Game Info
First Person Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence
The Good

• Very immersive
• Melee combat is a nice addtion
• Solid sci-fi story

The Bad

• Graphics could be stronger
• Gunplay is a bore
• Lots of trial and error


Games played out in first person perspective are often done so to draw the player into the developer's game world and make them feel that they are a part of the game and story. While most Japanese developers have shyed away from the first person perspective in their games, Namco has decided to not only make their action/adventure in first person, but take it a step further - you can actually see your body. In Breakdown, the player is given an intense level of immersion, ranging from pilfering items off of dead bodies to drinking colas and eating food to regain health. Unlike othe first person games, the player's head moves in reaction to the events that play out during the game.

The story behind Breakdown is so heavily influenced by sci-fi media (literature, films) that you'd be foolish not to think its largely an homage to the genre. Without going too far into details, so as not to ruin any potential surprises, the story begins with you as Derrick Cole, an amnesiac who finds himself in a sterile and unfamiliar lab. Before too long, the place comes under attack, first by armed troops and then by a group of invincible bald albinos known as the T'Lan, who do a fine job of kicking all manners of ass early on. While the "amnesiac" angle may seem played out and tired on paper, for the very immersive concept of the game, it's actually a necessity, especially since you won't know much about the game world until you live in it for some time. Before too long, Derrick's abilities begin to manifest, which allows him to actually combat the T'Lan and progress through the game.

The basic core of the game is a standard sci-fi themed adventure. You must travel from one location to another, finding you path, fighting or fleeing from enemies, eating and drinking food to regain your health and occasionally locating specific items to help you progress. At times, you'll be teamed up with Alex, who obviously knows more about Derrick than you do and can be helpful in telling you what to do in specific moments (like hiding behind debris or crawling away to safety). When it comes to controls, the A Button sets your lock-on to a target, the X Button interacts with items in the environment, the Y Button scrolls through weapons, and B Button serves as a cancel/throw away option. You can jump with the Black Button and throw grenades with the White Button. The D-Pad also lets you swap weapons and even put your equipped weapon away. When you have a gun equipped, the Right Trigger shoots it and the Left Trigger reloads. To interact with items in the game world, you'll need to press the X Button once to grab an item and then again to actually use it.

Before too long you'll find out that Breakdown doesn't play like a standard FPS. And rightly so, because the game is by and far an adventure (kind of like how Metroid Prime stepped away from the shooter mantle). If you check out your inventory, you'll discover you can't carry too many weapons or ammo and health items are picked up and used on the fly rather than stored. You'll often find yourself fighting through a location, picking up ammo off of the dead bodies to resupply and then stopping at a nearby cola machine to heal back up. Before too long, though, you'll gain new abilities and powers that'll make you want to put the guns away from good and stick to your fists. Yes, you can actually fight hand-to-hand in Breakdown.

By using the Left and Right triggers in combination with the Left Analog stick, you can perform a series of attacks, including punch combos, backflips, and kicks. Early on, you may find combat a liability, especially against armed troops, but once you gain newer powers, like the ability to block bullets by clicking the Left stick, you'll be switching between guns and fists. When dealing with the T'Lan, don't be too surprised to find yourself running rather than fighting until you gain newer powers, especially before you can the ability to break their shields with your fists. This places a nice degree of "fight or flight" to what might have been a standard corridor shooter and really adds a whole new element for those looking for something fresh and new.

Visually, Breakdown is somewhat tame and even a little disappointing, especially considering it's developed exclusively on the Xbox. The game sports large environments and levels and has a lot of environmental details to solidify the idea that you're playing in a real world. But, the game suffers from some really boring and bland textures, especially early on in the first few hours of the game, and some fairly blocky character models that feature some less than realistic animations. The game also lacks some of the finer visual effects seen in other recently releases. If the lighting and shadows had been more dynamic, like in Splinter Cell or Deus Ex: Invisible War, I think it would have gone a long way to making the game look a lot better. It's not as if the game looks bad, but it just seems to next an extra layer of polish.

Audiowise, the game really does a great job. Voice acting manages to deliver the story probably a lot better than the sometimes hokey script deserves. Sound effects are great and feel like they're pulled straight from real-life sources. The music, while understated and not completely over-the-top, works well in setting the game's tone. Composed largely of techno, the music kicks in during the action but fades away when you're on your own. And, if you like what you hear, you can listen to it in the music player that can be accessed when you're not playing the game.

As ambitious in concept as Breakdown is, there's still a good bit of minor issues that the game could use some polish on. For a game that focuses on immersion and interactivity, there's still a lot that you can't touch and a lot of the areas seem to have an invisible barrier around them, making navigating certain rooms a little tight. Also, why can't I break out windows or kick open doors? It's not much but it would have been nice to have just that little more for the sake of immersion. To go along with this is the fact that the gunplay proves to be less the interesting, largely because of the interface it's built on. Your options are either to let the auto-lock make targeting too easy or turn off the auto-lock and miss a lot because the way Derrick holds the guns makes it hard to line up shots well.

One thing that may be make-or-break for some players is how the game is paced in terms of level progression, checkpoints and saving. While the game allows you the ability to save at any time, it actually only saves the last checkpoint you passed through. The problem with this is that the game tends to not inform you when you passed a checkpoint. You might think the 3-5 second load times that pop up occasionally are a sign of a checkpoint, only to get killed and retry a good five minutes back. This itself wouldn't be so much of an issue if it weren't that you often have to work your way through a number of enemies before coming across the next source of food to reheal because you can't keep anything on you. In the end, you're often faced with a number of trial-and-error events that you'll have to retry a couple times until you manage to survive to the next checkpoint.

Breakdown is one of those titles that won't receive a huge following, a la Halo, but it's sure to have a die-hard fanbase that will ignore any complaints levied towards it. At its core, the game does succeed in being very immersive and providing a good enough story to keep you playing through the whole story. The hand-to-hand combat is actually quite fun to use, which more than makes up for the mediocre gunplay you have to use early on. If you're looking for a game that breaks away from the standard FPS mold, be sure to look into Breakdown.

- - Kinderfeld

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