When last I played Brigador, it was still early into its stint in Early Access on Steam, just shortly after I had done my preview for the game and I was completely. Still, I had this nagging fear in the back of my mind that, based on the current state of the game—what with no real sense of coherence or direction to the missions, and very little of the story and lore being on offer—that it might be pulling a double, or even triple stint in Early Access, if you catch my drift. Yet, here we are, but a few short months later, and I’m flabbergasted by just how well the whole experience has been wrapped up, polished, and otherwise made whole.
Now that I finally understand it, I’m free to share that the premise of Brigador is that on the eve of the death of Great Leader (a Kim Jong Il-style oppressive dictator), the capital city of Solo Nobre erupts in the fires of revolution. Your role, as it is played by various selectable mercenaries and their vehicles of war, is to assist (read: be paid lucratively to assist) in the uprising of one of two factions looking to fill the power vacuum that has opened up. Basically, you’re given a license to shoot, blast, bomb, stomp, smoosh, crush, zap, and otherwise obliterate the loyalist scum of the regime in an attempt to break its hold on the planet by destroying critical infrastructure, dismantling the orbital cannons used to keep the planet as isolationist as possible, or just downright murder the crap out of anything that stands in your way. And it’s all put to a stellar Synthwave soundtrack.
If the basic premise of letting loose giant, hulking murder-mechs and terror-tanks on city districts literally full of destructibles and enemies is cool, then the execution is absolutely magnificent. The isometric camera perspective and sharply modern, yet brilliantly retro graphics are absolutely sold by the game’s lighting engine. Because the whole game takes place at night (and it’s alluded that it’s even just a single night), the weapon shots and particle effects tend to light the map up like something out of an 80’s dystopian film. And because quite literally everything save for the ground itself is destructible, there will be no shortage of opportunities to enjoy that fact.
As alluded to above, as a mercenary, you’re in it for the money, which, in this case, is used to unlock all manner of new pilots, mechs, tanks, hover vehicles, weapons systems, special abilities, lore, and background info on all of the above. All of these are used to play and customize your own scenarios in the game’s Freelance mode. Where the Campaign missions offer four predetermined loadouts for the player to choose from, the Freelance mode is a veritable sandbox of destruction, giving the player complete control to play through all the same missions (and many more), but in any order and with any loadout they desire. Don’t go thinking that because the game is all about, quite literally, smashing the state, that it’s a cakewalk, either. I failed the third proper story mission more than a half dozen times, and with all four optional loadouts before I got past it—and the game only gets more intense from there.
What really sells me on the Brigador experience, though, is the variety. All the enemies you encounter are mix-n-matched vehicles and weapons that you yourself could play as—and there’s a lot to choose from. A couple dozen vehicles, all with varying quirks, styles, and weapon mounts. Spread out across several different categories and sizes, there are at least that many weapons to choose from as well. What’s more, each of the three factions in the game has very distinct visual styles and thematic similarities to accompany them. My personal favourite being some of the Mad Max-style totem pole amalgams of scrap cars made into tanks—they’re brilliantly unique.
On the whole, Brigador is one of the most shamelessly fun experiences I’ve had in a game in recent memory. Stylistically, it’s brilliant and beautiful. Thematically, it’s perfectly executed. The skill-based gameplay is supremely rewarding. And, perhaps most of all, it’s the kind of fun that takes me back to my childhood, face pressed against the glass of a tube TV, sitting on the carpet in the living room with a NES controller in hand, oblivious to the rest of the world. Frankly, if it had multiplayer, Brigador would be right about perfect.