Iron Brigade(Trenched) Review

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As I have stated before, I dislike multiplayer that has me directly connect to people online .  Oh sure, I can have some couch co-op with a friend who only ever comes over once every two weeks to a month, which was the reason it took me 9 months to beat Rayman Origins.  And at the same time, I dislike games, or any medium, when they focus on modern warfare.  But, because I am a tad nutters, I wanted to see if Double Fine could make me give two scraps about the applicable subgenre.  And, well, they tried at least.

Iron Brigade/Trenched (Single Player) Review
Release Date: 22/6/2012
Platforms: XBLA(Reviewed), Microsoft WIndows
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

The game takes place in an alternate Post-WW1 world, where two veteran soldiers uncovered an alien Broadcast that gave both of them great intellect to help the soldiers who had been harmed in the war.  However, the Broadcast turns one of them into a man in an iron case for the rest of his days, and the other into a psycho who wants to, you guessed it, take over the world!

You play as one of the pre selected characters, none of whom are necessarily different aside from their voice, even though they all get pretty tiring after a while.  Even though they do not matter, because they pilot prototype Metal Gears, which are just tanks on legs with no aerial protection.  Which were oddly used as legs, because having ten foot tall, two ton iron legs is totally plausible for someone to live with.  And from here, it is a series of three worlds with four levels and a boss battle at the end, with little story between aside from a between world monologue from the non-bonkers scientist about how people reacted to their actions, and how they’re getting closer to the evil scientist.

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However, this title, despite having mostly unskippable cutscenes, does not pay a lot of attention to the plot, and is more of what one would expect from a Mech-Based WW1 Tower Defense Third Person Shooter.  Whatever that means.  The core of the gameplay is fighting through waves of robotic quadrupeds who glow blue, red or green, and have different variants introduced over time.  Via your two main defenses of upgradable emplaced turrets that are made using their scraps and your endless supply of customizable firearms.  And in theory that could be enough for a games that is as short as this, but I have two major problems with it.  Namely that your loadout of these items is set to a series of presets, none of which contain what I found to be, at least in theory, the best strategy.

There are a good amount of emplacements and weapons in this game, allowing for a lot of leeway, with weapons being limited to a series of up to six slots, with the largest weapons taking up three.  While there are up to four enhancement slots, which are always limited to a class.  And long story short, I wanted to utilize some mines and machine gun turrets for nearly all of my run throughs.  While every option I had with them had very few weapon slots, and a ton of enhancement slots that I didn’t even want.

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I can think of a reason for this, namely that Double Fine would not want players to spend time before rounds with other people setting up some other system where they can make their own sets, even though that would not be hard.  Give the players a set number of points, have them devote them to firearm slots, enhancement slots, speed, and defense.  Then they can go more in depth from there, as you get more points with every level, or rank, you earn from playing the game.

However, this shoots the game in the foot, at least in my opinion.  The normal gameplay is indeed very enjoyable, even though a few levels where doing them by oneself would be difficult due to how large they are.  Baddies come, you defend a base of some sort, and get rewarded based on its health count at the end.  I really do enjoy the set-up, and it can indeed get very tense at times, which to me is one of the most enjoyable parts of any game in any genre.  Still, due to my lack of an ability to customize the game toward my own playstyle, and not liking ones where I barely had any firearms, and never wanting to even look at the, in my opinion, fairly useless support class.

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I do still have a few more gripes regarding things like your indicator for enemies being near spawning being very hard to notice when things get hairy and you have played through this stage for an hour, and want to keep the base above 80% health.  Which I think could have easily been fixed with a radar system, even though the HUD is fairly cluttered with two sets of ammo, two to four health bars for you and the base(s), and your emplacements with the scrap count.  In addition to how being prepared for every foe does get a bit ridiculous since you can only handle one front at a time and enemies like to come from all of them.

And as for the presentation, well, the game does have very neat looking environments despite all of them being war environments of areas left in ruin.  In contrast to the characters who are given a more cartoonish look, probably just to cover up some of the very iffy animations they have.  And I do suppose the Mechs look neat as well, but it all comes down to the core aesthetic of a lot of things about modern, or even modern-ish military, which makes me dreadfully uncomfortable.

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There are a few things in this world that make me just plain uncomfortable, or a bit sick, to talk about, which include topics like: Automobiles, Films as an Artform, Music as an Artform, Social Gatherings, Current Trends and Events, Teenagers as anything but an idea (even though I am 18), Celebrities, Modern Racism/Sexism, Colleges, Sports, Attractiveness, and Modern, meaning guns are involved with hundreds of thousands fighting, Military.  Now, I am not quite sure what was the trigger event for all of these things, yet as it stands, there is a lot of media that I get itchy just thinking about if someone actually set forth an argument about them.  I can give the answer “Not interested.”  Or “Does not matter as far as I am concerned.”  Yet most of the time, I try to avoid the topic or turn it into something else, since I am so entrenched in my own escapism and my little world, that I can not live outside of my bubble.

It is getting to the point where just looking at something that reminds me of modern military makes me gag a little bit, effectively wrecking the game when I remember that I am firing bullets in a war zone.  I don’t have the problem in stuff like Saints Row, but the instant it seems like a “traditional war”, I just wanna go back and do something fun, like play Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?! Where I can drain out my memories of anything I saw and fill it right up with bubbles.

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However, ignoring my personal biases against the title, and how much I am, well, scared by the very idea of firearm based military, I suppose that Iron Brigade is a good title.  My normal thoughts feel more lackluster in quality by ignoring that fact, but as a single player experience, I suppose fun can be had despite my huge issue with customization.  So with a very heartless feeling in my chest, I did have fun with this game when I forgot how this was supposed to be a military title.  Hooray for double standards that make me feel like placing my head on top of a desk for about half an hour.

28/40
Good
It’s held back by certain flaws, it manages to be a competently executed and fun product that is worth playing.

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