has had a chance to show off their favorite games to the world, and a lot of said gamers find pleasure in exposing their friends to a game they've never heard of; most of the time, popular games find fans because they're truly innovative and impose a completely new way of approaching gameplay. While other times a game is adored simply because of nostalgia. Yet in the present years, more and more video games are obtaining small niches of followers because of one or two small novelties being introduced in gameplay, while the rest of the game is mediocre.
What I'm about to show you falls into none of the categories mentioned above. While it was certainly innovative and awe-inspiring, it suffered the fate of a grand ship losing the race because a motor boat overtook it.
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo of 2003, the audience was stunned by the trailer for Breakdown, a real-time first-person shooter/fighting game developed by Namco (the same company now paired with Bandai, also responsible for the Dark Souls games). In the following year of 2004, Breakdown was released to mixed reviews, getting bashed because of ''gray environments'' and ''punishing difficulty'' by professional reviews, but garnering much acclaim from the gaming populace. Breakdown's sales suffered terribly regardless, as it was an Xbox exclusive competing with the overwhelming release of Halo 2.
Despite its many redeeming qualities, only a few thousand gamers know of its quality and are starving for the sequel it deserves. For the fan of Mirror's Edge, I present to you a true masterpiece that you may rightfully consider the sequel to your own real-time first-person action game.
The premise starts out (but does not revolve around) a research facility in which you wake up with complete memory loss. The reasoning for this is explained shortly after; you are one of many test subjects who is being experimented on to create super-soldiers, and the result of your having been a success has temporarily reset your memories. When you come to, military soldiers are massacring all the scientists in the facility, and you're saved by a mysterious girl who accompanies you for the rest of the game. The many other elements of the story involve time-travel, an alien dimension, super powers, and one of the most mind-blowing twists ever seen in a video game... but it would be a shame to spoil how all these elements are seamlessly intertwined.
Because this game occasionally has you travelling through time, and encountering characters in different states of being, it's hard to wrap your brain around it all at first. But just as critically-acclaimed titles like Bioshock Infinite present deeper experiences because they force you to think outside the box, so also Breakdown will inevitably end up having you write out each timeline on a piece of paper so as to discuss and ultimately understand Breakdown's story to the fullest; believe me, the game is complex. In the end, it's very rewarding to be given so many plot twists and scenarios to remember because they increase the replay value substantially.
A groundbreaking element of the narrative is the presence of - you guessed it - breakdowns. Derrick Cole (the protagonist) suffers from this disorder because of time fluctuations that occur at a key point in the game. From then on, surprising encounters with deranged characters and marred manifestations of real-world places and objects plague Derrick's mind with bizarre, but outrageously fun set-pieces that always keep the game fresh.
Thousands of first-person games on the market already let you shoot bad guys with handguns, machine-guns, and rocket-launchers, while a dozen others let you engage in furious hand-to-hand combo fighting in a third-person perspective. But can you count how many games combine the two, creating an FPS/beat-em-up hybrid? It's not hard to count to 1. Breakdown's innovative approach to combat serves as an outlet for endless fighting combinations, from standard punching and kicking moves, to kung-fu chops, flying-kicks, and slide-kicks, to throws and neck-brakes, to you name it. As if that wasn't empowering enough, the entire game plays out in a real-time first-person perspective, making every action feel personal and effective.
Thanks to Derrick's super-powers, he is able to engage the game's brutal enemies with added strength and abilities. For instance, you're able to stop time, swing your arms out in front of you to create a devastating shock-wave, and throw glowing blue energy balls. Combining all of these special abilities and fighting options results in a wide range of violent encounters with enemies.
Players are able to block bullets and melee attacks with the click of a button as Derrick pulls up his arms and crosses them, similarly to Wonder Woman (but don't let that turn you off). The game also uses a lock-on targeting system to enable quick and easy transitions between fighting multiple enemies, both for projectile-based weapons and melee combat. This eases the pain of unleashing a devastating fury of blows into a single enemy while another creeps up from behind and wales on you. Switching targets is fast and snappy.
To address a common criticism of Breakdown (at least among ''professional'' reviewers), which is that ''the levels are all too bland and grey,'' I offer two points: first of all, video game quality has never been dependent on the color palette, as demonstrated by the first installments of many popular franchises (Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, and others as well, like Metal Gear Solid and Fallout 3). Breakdown's innovation does not involve adding new colors to the spectrum, and even if it did, the effects on actual gameplay would be minimal. Second of all, the game is pretty colorful as you move through it, so a person could only complain about such a thing if they hadn't even finished the game.
Regarding Breakdown's level design, the game is broken up into sections, each possessing its own unique elements. There's never a long stretch of time where you're left thinking, ''Oh wonderful... this is the boring half of the game where nothing happens.'' Instead, every section throws all-new enemies, mini-bosses, and story scenarios at you, so as to keep the game full of variety through and through. Each enemy has a defined specialty, and whether it's hand-to-hand, ranged attacks, or cloaking, each is stylishly brought out.
Interacting with the environment is up-close and personal at all times. To regain health, you eat ration bars picked up from militant foes, scavenge hamburgers and sodas from civilized areas, and absorb energy from dead T'lon soldiers to refill both your power meter and health (depending on whether they decompose into blue or red energy). When opening doors, you don't just stand in front of it and watch it magically swing open; your grab the handle, twist, and push it open with your weight. It's the same with all other actions in the game. Whether it's climbing ladders, platforming (which is plentiful in the latter half of the game), or pushing buttons, all actions are performed physically. The game is immersive, to say the least.
To spend time criticizing Breakdown's art-style or aesthetic dimensions is altogether unfair, as the game is years ahead of its time both in the gameplay department and the story. It's obvious to spot where Namco put all its effort (narrative, combat, enemies, environmental interaction, set-piece moments), and what they spent less time developing (level design details, character personality). As long as we're in the technology department, though, let me inform you that Breakdown was one of the first games to use motion-capture, which they utilized to great effect. For the most part, the game is stunning.
If nothing else, Breakdown certainly has room for refinement. Out of the 1000+ games I've played of the last three generations, there is none more ambitious than Breakdown. No part of it is in need of an overhaul; the game only needs a sequel that expands on everything the first game introduced. In all honesty, Mirror's Edge does not even deserve to be mentioned again, and that's really nothing to cry about. This game went all-out in creating a totally unique story, awesome set-piece moments, terrifying and brutal enemies, hallucination sequences that bent your mind, unprecedented focus on novel combo-fighting gameplay, super human powers that developers are still utilizing today, a brilliant time-travel twist, and arguably the greatest boss-fight in all of video games.
There's only one word to sum up, and it's sequel.
Thanks for reading, guys! As a closing note, I'd like to stress that the game is compatible on all Xbox 360s except the 4 GB. I play the game to this day. Go buy it.