Free to play games have a stigma of gimmicky mechanics, low production quality and hidden costs but fortunately this isn’t always the case. ShatnerzBassoon found this out when he reviewed League of Legends and now I have with a significantly newer title, Brawl Busters.
Brawl Busters (avaliable here) is a free to play multiplayer, melee heavy, class based combat game where players set out to beat each other, or AI zombies, stupid with a selection of sport based weapons, special moves and collectable items. Sharing more than a passing resemblance to Team Fortress 2, Brawl Busters cartoon-esque visuals and humorous avatars branding footballs and baseball bats make for a charming, appealing and familiar setup. It’s an easy game to pick up and play. However, there are some nuanced mechanics such as power-ups and environmental navigation that a comprehensive set of tutorial missions ease you through against AI zombie enemies. Once your savvy it’s off to the arenas, either playing a small selection of singleplayer missions to cement your training, or online where the meat of the experience lies.
Five modes are on offer in multiplayer. Glow Rush is a team based mode where fallen enemies drop orbs and collecting enough of them wins you the match. Two cooperative modes: Zombie Survival – Brawl Busters’ version of Horde mode – and Boss Battle where players must take out a mighty zombie whilst its minions attack. And to round things off the multiplayer standards of Team Deathmatch and Free For All. On the surface it seems like a decent selection of modes, however, they all boil down to the same carnage of players rushing around the arenas duking it out. Fortunately it’s a lot of fun.
The fast paced action of combat is complimented by responsive controls and a great isometric view camera, and each class offers a defined role to suit your play-style. The Slugger acts as the ranged class, hitting guided baseballs around the arena but with the disadvantage of low health and movement speed. The Firefighter acts as the defensive class, throwing up shields and attacking at range whilst also having high health. The Boxer is agile with powerful attacks but low health. The Blitzer is the close combat specialist with high attack and heath. Finally the Rocker is a completely balanced character acting as the jack of all trades, master of none.
To begin with you’re limited to choosing a single class but as you gain experience points and level up you can unlock the additional classes and switch between them at will. Once you’ve found the ideal class for you it’s time to dive into the combat, level up and gain currency before customising your character.
Here is where this free to play title makes its money, offering stat boosting weapons and apparel for real cash that last for a set amount of days. Like with most games of this ilk this can and does unbalance the combat as the wealthier players have the edge, however, the limitation on how long these boosts last per purchase helps mitigate this slightly and the stat increases aren’t overwhelming. Another currency earned through ordinary play also allows all players to buy non-stat boosting items to customise their characters, and slight stat boosting items are gifted to you as you level up for limited use.
Despite the stat boosting bonuses to paying players, Brawl Busters does remain a highly playable game. The frantic close quarter battles are as exhilarating and entertaining as any you’d find on a full retail title, and for that Brawl Busters must be commended. The community is currently a little thin and there are most than a few bad eggs booting players randomly from matches or hosting with no intension of starting, but as the community grows these issues will hopefully be diluted. In the end Brawl Busters offers a compelling multiplayer experience for no cost, providing the exception to the rule in regards to the negative view of free to play games.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: PC Release Date: 15/12/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Brawl Busters for review purposes by the promoter, however the title is also available for free here. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.