Reviewed: November 23, 2006
Released: October 17, 2006
With some extremely promising gameplay, what could have been great graphics and an overall great idea Brigade E5: New Jagged Union just did not live up to its potential. Brigade E5: New Jagged Union is the latest tactical role-playing game from Strategy First and Apeiron. Brigade actually seems very promising and I can see where many on the Strategy First forums are saying the game is not as bad as reviewers are saying.
Brigade E5 has a unique pause system with a huge variety of weapons and equipment, but the problems of the often stop and go gameplay or incomplete graphics and mission style really makes the game a disappointment. Brigade has all that you need to make a really good tactical game but it just seems like they didnít finish it. Looking at the graphics will show exactly what I mean about the incomplete nature of Brigade.
Brigade E5: New Jagged Union puts you in the operators seat of a mercenary group taking on whatever you want to consider the bad guys in the make believe land of Palinero. You start with one mercenary at the beginning of the campaign and can start off their career with a set of characteristics according to some interview questions or just skip this odd question and answer routine and jump into your first mission.
Brigade is a modern role playing game with all the fun aspects like different characteristics; strength, stamina and dexterity along with some good uses of other features I have not seen in other RPG games. They take this even further with every aspect of your character by having so many things a part of your fighting, shooting and just moving from one point to another like having to camp every so often when youíre tired.
One good feature of the role-playing is accuracy in firing and how you get better with any particular weapon with use. But along with using the same weapon they add in real world use and wear of that weapon that degrades the performance of the same gun you use. You do have to clean your weapons when you use them or they will wear out quicker and you can even buy new barrels for rifles by shopping frequently at the gun shops. Sometimes you will need to revisit the shops several times as they do not always stock the things you need or want. The stock in the stores changes just like they would in any real gun store in some third world country.
You would think being a mercenary you would start off the gun fighting with something more than a pistol but that is your first weapon. For several missions until you either gain enough money or kill someone with a better gun you are stuck with one of several pistols. You can buy better weapons and equipment later on at some towns but you need money for this and you get that money by completing missions.
Getting these missions can be hit or miss as well as getting your equipment because once you do complete one mission you just roam around looking for the next one. You talk to citizens who will give you clues as to where to look or sometimes you can take justice into your own hands and start your own missions. Missions are found from local either mob leaders, citizens or anyone who is willing to pay for your services. They can be things like getting money back from a mob member who is trying to steal it to protecting VIPís.
Entering one town some gangsters demanded money from me so it was either pay them or fight. So you pay them off go around the corner and set them up with your whole arsenal. A few mines so when they do run toward you they hit them as well as your sniper fire from a safe distance away. And the funny thing was they did not question me as I stood down the street from them setting up mines in the street and ignored me until I shot one of them. The guards for the local mob boss totally ignored me and my sniping antics, as the gangsters where picked off one by one.
This kind of odd gameplay continues on throughout my playing of Brigade. I did not quite understand at first what I was supposed to do as the game said nothing to me about my next mission but I soon got the idea. This style would be great except some of the gameplay at the beginning is so low key. It is very much like that famous saying of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The gameplay in the campaign section starts at a low level so that you get used to the game I guess. This means that you start with pistols for everyone and slowly work your way up with a couple of shotguns and some small machine guns. It is only after about level four or five that youíre into the really fun weapons like the AK103 or the G36 rifles. There is something like a hundred weapons and equipment to choose from and this was another area that they really did well with. This is not just for you though, everyone in the game has these same weapons and slowly they add in some better ones.
With this excellent choice of weapons and equipment you do not get to shoot them first hand as in a first person shooter. You click on the enemy you want to take down and you can also tell what type of firing you want to use. You can click on little buttons for quick shot like from the hip or aimed or very accurate using your sights. You also have the settings for your various rates of fire when you click on your target or use your firing buttons on the bottom of your screen.
The game uses a god view the entire time youíre playing but the game plays so much like a first person shooter and could have been a very good one. The camera movement was one of the additional problems as it would hang up on objects but also go through others. This would have been fine but when the action is going on and youíre trying to get the camera around or over to a certain area and have to negotiate over or to the side of trees or rocks itís quite annoying.
The games pause system works very well once you get used to it and is a definite asset to the style of gameplay. You can easily choose to continue shooting at one target until it is down and staying down or pick and choose each shot. This is where it gets to be kind of stop and go gameplay but was not all that bad. The games camera was one of the problems I had and not like some of the other reviews have said. I did not mind getting the camera stuck a few times amongst trees or rocks.
The problem was when going to buildings and the roof wouldnít clear for me as it was supposed to and you could not see what was going on inside. Another problem I found that happened often when you zoom to your character quickly by pressing a key and finding yourself looking through part of that fancy sniper rifle your holding. At other times you zoom to your character and then try to turn the camera slightly to see in another direction and your camera turns across half the battle area.
Brigade E5 just felt like they had not finished the game and the gameplay showed this in just about every area I played. The multiplayer was another area that they just did not get things working. You can play a multiplayer game as long as you find someone who wants to play. I did not find anyone on the lobby that the game comes with but I found by reading the forums on Strategy First that not many are playing the multiplayer games.
The graphics of Brigade E5: New Jagged Union were also incomplete like they had quite making the game and published it before it was finished. I do not mind the square of land that is the entire map and nothing beyond it but blue screen with an occasional cloud. The thing I do mind is the camera moving around the screen and being inside a rock formation and having to move it up and out in order to get it around the other side where the bad guys are.
Another annoying thing I mentioned, the camera will go through some things like people and not others or only from certain sides. At times you can see part way through things like your neat weapons and character or terrain and then you canít get the camera to go any further. If they made it so the camera could not go into any terrain or objects that would have been okay but as it is you can go part way through some things.
The terrain textures and graphics look very good but the games load times for each map take a bit long. I also mentioned the fact that the whole map is one big block like the old world; just watch your step when you get near the edge of the world. When they added the maps they could have put boundaries and then skylines to fill in the rest of the world instead of simply nothing as they did. It just looks empty and incomplete, like they stopped making the game to get it on store shelves.
The sound did not have much to it but the parts that were there sounded fine. Many of the times you would expect to hear a shot or something but there would be a slow down in the game as part of the pause system so the sound kind of doesnít work.
Brigade E5 has the unique pause system but you kind of miss out on the sound effects when you do have this. You canít expect to hear your bullets go wheet or ricochet when the world freezes right after your bullet hits. Just about every time you would want to hear some kind of sound effects there would be a pause so you miss out on sounds in Brigade.
Brigade E5: New Jagged Union has some very open-ended gameplay and finding missions could take you months of game time. I can see the game taking a long time to even get up to some of the really good missions without, dare I say it, cheating. Yes I did it too, but only in the interest of not spending a couple of weeks getting to play with the cool weapons. Starting out with the first simple missions you will spend plenty of time just getting to the good weapons and working your way into the very difficult missions.
Along the way you get to have the help of fellow mercenaries you can hire to work along side you in your quest to make the world of Palinero a better place, or you just richer. You can hire other mercenaries after you get enough money and control them just like you control your first character. You also get to work your way up to all the neat and very useful equipment that the game has to offer.
Brigade E5 has some pretty decent value with the very open ended gameplay and having to find your missions instead of just listing them for you. There are also many things you can do on your own without any mission to speak of, just to clean up the place.
Brigade E5: New Jagged Union feels very much like an unfinished game with its graphics that just stop and camera problems to mention a few. I just think if they had spent some more time on it there could have been a very good tactical role playing game here and they could even patch it to complete the problems that do occur with the games mechanics.
The game is more than playable though and it is fun once you do get used to things. Brigade E5 has the biggest choice of weapons and equipment I have seen in any video game and it is all usable. That in itself says a lot toward the game and its potential even though it does have some larger problems.