Overview – developed by Renegade Sector Games and published by Eastasiasoft, Breakneck City is a 3D action brawler with a focus on environmental interactions. With a low-poly style reminiscent of older titles, take to the streets solo or with a friend and bust some heads in this tribute to classic brawlers of the late 90’s. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5 and the Xbox family of consoles, links to each platform will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank Eastasiasoft for providing the copy of Breakneck City that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story.
Story – when the Ultra gang tries to burn down their favorite video store, Sidney Flintlock and Justine Jacobs head out into the streets to bust some heads. The ass kicking duo takes to the city, fighting their way through the street and clubs on their journey to take the gang down. The pair must use their skills to rid the streets of criminal trash, one bad guy at a time in true 90’s action hero style.
Gameplay – this title is a 3D action brawler that uses a style reminiscent of titles like Die Hard Arcade (Dynamite Deka) and Fighting Force. The sole objective of each level is to reach the stage boss, battling wave after wave of men that try to stop the player. When moving through the areas, barriers will appear to prevent progress and lock the player into a battle with the enemies that appear, only dissipating when all threats are eliminated.
The player has access to a basic move-set which features a punch combo, kick and two different jumping attacks. Alongside the simple moves that the player has at their disposal, weapons can be dropped by enemies at different points, allowing more damage to be done until the weapon breaks. There is also a gimmick that makes this title a little more unique are environmental interactions, a feature that can be used to quickly change the tide of battle.
When fighting enemies, they can be knocked into walls and each other to deal additional damage. They can even be knocked into trash bins and cars, which can help to clear the tougher encounters quickly, which does help as foes can swarm the player quickly. There is also a dash skill that players can use freely, allowing them to move quickly around an area and dodge attacks. The dash can also let players interact with areas for new strategic options, but can be a hindrance at times.
Almost all of the ledges and rails in a stage can be vaulted over by dashing, which can cause the player to jump from areas they don’t wish to and take falling damage. This means that great care must be taken when using the dash to try and avoid enemies in a confined space, as the potential for disaster looms around every corner. There is even the potential for the player to clip out of bounds in some instances, trapping them with no way to escape but to restart from a checkpoint.
At the end of each stage is a boss battle, with an opponent that has their own unique fighting style, which include a boss that uses a bladed wheel and a boss that wields a set of swords. These fights can be very tough, with each boss having a lot of health which can take a while to run down. This is an unfortunate thing throughout the game, as it feels that enemies need to take much more damage than they should to be defeated.
There are some flaws with this title that do unfortunately detract from the experience. The camera can be uncooperative at times, moving and changing perspective during combat which can be frustrating. Enemies swarm the player regularly, attacking all at once and depleting the player’s health bar in seconds with almost zero recovery. This is made worse by the sluggish attack animations for weapons and kicks, which leave the player vulnerable to attack and rapid defeat.
There are enemies that can guard almost every attack thrown at them, with very small windows of opportunity to counter, which is a detriment to the flow of combat. These enemies must be hit with weapons or knocked into environmental hazards, which can become tedious and sap the fun from battles. Unfortunately, the 2 player is also affected by these flaws, with no change to the enemies or their number and slowdown caused by on screen effects.
These flaws are made a little more bearable by the inclusion infinite continues and a generous checkpoint system, but they do hamper this title. The way that enemies gang up on the player feels unfair, with no priority system unlike other action brawlers where enemies take turns to attack. But the game still functions well and can be entertaining.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – this release has a strange controller set up that requires a fully featured controller to be played as intended. This is due to the movement and dash being on opposite thumb sticks, a weapon switch mechanic on the d-pad and skill buttons being on the face. The control method is unfortunate as it limits the use of third part controllers, like the Retro-Bit Saturn controller and arcade Sticks. There are no real issues when it comes to inputs in single player, but lag can occur in 2 player mode.
Difficulty – this game feels unusually difficult with enemies that swarm the player, environmental hazards that hurt everyone and the uncooperative camera changes. As mentioned above, there are generous checkpoints and infinite continues, but they do not make the game any easier. There aren’t many chances to regain health, so entering a fight before a checkpoint can be dangerous when at low health, with the risk of losing significant progress upon death.
Presentation – the visual style attempts to emulate the look of a PlayStation or Sega Saturn title, which it succeeds at well with models and environments that have that 90s charm. This 90’s aesthetic also extends to the story cutscenes, the low poly heads portraying the character next to the text on screen. The performance of the game is solid for the most part, with the only issue being the slowdown that occurs when some specific animations play out.
The music has that repetitive quality to it that burrows its way into your head, with a synth-wave and chiptune combination that compliments the aesthetic of the game well. Each stage has its own unique composition, with a beat that fits the environment and action well. There is a lack of voice acting, which does give the title the retro vibe that it attempts to pull off, with a few digitized grunts and traditional attack sounds rounding out the presentation.
Final Thoughts – when I first saw this title, what came to mind was the resemblance it had to the SEGA game Die Hard Arcade, with the low-poly look and character animations. This unfortunately added to the level of expectation that I had, leading to a little disappointment during play. The combat doesn’t flow as smoothly as I would have hoped, with slowdown from on screen effects and movement/attacks that feel slow, made slightly worse during coop play.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun, because there is a level of entertainment on offer that does make the game fun to play. However, I feel that the issues mentioned above in this review, do sap the enjoyment out of it when played over long periods of time. The control layout prevented use of a classic design controller, which I did find to be a disappointment as it betrays the style of gameplay it is attempting to emulate.
In the end, I give Breakneck City a final score of 3.5/5. The look and feel of this title is reminiscent of classic 3D brawlers of the 90’s, with a catchy soundtrack and low-poly/pixel art visuals. The gameplay has its flaws which do hinder the experience, but at the low price point it can be worth a purchase if you are into old-school brawlers. If you want to check this title out for yourself, links to each version of the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
Link to Xbox version (HERE)