Growing up as a gamer there are certain moments that will inevitably stick with you, both good and bad. The death of Aeris. Psycho Mantis. The moment your favorite game “clicks”. And, for me, the first time I saw my body in an FPS.
In plenty of well received first person games the player is a floating camera with hands and a gun. This always bothered me. I generally like 3rd person games, yet there’s a wonderful feeling of “being there” in 1st person that I enjoy. But I would lose that feeling when I look down and see nothing.
I remember it being a huge selling point (to me) for The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was when I played the demo at a Gamestop (remember demos?). I remember looking down- seeing Riddick’s shoulders, chest, legs, and feet- and being sold right there.
Yeah, I know, I’m weird. But it’s something that I’ve always felt, yet didn’t realise until 2004. However, this article isn’t about Butcher Bay (that’s in the future), but rather a game released a few months prior. The game that first made me realise I had a body, and gave me a few major “gaming moments”: Breakdown.
WHAT IS IT?
Breakdown is a terrific song by Tom Pett- wait, no. Sorry.
Breakdown is a First Person Action-Adventure game with a Sci-fi twist developed and published by Namco in 2004, exclusively for the XBOX. It had mediocre sales and mixed reviews (IGN gave it a 6.7, while the amazing XBN have it a 9.)
I personally love the game, unabashedly, and will fucking FIGHT YOU ABOUT IT (not really, it’s not that serious).
The story revolves around...bad guys and...super-soldier serums and eventually time travel and...stuff like that? Ok, look. I played this game the year it was released, so forgive me if I don’t perfectly remember a game from when I was 14.
WHY IS IT GREAT?
Breakdown was amazing for one specific thing: It never broke 1st Person.
From gameplay to cutscene, you always WERE the main character. Other people talked to YOU, not Manfist Cocksmasher (or whatever the protagonist was called besides “me”). It created a wonderful feeling of “being there”, which would add to any tension/drama/exhilaration of the moment.
Another great thing about it was how it handled typical game tropes.
There were no health kits or clips that magically suck into your ass when you walk over them, no. Need to grab some ammo? Better look down and pick that shit up! Want some health? Grab a candy bar/apple/soda (it is still a game) and munch that! It helped with- lemme check my list of 2004 buzzwords here- IMMERSION, and could also lead to very tense moments if you were hunting for an ammo clip while an enemy is hunting you.
(Also, quick moment to praise the sound of eating. It always [to me, 12yrs ago] sounded perfectly like eating, and not like someone else eating. Does that make any sense?)
Also, hand-to-hand combat could not have been better. The controls were great, with each trigger being an arm, and combination punching was possible.
All-in-all the gameplay was top notch, as was the acting, sound, and graphics. I don’t remember much of the story, but I do remember a ton of bombastic moments (man, I hope it’s not as much like a Zach Snyder film as that sentence makes it seem).
WHAT IT NEEDS
A sequel. Even a spiritual sequel is fine. Really all the game needs is a modern incarnation with some modern design elements married to its ahead-of-its-time ideas.
Another thing doesn’t necessarily need to be ADDED, so much as it needs to be KEPT. Like MGS2 before it, Breakdown- a game from 12 years and two gens ago- HAD FULL REFLECTIONS IN ITS MIRRORS! Something even games from the CURRENT gen can’t manage (looking right in your ocular cavity, WATCH_DOGS & THE ORDER 1886!!). So that would be nice.
WHO SHOULD MAKE IT?
I don’t care. Namco-Bandai, EA, UBISOFT, Activision-Blizzard, some Indie. Doesn’t matter.
Like I said, even a spiritual successor works. Because as it stands, the closest we got is Hardcore Henry, and I don’t want to WATCH a 1st person action-adventure about a badass amnesiac. I wanna play one.
Now, I’m pulling in like TENS of views with these articles, so let me address the AAA developers who are thinking this sounds like a fun project:
All you have to do is play the opening level. The main character wakes up in a lab-type setting with amnesia. Yes it has been used by countless games (Mass Effect 2, Alpha Protocol, etc) but it’s a brilliant tutorial and gives a great view into what is so magical about this game and what potential it truly has.
Breakdown is a forgotten gem that deserves a sequel.