March 16, 2004

You mention a first-person shooter (FPS) to anyone and images of Doom, Quake or one of the many hundreds of followers will immediately pop into the heads. You mention first-person adventure and resulting image becomes a bit more muddled. Games such as System Shock and Deus Ex helped to define this genre, but even now it still remains a somewhat nebulous concept. Perhaps that is because of our innate need to pigeon hole everything, be it a game or otherwise, into a pre-defined classification so that it can be more easily understood. The first-person adventure game type has not yet been fully fleshed out, as developers are still struggling to define the boundaries of what it means to count a game within a genre that deals with the mechanics laid out in the popular FPS genre, while setting these against a canvas of story telling, platforming and other sub genres. Namco’s Breakdown is the latest title to be labeled a first-person adventure, and while it isn’t perfect, this game makes many great strides to not only make a name for itself, but to also deliver a one-of-a-kind memorable experience wrapped up in an intriguing, yet bizarre story.It begs to be said again, despite appearances to the contrary, Breakdown is not a first-person shooter. In fact, players will go entire stretches of the game without engaging in any sort of offensive situation. This is an adventure game with first-person shooter mechanics made available should the need arise. In fact, the shooting, hand-to-hand fighting and puzzle solving, all play second fiddle to the truly surreal story behind Breakdown. This game tells the story of Derrick Cole, a US soldier badly wounded in combat and revived thanks to secret experimentation. Derrick finally awakens in the Carter Research Centre, a US research facility located in Yokohama, unable to remember his past. It isn’t long before things take a strange turn, soldiers raid the base and Derrick is unexpectedly rescued by a teleporting female soldier, Alex Henderson. But who is she and what is her relationship to Derrick? Both begin their escape from the research center and in so doing things begin to unravel in a surreal and sinister plot.

So what makes Breakdown so memorable? Well, for one thing it tries things that players have not seen before, thereby doing its best to shatter any expectations and preconceived notions laid out by players before tackling the experience. From shimmying across a ledge on the 15th floor of a high rise to tearing off a gas mask from a corpse so you can survive a crawl through a smoke filled hallway, Breakdown does its best to deliver the unexpected. And all of this is done in the first-person, as the game never leaves this perspective for a single moment. The ambitious nature of the developers shine at several points in the game such as these, and it is this that makes Breakdown such a joy to play. It has its problems, but as a total experience Breakdown is not to be missed.

Breakdown plays out as a sort of mixture of western and eastern cultures, with all manner of sci-fi clichA

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.