Iron Brigade Review

Double Fine Production‘s move to the downloadable space has been met with great success on consoles. Now, with its port of Iron Brigade, all of those (non-Kinect) titles have made the leap to PC. It’s perhaps the easiest transition of the group, as third person tower defense-esque games are all the rage with PC gamers these days. Requiring a lot less investment than the likes of League of Legends or Super Monday Night Combat, Double Fine’s newest port presents a nice entry point for those looking to dip their toes in the water.

Iron Brigade tells the story of World War I veterans Frank Woodrof and Vladamir Farmsworth, who gain super-intelligence from a signal of unknown origin. The signal is broadcast worldwide and wipes out a large portion of the population. Woodrof puts his new found intelligence to good use and invents mech-like Mobile Trenches, allowing paraplegic soldiers like himself to walk again.

Unfortunately Farmsworth doesn’t react quite as positively to his intelligence boost. Though he invents the Television he is also driven insane, The now-mad scientist begins building robots, based around his other invention, the TV. They’re called Monovisions or “Tubes” and Vladamir has built them in order to spread the mysterious signal that started this whole mess.

While it all sounds very serious and scary, this is still a Double Fine game, so there’s plenty of that trademark charm and wit. You’ll hear Farmsworth quip, watch your in-game character light a cigar with a gun and chuckle immaturely when facing the “Big-Willie”, an especially large Tube.

In Iron Brigade you play as a Mobile Trench pilot, tasked with taking down Farmsworth and his army of Tubes. You will of course use the mounted guns on your Trench to take down Tubes. After doing so they’ll drop scrap, which can then be used to buy emplacements, turrets, and more. If that sounds a lot like a tower defense game with third person shooter elements to you, then you are rather astute as that’s exactly what the gameplay of Iron Brigade turns out to be.

As you fight the Tubes across the world (and Mars, as the 360 DLC is included here), you’ll also earn cash, which acts as experience and allows you to buy upgrades for your Trench. These range from a new chassis to a new machine gun or sniper rifle. (Or you could just buy a new hat for your pilot, as you’ll be getting plenty of new equipment via loot drops throughout the stages and as a reward for leveling up.) It’s an incentive that’s worked in games for years and it does the job here, too. You’ll be hooked on the cycle of getting new stuff, wanting to use said new stuff, getting even better stuff, trying out said better stuff, and so on.

Of course all the loot in the world means nothing if the gameplay itself isn’t fun. No worries there with Iron Brigade; annihilating Tubes in a Trench is incredibly satisfying. The game is also backed by some stellar sound design, which brings a great sense of weight to the towering mech and its huge mounted weapons. It also helps what is ostensibly a pretty small-scale game feel much bigger, as huge electrical storms drown out any other noise and mammoth enemy whines can be heard from across the map.

While this PC port is solid enough, it’s unfortunate to see so few options with regard to graphics. It certainly looks better than its XBLA brother, but PC gamers expect a certain degree of control and customization from their experience. That said, outside of the use of Games For Windows Live, there’s not much else to complain about in this port. Mouse and keyboard controls work well, but for those who just want to use a gamepad, Iron Brigade fully supports the 360 controller.

The Xbox 360 version of Iron Brigade never lacked content, and the PC version is packed even tighter. Along with the original game, the PC port also includes the “Rise of the Martian Bear” DLC. Whether you pick up a four pack with friends or just play solo, you are sure to get hours of enjoyment from this incredibly fun and engrossing take on tower defense.

Iron Brigade was developed by Double Fine Productions, and published by Microsoft Studios. A PC copy was provided for the purposes of review.

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