Mechs. Warriors. Mercenaries.
HIGH The frosty-cool cyberpunk mood and glorious synth soundtrack
LOW Tougher than a cyborg’s titanium codpiece, and not always for the right reasons
WTF Am I wrong for wanting a mission or two during daytime?
Saying the word “cyberpunk” typically brings to mind images of hacking, transhumanism, and neon-tinged conceptions of the internet, but post-industrial techno-dystopia is fertile ground for all manner of settings, including one more typically associated with games like the Mechwarrior series. That’s where Brigador comes in, applying the bleak, deliberately distant tone of Blade Runner and the inherent cynicism of cyberpunk to a frenetic isometric shooter.
Players step into the mechanized boots of a Brigador—a mercenary tasked with liberating the world of Solo Nobre in the wake of the Great Leader’s death. There isn’t much in the way of a traditionally delivered story, with virtually no character interactions or even a plot beyond text briefings in the campaign mode. But what text it is! Dripping in carefully obtuse, impersonal corporate-speak, the briefings and unlockable lore set a great mood. And on the plus side, there’s very little to get in the way of a player blowing stuff up.
Brigadors will cause wanton carnage and destroy anything in their way for most of the game. They’ll assassinate targets, wreck orbital defenses, and stomp, crush, and barrel their way through scenery in a glorious orgy of vehicular violence. It’s reminiscent of old-school isometric shooters like Desert Strike, which delivered explosive spectacle in the years before 3D graphics and first-person viewpoints gained dominance.
To this end, Stellar Jockeys have constructed a gloriously industrial aesthetic cloaked in neon-lit darkness. Tiny civilians and soldiers mill around to be cut apart by weapon fire and exploding structures are ripe to set off chain explosions. The task won’t be easy, though, as the game is quite tough. Players are fragile, and when facing swarms of enemies, death comes quickly to reckless Brigadors. It fits the setting, if not the desire for carefree destruction.
At their fingertips, players have a wide selection of vehicles, with dozens of individual mechs, tanks, and hovering anti-gravs to choose from. Each vehicle type comes with a distinct movement style and traits.
The relatively slow mechs can crouch to reduce damage in battle, and can also deliver a powerful ground stomp that levels scenery and clears away small enemies. Tanks can barrel forward to demolish obstacles, and anti-gravs can hover and strafe.
Weapons run the gamut from powerful cannons, to fast-firing machine guns, to scenery-piercing railguns, lasers, mortars, and rockets of varying types. While campaign missions limit player selection to a range of preset choices, the skirmish-like “freelance” missions can be played with the full selection of vehicles, weapons and even pilots that provide modifications to the difficulty and other meta-game options. The campaign missions provide an interesting challenge since players will be forced to choose an unusual loadout at least once or twice, but the real soul of the game lies in being able to unlock a favorite setup and take it on a procedurally generated rampage through Solo Nobre.
Once the campaign is out of the way, finding and experimenting with various setups and unlocking more vehicles becomes the primary motivator for a hungry Brigador, but with time, some unfortunate frustrations pop up.
For example, Stellar Jockeys’s minimalist approach to user interface makes for a largely uninterrupted view, but their decision to cram nearly all critical information into the corner can be a hindrance to the action since ammo and ability management is crucial to high-level play. Also, the nighttime aesthetic of the game is wonderfully evocative, but can also make it hard to tell which direction one’s mech is facing, dulling reactions and potentially leading to unnecessary deaths.
While these kinds of minor gripes tarnish the experience slightly, they’re just small flaws in an otherwise sublime shooter. Brigador might not necessarily satisfy players looking for a new sim or a successor to a beloved series like MechCommander, but it scratches the itch for a challenging rampage game steeped in top-notch cyberpunk atmosphere.
Disclosures: This game was developed and published by Stellar Jockeys. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on the PC. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game’s rating is pending, though if rated it would contain content descriptors for violence, animated blood, and language. The game depicts a violent conflict and players will often kill civilians and other non-combatants via collateral damage. The viewpoint, aesthetic and play mechanics prevent close-up presentation of deaths, but the graphics are generally quasi-realistic. Combat is almost always between mechanized units, so most violence is shown as vehicles or landscape being destroyed.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The game has no voice acting and most information is delivered via text or interface elements.
Remappable Controls: All button controls can be remapped. The game does not offer controller support.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes in the game, and the art style may be difficult to decipher for players who have difficulty seeing dark objects.
Today he continues to write for a living while trying to turn his fledgling knowledge of Japanese into a marketable skill. He is Managing Editor of Japanese culture site Japanator and is a Contributing Editor for Destructoid. He has written for The Escapist, The California Literary Review, Esquire Magazine, and proudly holds the badge as the premier apologist for Star Trek Online.