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reviews >> xbox

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Year Released: 2004
Players: 1

Visuals 7.25
Like gray? Because this game has a lot of it.
Audio 7.75
Nothing paticulary offensive, but nothing exceptional, either.
Gameplay 5
I hate this game's design. It's fine to try something new, but if that involves making gameplay one-sided and come to a halt, then forget it.
Replay Value 5
In about 7 hours, it's over, with nothing to call you back.
Reviewer's Impression 5
This game feels like punishment. I mean, come on. We play games for fun, for enjoyment. This game offers none of that.
Overall 6
This game blows it big time. This has to be one of the most irritating games I've played in some time, where everything is done so slowly and so stupidly that it boggles the mind. Fun, this isn't.

Are you a masochist? Are you a glutton for punishment? Do you ever feel like self-mutalating yourself without the physical pain and scarring? Well, have I got the game for you! Breakdown by Namco has to be one of the most needlessly punishing games to players I've played in a long time, and further drives home the point on why the Japanese shouldn't make first-person games. This game is hard to enjoy, and yet it's not even that long. It tries some new and somewhat unique ideas, but the execution is so slow and irritating. I think that this may be one of the few titles that literally lives up to it's name. Breakdown is a game that really likes to break down your spirits, like a "blanket party" you never asked for.

Breakdown is a supposed sci-fi thriller that tries to "immerse" gamers in a first person experience. You fight first person, you shoot first person, you can even vomit in first person. In theory, this should make the game design interesting. In theory, you could also say that you can get drunk off of aftershave. In theory, you could say that this game is good. The fact that the whole game takes place from a first person perspective is one of the games biggest flaws. In it's attempt to be "immersive", everything executed by you is done so slowly. For example: picking up ammo. In most first person shooters, picking up ammo is as easy as walking over the item or corpse. Here, you need to align Cole (your character) to a point where "INTERACT" appears in the corner of your screen. Sometimes, this part is frustrating. When you can interact, Cole has to bend down, pick up the ammo (or remove it from the gun), look at it (while you keep slamming on A), and then store it. Pretty much every item acquisition is like this. And it doesn't help when enemies are firing or punching you in the head.

That's another problem with the first person perspective. While the fighting design is decent, trying to pull it off is something else. When dealing with one enemy, fighting is relatively easy. But the developers thought it would be funny to throw in two or three enemies for hand to hand combat (I should say right here that every enemy can't be killed with a gun), and while you're focused on trying to deal with one enemy, another is sucker punching you in the back. Can you do anything about it? No. The best thing to do is to try and lure enemies one by one, or just run. For the enemeis you can kill with firearms, why does it take so many shots to the head for them to die? The game feels one-sided many times over.

You have to wonder what the motivation is in this game to keep you going. The story progresses too slowly, and the details that are given along the way are a bit confusing. Then you have moments where Cole decides to go mental, and you end up in some odd dreamlike sequences. Nothing ever really gets more interesting the more you move along. As I said before, the game is pretty short, in the ballpark of the Silent Hill games (about 7-8 hours). But with the game being so frustrating, do you even really want to try and get that far?

The visuals of the game are pretty bland in terms of style. I've never seen so much gray in a game before. I can understand having a certain style and flow of a game, but Breakdown's environments are pretty dull and repetitive. So repetitve, that there were quite a few halls that looked just like the other. There are some postives, notably the framerate and character models. I've never seen the framerate fluctuate at all, and the character models do stand out from a rather dull package. The audio is decent, but really not redeeming the rest of the game. The background music and effects are okay, and the voice acting isn't terrible.

Final Thought

Breakdown was a game I was hoping would be decent and present some unique concepts to the first person genre. Oh how I was wrong. This is one of the most difficult, irritating, least fun to play games I have laid hands on in a while. Like Maken X for the Dreamcast, it also proves that the Japanese are still in their infancy when it comes to first-person games. While I like their ideas of trying something different, the execution is always more trouble than it's worth. Breakdown has ambitions to be a cinematic and immersive game, but the execution is just slow and plodding. It's hard to recommend Breakdown to anyone, because I really don't think anyone should be subject to the frustrating gameplay this game offers. Sometimes I try to find something redeeming about a game that may make it worth a rental recommendation when it comes to games of this nature, but honestly, Breakdown makes this a tough task to accomplish. If you want something difficult, and you're willing to battle some clumsy gameplay, then maybe try this out. But there are so many other first person games on the Xbox that are better than this.