Massive Property Damage: A Brigador Review
It's difficult to tell, sometimes, whether a game's difficulty and controls are truly to blame, or whether it's just that I've got really stupid fingers. Brigador is one of these times.
The game has an excellent look and feel, the sinister synths and isometric explosions creating just the right atmosphere for an odd early '90s-looking twin-stick shooter. It's also got tank controls that feel odd with mouse aim, so that your body is always pointed in a direction other than where you want to move. But in spite of all this, it's a challenging and ultimately kind of satisfying game in a way few are.
As the distorted opening text tells the player, Great Leader, the despotic leader of a military faction called Solo Nobre, has been assassinated. You play a mercenary pilot in an overpowered mech, contracted to destroy the remains of his Loyalists, take down all the orbital cannons on the surface of the planet, and cause as much property damage as humanly possible. Levels find you crushing everything in your way and getting to the exit, utilizing a combination of stealth, tactics, and whatever weapons of mass destruction you currently have your tank outfitted with. And while the levels are fun trying to out-think your opponents, it's more fun just to stomp them with whatever you have at your disposal.
The game plays from a three-quarters isometric perspective, with mostly blank black space apart from the terrain and the vehicles in it. As the levels go on, the graphics open up, but everything stays in a kind of lo-fi 3-D feel. There are, however, a variety of enemies that fling themselves against your mech at breakneck pace, and some of them even succeed. The levels might be missions to destroy, but the gameplay is incredibly satisfying because of this, and they offer a wide range of ways to destroy. Depending on what mech design you pick, you could be playing with stealth and working your way across the map under cover, zipping over it in an A-Grav, or just stomping your way through Loyalist troops with a gigantic metal walker.
It's here that some of the issues begin to set in. First, that the game's controls are tank controls, no pun intended. Which, when also connected to mouselook, means you are rarely moving in the right direction until you get the hang of the weird control setup and look at the arrow telling you which way to orient. The other problem with the controls is that they require you to be precise. You cannot aim in the direction of things in Brigador and hope to hit stuff; you have to be exact in what you aim at and then hope to hit. Which, when things are moving around quickly (as are you), is almost impossible to do. The Showdown Effect had a similar problem, in that it was difficult to shoot and aim and not get hit by everything as you jumped around. This is like that, but on a much less frustrating level.
My dilemma, however, is figuring out whether this is my issue with the game, or a legitimate game issue. I'm the kind of person who winds up impaled on a difficulty spike rather than clearing it, and the challenges presented in Brigador are ones to which I am not normally acclimated, having become soft and complacent after years of very slow-paced action games and the like.
Should the tank controls and bad aiming and general dark aesthetic not turn you off, however, Brigador is an excellent throwback to an age where things didn't have to be easy, humor and fluff writing enriched even the sparsest of settings, and blowing stuff up was really, really cool. Give this one a try. Though maybe not for the current price.
Disclosure: The user received a copy of this game for the purposes of writing this review