The Free-To-Play business model for online games is one that’s been building momentum and most recently has seen DC Universe Online’s revenue increase vastly since it’s conversion in November last year. It’s not surprising then that a lot of other developers want to try their hand at this type of system but with plenty of competition in the market how will BrawlBusters, a third person action game from Rock Hippo, fare?
At first glance you’d be remiss to not see the art similarities between BrawlBusters and Valve’s Team Fortress 2 with its brightly coloured, cartoon-like visuals. This sets the tone for the proceedings to give the game an appealing tongue-in-cheek feel and allow it to offer up outlandish combat that never takes itself too seriously.
Initially players are given the option to create their own online fighter from the customisation options available. These aren’t the most expansive tools ever seen with three body types, male and female models, a selection of face defaults and just about enough variations to make your avatar stand out online.
Further selections come in the form of clothing, weapons and upgrades although only a small number of these are available to buy using the currency (BP) earnt through your in-game endeavours. The remainder are bought using the Rocker Points (RP) obtained by paying out real money. This does mean that those willing to spend will end up being slightly more overpowered that the average player. It’s not a game breaking difference but it does mean that those not choosing to play will have rely more on their skills rather than sheer equipment strength.
There are currently 5 classes on offer in the form of Firefighter, Rocker, Boxer, Blitzer and Slugger. Each has their own level of specialisation in terms of health, speed, defense and attack statistics as well as combat skills. Most of their attacks focus on damage dealing either up close or from a distance but the firefighter also has defense barrier available for an extra strategic level to proceedings.
The combat is incredibly simple to pick up and equates to a click on either the left or right mouse button to perform attacks. In order to aid some additional variety there are items to be picked up and can range from a simple explosive devices to jelly that glues opponents to the ground or a box that fixes firmly on an enemies head in order to disorient them. Unfortunately, aside from the jumping and dodging mechanics, there is little else to speak of. That’s not to say the fighting isn’t fun, however don’t expect to be memorising and utilising a huge array of moves to take down your opponents.
Environments throughout the game bring their own challenges and feature a vast amount of dangers such as cars, explosive barrels and springs as well as objects to destroy for item pick-ups. These are incredibly vibrant and fit perfectly with the game’s penchant for cartoon violence.
There are both single and multiplayer modes available in the game although the solo levels only truly serve as training for the online exploits. In multiplayer you can delve into 5 different scenarios including two team deathmatch variations, free for all as well as boss battle and zombie survival. The latter two encourage co-operative gameplay and task gamers with surviving waves of enemies or attempting to defeat a powerful boss character with his minions. While none of these modes are exclusive to BrawlBusters, the co-op focused options best highlight the class differences and allow for some seriously satisfying collaboration to overcome the AI opposition.
For an online game you’d certainly hope that the matchmaking system is adequate and this game doesn’t disappoint. Each match is given its own lobby, host and even chat functions. Searching for your chosen game type is fast and easy although, as with all online games, the amount of people playing is paramount in determining how many games are available. So far there haven’t been any stages where it’s been hard to find someone to play with however there have been plenty of occasions where the host hasn’t started the game when everyone is ready. This leads to a lot of people dropping out in frustration and while this isn’t the developers fault, they would be wise to introduce some safeguards to punish neglectful hosts.
While it doesn’t have the production values of a big budget title but more than makes up for it with cheap and cheerful action for the masses with nice bonuses for the paying audience. Those wanting deeper gameplay and options in their combat will have to look elsewhere however for a quick and satisfying multiplayer fix, you can’t go too far wrong with BrawlBusters.