Iron Brigade Review: Return Of The Mech

Posted: June 28, 2011 in Now Playing (Video Game Reviews)
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Great Mech Gameplay
Solid Tower Defense Mechanics
Excellent Co-op Multiplayer

Environments are a little plain

Mech games…you don’t see a lot of them lately and they are usually the love them or hate them variety. It feels like forever since my last mech game I enjoyed playing. That game would be Mech Assault on the original Xbox. Yes, the hours of fun I had with my badass mech wiping out the puny enemy forces thinking they can take me head on. Then there was the online play when Xbox Live was just an infant. Ahhh…memories. Now after many years my mech love has returned with Trenched, but this game is more than just mech action. Trenched has got depth and it’s a whole lotta fun.

Iron Brigade (formerly known as Trenched), available now on Xbox Live Arcade from the good folks at Double Fine, tells the tale of two World War I vets, Frank Woodruff and Vladamir Farnsworth, who gain super-intelligence after survivng an attack from “The Broadcast.” Frank, a disabled vet, uses his knowledge to create walking mechs called trenches which gave other disabled vets the opportunity to walk again. What a good guy. Vladimir, on the other hand, had a different plan. He created Monovision allowing people to see the world from their homes. Unfortunately for Vlad, he goes insane and for some strange reason decides to go on a crusade for world domination. Now it’s up to Frank’s mobile trenches to save the world from it’s greatest threat…television.

Right from the beginning of the game, you’ll realize that Iron Brigade is more than just your typical shooter. It also infuses tower defense mechanics for a game that will keep you busy for a long time especially when it comes to strategy. Now when it comes to tower defense games I can tell you that I’m still learning my way around the genre, although I have enjoyed quite a few titles in the last couple of years including Defense Grid, South Park, and Sol Survivor. In a way Iron Brigade reminds me of the hit game Monday Night Combat…minus the bacon.

Like all tower defense games, each action packed level in Iron Brigade plays out in waves as you use your mechs to take out Vlad’s creations known as “tubes.” These tubes are more than just your typical ground variety of grunts. They’ll attack in all directions from the ground, in the air, and they’ll even shoot you. Your mission is to defend a specific location from the tubes at all costs. Now you can’t do all of this yourself so you’ll need tower defense emplacements to help deal the damage making your job just a little easier. As you take out enemies, you’ll pick up scrap (which look like TVs) that you can use for buying emplacements to call into battle. Each emplacement serves a specific purpose so make sure you choose wisely or else it’s back to the drawing board. With that in mind you now realize that with Iron Brigade strategy plays a key role in your survival making this more important than being a big dumb action hero.

Speaking of strategy, it’s not just what you do on the battlefield, but also how you prepare for the battle as well. Just remember GI Joe? “Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.” Your enter strategy all takes place at a central hub on an aircraft carrier where you’ll learn about missions as well as prepare your mech for battle. Your mech is 100% customizable as you set what chassis, weapons and emplacements you want to use. All of this is available in the store where you put your hard earned money (earned in battle) to work for victory or maybe just change the way your character looks. Either way customization is fun and gives Iron Brigade limitless possibilites in what you can do.

The best part of Iron Brigade is that the battle doesn’t have to be won alone. That’s right soldiers, there’s no shame in asking for a little assistance. You along with up to three friends (or complete strangers if that suits your fancy) can play in co-op multiplayer. Sorry folks, there’s no mech vs mech combat in this arena. Here you must work together to stop Vlad’s tubes. If a temmate’s trench goes down head on over to revive them so they can rejoin the battle. Also all scrap you collect is spread out evenly so that nobody has a bigger advantage. Playing in multiplayer is a real treat, but make sure you have your headsets on for this because teamwork leads to mission success. The time I spent playing this in multiplayer was fun no matter who I was with. We all talked strategy as well as customizing our mechs for the mission. A good tip is to stick together early and once a wave is complete, spread out and place towers. Once a new wave begins I suggest clustering up again which will lead to happy times.

Iron Brigade is the kind of game that will keep you busy for hours even after completing the main campaign. Endless ustomization and co-op teamwork over Xbox Live will keep you coming back for more. Overall, Iron Brigade is just another shining example of Xbox Live Arcade greatness. I highly recommend downloading this game today!


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