Very few games these days make me long for simpler times. Remember back when gameplay was much more straightforward than all the gimmicks that now dot the landscape of the games industry? During this time, when Electronic Arts were known for making unusual games that pushed the envelope, one such title was called Future Cop: LAPD. Donning a very retro 80’s Robocop vibe, with fast pumping music and gameplay that was surprisingly addictive despite some slightly awkward controls, it very quickly became still to this day, one of my fondest memories on the Playstation console.
Fast forward 19 years into the future and finally, there is a game that captures the nostalgic 80’s feeling coupled with the similar addictive top-down shooting gameplay of almost a decade ago. With a soundtrack scored by Makeup and Vanity Set, the setting of Brigador will feel immediately at home to fans of the cyberpunk genre. Boasting a neon-encrusted coating, complete with sound-gated drums for that deep bass feel, Brigador in some ways almost feels like a sequel to both Robocop and Future Cop: LAPD at the same time. The gameplay is addictive in shorts bursts, and while the campaign isn’t very long, a collection of small issues will have you gnawing your teeth on it for a while. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
“Great Leader is dead!” That is how Brigador opens and it is just as jarring as it seems. The colony of Novo Solo has been under the thumb of the tyrannical dictator known as “Great Leader” for many years. Residing in the capital of Solo Nobre, Great Leader and the Novo Exercito do Povo seized power by closing the spaceports of Novo Solo and forced Solo Nobre to endure a regime of regressive economic policies. With the help of an impressive array of orbital guns installed throughout the capital making spaceflight impossible, no outside assistance could be rendered and Solo Nobre was cut off from the other colonies, including the Solo Nobre Concern (SNC). A relief group of sorts, the SNC dedicate their lives to bringing peace back to the capital of Novo Solo and bringing down the tyrannical rule of the despot known as Great Leader. Now Great Leader is dead and as a contractor for the SNC, you have been charged with liberating Solo Nobre itself. You’ll have to do whatever you can do to free the colony.
If you’re wondering what “whatever you can do” translates to, sadly it isn’t very much. You’re frequently charged with blowing up monuments and buildings from the previous administration. Assassinations are also contracted to you to carry out, all the while avoiding security detail forces and trying to make it out of your next job in one piece. It sounds exciting initially, but it quickly becomes quite repetitive. The first mission itself will at first confuse you. As soon as you discover Great Leader is dead, you are then given the “choice” to become a Brigador, rebel against the current administration and willingly become a criminal. There is in fact no actual choice and the only option to start the story is to kill a bunch of what appear to be innocent civilians underfoot of your mech before leaving for the exit. This is the most interesting part of the game and the rest from then on becomes quite lost in a sea of repetition. It’s a shame, as the story hints at something far deeper, but with how short missions are, and how frustrating the game can get, what little story is in the campaign, is lost along the way. To understand the story in full, the complete lore for each missions must be purchased with credits. It’s a bizarre choice that kind of echoes how much the story takes a rather large backseat to the action.
In the campaign mode, you are given a choice from one of four vehicles for each mission. Each controls in a substantially different way and is loaded to the brim with a bunch of different defenses. The weapons and loadouts are the strength of Brigador. Anti-gravity vehicles can drop to the ground quickly, providing a devastating shockwave to anything underneath, while the tanks—actually they’re more like bulldozers—can just mow down anything directly in front of you. The walking mechs have their personal defenses too, with the heavy, sturdy legs allowing them to stomp anything to pieces underfoot. All three of these vehicle types usually come loaded to bare with rockets, and machine guns, pulse lasers and mortars, anti tank flechette rounds and all sorts of other fun gadgets, from grenade launchers to rail-guns, Brigador runs the entire gamut.
While most of the time you can go in all guns blazing and just raze everything to the ground (and I mean everything), sometimes it’s best to take on missions with a little stealth and finesse. The enemy can hear you, depending on how loud you are being during the mission, and while optic camouflage, smoke grenades and electromagnetic pulses with help you stay alive somewhat, you have to be tactful. Certain drones (denoted by an eye icon) you encounter will in fact raise the alarm, so it’s best to destroy these enemies ASAP, otherwise they’ll alert the entire base to your presence.
While it’s not impossible to complete the mission’s objective when the base is on full alert, it certainly makes things harder. Enemies will have their armour and shields already at maximum strength, additional reinforcements will be sent to assist the enemy near you, and certain barricades will be erected all over the map. Being on high alert is sometimes unavoidable, but limiting the times you are discovered can make your life easier. Another aspect of stealth in Brigador is vision. While the mech can crouch and scout ahead, light and darkness plays a part. Some enemies will be hidden behind walls, bushes and constructs, outside of your cone of vision. This makes dashing in all guns blazing quite hard after about the tenth mission, as you can easily end up with the entire hostile force cutting you off from all sides and quickly putting an end to a long mission.
While the missions are fairly short, there are no time limits so you can take as much time as you like sightseeing, or just playing around in the fully destructive environment. There are ammo restock depots littered around the maps, and just like everything else in the game, you’re rewarded money for destroying them. The more you destroy in each mission, you more credits you’re awarded at the end. This factor of Brigador is interesting, turning it very much into a risk vs reward system. If you complete a mission, do you hang around, wiping out the rest of the enemy, hunting for depots to blow up, destroy some power plants and oil pipelines, or do you hightail it out of there because you only have about 35 armour left on your mech? These are the moments when the game really shines.
Further adding to the risk vs reward concept is how the game handles the different vehicles’ integrity. Each mech has a set amount of armour, and they all vary greatly. The slower paced vehicles have the heaviest armour—making them handy in a firefight—but they are also the slowest, and will leave you as a sitting duck as soon as you start to take too much damage, and get overrun by enemies. Some vehicles are balanced, while others have little armour, but are incredibly fast. No armour can be replenished on any vehicle. Once armour is lost, it’s gone for the duration of the mission, however shields can be replenished, but it can be risky. Each enemy killed will usually drop either ammunition rounds or shield particles, which can be harnessed by your machine of death. Once again, it’s all a matter of risk vs reward.
Freelance mode is where the game starts to come unstuck. Freelance allows you to pilot any mech you have purchased, and equip it with any gun that may take your fancy. While the campaign restricts you to only four different vehicles per mission, freelance allows you to spend your hard earned cash and play a randomized map with less restrictions. While the extra freedom may seem like a great idea, Freelance actually feels quite lacking, as once you get out there, there isn’t really much to do other than destroy and earn even more cash, and that’s kind of the heart of Brigador’s problem. It’s wrapped in a very flashy presentation, with a 2 hour long original soundtrack, but there isn’t much to do. Coupled with the godawful controls that feel like a tank making it easier to get overrun, the fun can die very early into the game. Each mission after ten is a lesson in frustration, trial and error and just pure luck. Considering you’re piloting a big powerful mech, it’s a real problem that the enemy lasers will rip through you like tissue paper, regardless if you have 300+ shields or not.
The Heads Up Display (HUD) also makes things somewhat frustrating. A game as fast and frenetic as Brigador, can’t really spare even one second to glance up top left to check your shields and armour, and yet I constantly found by the time I checked my health and immediately zeroed back into my mech, it had already been reduced to rubble and my mission failed. Without the game hinting the direction you’re being fired upon, it makes it hard to retaliate until they’re already upon you. The actual view of your character feels quite claustrophobic and restricted as well. This may be partially due to the tank controls and inability to reverse vehicles easily, but the camera just feels far too zoomed out. The details present in the maps are visible enough, but only just. Everything is just a bit too tiny, and it’s easy to miss a guy on foot carrying a rocket launcher to fire at you, or a small buggy that is about to raise the alarm. Brigador could have greatly benefited from Future Cop: LAPD’s camera viewpoint. It’s a shame, because Brigador has some very cool ideas going for it, and a very slick cyberpunk veneer, but for $20 it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough here to keep one entertained for more than maybe a couple of hours. The simplicity of the game is somewhat of a novelty, but only for about an hour. Any longer and it starts to become mired down in a number of problems with the interface and controls. Soundtrack is good though.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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