Breakdown Hands-On Impressions
Namco's new first-person adventure game packs a serious punch. Read our impression of the first hour of the game.
We've gotten our hands on the latest build of Breakdown, Namco's ambitious Xbox-exclusive first-person action adventure game, and so far we're downright impressed by what we've played. Though we've just scratched the surface of what this interesting title will offer, we've been wowed several times by the innovative little touches that have immersed us in the experience. After about an hour of play time, we feel pretty secure in saying that Breakdown will redefine your conception of what's possible in a game with a first-person perspective.
Though we've not yet delved too deeply into Breakdown's bizarre and intriguing storyline, this much is clear: You're Derrick Cole, and you've awoken from some sort of injury in a high-tech research facility. Soon after you've regained your senses, the doctors monitoring you are slaughtered, and the building is overrun by a coordinated squad of soldiers. An agile companion named Alex, who has some really impressive fighting moves (think Trinity from The Matrix), helps you out of bed and travels with you as you attempt to escape the facility, fighting the military agents and a number of mysterious, nearly invincible supersoldiers along the way.
Breakdown puts you in the shoes of your character more so than just about any first-person game we've ever played. When you first start the game in the hospital bed, you can actually look down and see your legs stretched out. The animations for picking things up, opening doors, putting on clothing, and the like all look uncannily realistic and use your perspective effectively to enhance their effect. You can interact with many elements of the environment--for instance, if you see a cheeseburger in the cafeteria, you can pick it up and actually watch your character raise it toward your view and take bites out of it (which restores some health). The level of immersion in Breakdown is going to be really surprising to players who are accustomed to merely shooting everything in a first-person game.
Speaking of shooting, there's a lot of it going on so far in the game. The gun combat uses an auto-targeting system that makes it easy to cycle between enemies and shoot them, although we'd like to see some freedom in the aiming to score headshots. As it is, it can be a little tough to fell enemies with body armor since you're required by the targeting system to fire at their torsos. So far we've lifted a pistol and a submachine gun from the soldiers, both of which pack a nice punch. You can raid fallen enemies for extra ammo, food rations, and other such supplies, of course.
Much more innovative than the firearms in Breakdown is the game's hand-to-hand combat, the likes of which haven't really been seen in a first-person game before. Sure, some shooters let you use your fist as a last-ditch melee weapon, but Breakdown gives you a full suite of fighting game-style moves to use against your enemies. We've pulled off a variety of punch combos, uppercuts, side punches, and kicks to take out enemies, and it's truly satisfying to just whale on an opponent, knocking him clear across the room and into a wall. Without giving too much away, those supersoldiers we referred to that are impervious to bullets will eventually feel the immense power of Derrick's punches and kicks as he begins to regain some sort of mysterious supernatural abilities.
Derrick's strange nature manifests in more than his attacks; as you play, you'll be subjected to some truly weird hallucinations. We've seen ghostly cats crossing our path, we've seen our flesh and then muscles stripped from our arms (reducing them to bones), and we even walked through a door to find ourselves in some sort of strange desert otherworld, which we wandered aimlessly until we entered a freestanding door and were returned to the research facility. There have been a lot of "whoa" moments like this in the early part of Breakdown that really lend a great amount to the game's atmosphere.
Like we said, we've barely scratched the surface of what Breakdown has to offer. The game still has a ways to go before its March release, what with tweaking the difficulty, the AI, and the like, but it's very cool so far. The cinematic and immersive techniques being used really pull you into the action without feeling gimmicky, and we can't wait to keep playing to see what other surprises the game has in store. Stay tuned for more on Breakdown in the coming weeks.
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