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Product: Breakdown
Company: NAMCO
Website: http://www.xbox.com & www.project-breakdown.com

Estimated Street Price: $49.95/Ł44.99
Online Manual: Xbox.Com
Review By: Brian Kvalheim

The Features

If you are looking for a change from the popular hits, Halo and Half Life, grab a copy of Breakdown by namco (their site was down at the time of this review).  Indulge yourself in a cheeseburger and coke as you carry on through the eyes of Derrick Cole. Literally. A first person game, with burgers, soda and a candy bar to help bring back your health as you fight and shoot your way through an army of militants and aliens. But this game is far from cheesy. This is a single player (no Live), with in game Dolby Digital and HDTV 480p.

  • Unique first-person-view with a hand-to-hand and weapons-based fighting game system.
  • Unprecedented realism in a first-person view creates the ultimate story-driven action gaming experience through a combination of combat, exploration and puzzle solving.
  • Compelling science fiction storyline delivered through intricate graphic renderings.
  • Stunning, detailed and immersive 3D environments allow for hours of exploration and discovery.
  • Includes licensed music soundtrack.

Trapped inside a mysterious laboratory and unable to remember his past, Derrick Cole discovers his extraordinary powers as he fights for survival against a determined military faction and a legion of seemingly invincible super-human warriors. Breakdown™ is a science fiction thriller combining the best elements of shooters and fighters into a comprehensive first-person action/adventure game. Breakdown™s intense storyline is revealed through its high-end, real-time rendered graphics, bringing an unprecedented level of realism to the gameplay experience. The game features fierce hand-to-hand and weapons-based combat, challenging puzzles, surreal dream sequences, advanced A.I. and massive, detailed environments for exploration.

Installation and Settings

Review Quotes
"attention to detail is what really wins me over on this game"

Outside of putting in your Breakdown DVD into the Xbox, installation and setup is a snap. And that is probably the most difficult part. Watching the traditional Breakdown trailer/movie at the beginning of the game will help you understand what your goals in the game will be. Unlike Rainbow Six 3, this trailer is the real thing. The first load of Breakdown does take a few ticks longer than one would expect for normal game play. For the graphics in this game, you will be pleasantly surprised with the load times. Menu options are as follows:

  • New Game: Start new game

  • Load Game: Load a previously saved game

  • Options: Includes game options (turn speed, auto targeting, auto center and captions), controller settings, adjust screen and sound settings

  • Extras: Here you will earn additional music pieces as well as a picture gallery of your progress

As I will mention in further detail in this interview, the default game settings are very predictable or easy to learn if you are new to this game pad setup.

Gameplay & Controls

At the beginning of this game, you are introduced with a short story line, a preview of the enemy, and a quick overview of how to move, fire, jump, rock and roll. The narrator introduces you to moves that require extensive use of your Xbox triggers. A bit out of the ordinary for me, but very easy to use after getting used to it (as of the writing of this game, I just bought Morrowind "Game of the Year Edition" and found similar use of the triggers).

In many of these First Person Point of View games you look around from what appears to be from the chest view. This game takes you into the eyes of Derrick. Namco went above and beyond with reality with this person's movement. Even standing in a position will bring your body to a natural sway. This game may or may not be for the motional unstable (Read: I can't play Halo without getting motion sickness). Using the right thumbstick will give you views above and around you, including your legs and feet. In addition, you get eye view of your arms when climbing, punching or maneuvering. The view of your weapon is very similar to most other first person shooter games, with a bit more body shown.

The game screen interface is very simplistic, leaving room to view more of the well detailed rooms. There is the Life indicator, which shows your health. You need to visit the closest Pepsi machine (not really Pepsi), snack machine, or dead body to obtain additional health. With namco's original view, you actually see yourself eat/drink these products, including opening the cans and pressing the buttons on the soda machines. Again, my first impression was, how cheesy, but in this game, it seems to work for me. There is an Access Marker which shows you something that is in close range that you can investigate. There is T'Langen which is your health for fighting. You will quickly find that when you get hit in a gun battle or are taking a beating during a fight that you will begin to get a blurred view and the screen will be surrounded with a red haze. And finally, there is a targeting marker, which is displayed when you lock on an enemy (but hard to unlock when trying to target a different enemy).

Review Quotes
"This game may or may not be for the motional unstable (Read: I can't play Halo with out getting motion sickness).

Be sure to pick up additional ammo, which is required to continue use of your machine guns and hand guns. You will note over a short period of time, some enemies require different techniques in order for you to defeat them.

Everyone will need to get used to using both thumb sticks for controlling Derrick. One for forward/back and side movements, the other to change your view aim your weapon, or leap over open areas. The tutorials will show which buttons you need to use for picking up items, swiping your key cards for different locked rooms and the sort. Keep in mind that if you access the options menus, you can change these settings to your preference. I personally find that I default to MOST game pad setups that the developers default to (with the exception of the invert feature in Crimson Skies).

In the game, Alex (your partner) will occasionally find you and let you go at her convenience. But when you do have her, take advantage of her. She can take many more beatings than you. Feel free to put her in the line of fire, or take the incoming bullets when opening a door. While she occasionally can be a bad shot, or take so long that you could have cooked your own cheese burger, she will eventually come through for you.

Multiplayer

It would not be fair to judge this game for lack of online Live play. While I would agree that online play makes or breaks many games, especially in the sports arena, but this story line just doesn't account for such play. Offline multiplayer working with a partner, as you do in this game, would be a nice added bonus. A Breakdown II could probably find a way to enhance this game with multiplayer and live ability.

Graphics & Sound

NAMCO found the right sound bites for this game. No if ands or buts. The 5.1 surround is stellar. Believe me when I say that you will know WHERE someone is if they are approaching you from different directions based on the sound (make sure your speakers are not reversed, otherwise you will lose this game quickly). Multiple times in a single game the DD 5.1 has alerted me to an oncoming enemy. Whether it was footsteps or a door or elevator door, I was able to figure out it's location from the side or behind. Relying on this type of game play when playing Live with the Xbox headset on would make it rather difficult. Probably one more reason this game isn't Live enabled. As you progress through the levels, you will be enlightened with new soundtracks. As you open these soundtracks, the Extra's menu will be populated with these tracks allowing you to play the soundtrack through your entertainment system with the need of playing the game.

Graphics are great. Not excellent, but great. I think we have been spoiled with excellent graphics from Xbox over the past couple years, and now we are being a bit more stringent on new releases. In my opinion, this game doesn't go above and beyond any game I have played graphically, but I can say that it has matched my experiences. But attention to detail is what really wins me over on this game. From the smallest detail on a computer monitor and keyboard sitting on an office desk to the labels for the soda on the soda machine. Even the movements shown by the arms when sliding across a floor or climbing a ladder are believable and make you feel like it is actually you in the game.

Final Comments

How It Grades
Controls: 85%
Gameplay: 80%
Graphics: 90%
Multiplayer: NA%
Sound: 97%
Manual: 82%
Interface: 75%
Price: 84%
Overall: 85%

Is this the "best" game I have ever played? No. Is this the best game in this genre of games? Yes. That might have to do with me not getting motion sickness after 20 minutes of playing. But then again, it might not. It's a fun game, and it's easy to learn. You are given direction throughout your entire tour. From helicopters hovering in front of buildings firing at you, to superhumans (aliens) pulling an Apollo vs. Rocky match on your body. I would like to have seen a few more weapons and a couple more fighting moves, but overall, it is well thought out game play. Multiplayer would make this game a BANG for the BUCK value. However, the graphics, attention to detail, and the George Lucas sound wannabe play is enough to prevent me from selling this at ebgames anytime soon.

 

Specs & Package
Overall Score 85%
Version Reviewed Breakdown NTSC
Release Date Out Now
In The Box? 1 Breakdown DVD
1 Set Of Instructions
The Good Points Excellent Graphics
Movie like Sound
Entertaining Music
Original First Person Feel
The Bad Points Checkpoint Screen Stops
Sporadic interaction with partner
Begs for less cheesy power up
PAL 60 Support (Europe) Yes


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