Breakdown (working title: Project Breakdown) is a first-person action game released by Namco in 2004 for the Microsoft Xbox console. Views on the game are mixed, as it sold unspectacularly, and was criticized for the flawed gameplay mechanics. Despite the shortcomings, it received critical acclaim for using the first-person perspective to achieve a higher level of emergence and a deeper method of storytelling than most games.
Breakdown is unique in that it is technically categorized as a first-person shooter, but integrates the experiences of a fighting game into the experience as well as using auto-lock-on for shooting at enemies. The viewpoint never leaves the perspective of the player, and interaction with objects, reloading of guns, and the impact of hitting the floor are all seen through this first-person perspective. Unlike other first-person shooters, interaction with objects is also all done in a realistic manner in Breakdown; ammunition is picked up by actually looking down and grabbing it with the arm, instead of automatically collecting it by walking over it, similarly doors are opened by grabbing the handle, key cards used by wiping them over a scanner, ladders by using the arms for climbing and so on. Even health packs are in the forms of energy bars, sodas and hamburgers, which the player must eat, all in first person.
Humanity has discovered an underground complex in Japan built by aliens and controlled by a being called Nexus who rules over the T'lan inhabitants. The humans name the complex Site Zero, and set up a research facility to study the complex. There are skirmishes between the humans and T’lan, but nothing serious until the game begins.
Derrick Cole, the protagonist, has had his memory erased by a severe reaction to an injection of T’langen, a fluid recovered from Site Zero intended to create supersoldiers. He finds himself in a recovery facility near Site Zero at the start the war between the humans and Nexus (voiced by Beau Billingslea) which spills into the training facility. He is rescued by a woman named Alex Hendrickson, who seems to know Derrick well. As they escape, Derrick develops incredible strength to fight the T’lan. They escape to the research facility, where they learn that Nexus is launching a full scale attack on humanity, using crystal rockets in Site Zero to move their troops, and that Derrick and Alex must stop them.
Once inside Site Zero, Alex is captured by a powerful T’lan named Solus (voiced by Crispin Freeman). As Derrick makes his way through Site Zero alone, he finds a scientist, Stefania Wojinski, with access to the elevator to the crystal rocket silos. She is killed moments later, forcing Derrick to take the stairs to the silos. He arrives to find the human Marines fighting to stop the launching of the rockets, but is too late to help them; the rockets are launched, sending T’lan all over the world. Derrick is then challenged by Solus. During the fight, Solus kills Alex, and Derrick is almost killed when a nuclear strike sends him fifteen years into the future.
Derrick finds himself in a future controlled by the T’lan. A group of human scientists explain that Derrick will experience a Pendulum Effect, throwing him back into the present. This will allow him to change the future, preventing the launching of the rockets. Alex, who is from the future, accompanies Derrick to the present, where she saves him in the training facility.
This time, Derrick saves Stefania and helps the military destroy the rockets, and when Solus challenges him, he defeats Solus. He then goes on to defeat Nexus, ending the T’lan threat once and for all. Derrick and Alex escape from Site Zero as it collapses. Alex is then thrown back into the future, and the player is given the choice of having Derrick stay in his own time, or follow Alex to the future.
- Derrick Cole: He awakens in a strange research facility with no memories of his past and learns his name from a researcher working at the lab. Derrick is the only survivor of 10 test subjects of the Alpha Project (whether they were volunteers or not is never fully explained). These test subjects were administered large doses of T'langen injected directly into their bloodstream. Because of this, his body evolves into a form, capable of fighting the T'Lan. He is voiced by Steve Staley.
- Alex Hendrickson: A mysterious woman who seems to know Derrick. She has amazing physical capabilities and can fight with guns and knives, one knife which allows her to break through the T'lan's shields. A very strong willed woman, she never gives up easily. She is a member of the facility's Beta Project, which creates results gradually over many years, as opposed to a single injection. She is voiced by Jessica Straus
- Glen Ogawa: A Japanese-American professor of medicine. He was conducting biological research in Australia but was banished from the medical community because he created a human clone. He is now involved in a highly classified project. He is voiced by Michael McConnohie.
- Stefania Wojinski: A visiting professor from Poland who is a specialist in human memory mechanisms. She has not given up on her years of research although her recent project was canceled, apparently titled 'Project Breakdown'. She is voiced by Wendee Lee.
- First Lieutenant Gianni de Luca: An Italian-American United States Marine. He leads an elite unit of soldiers that specialize in top secret missions. Gianni has a foul mouth, but is a good person with a passionate personality that keeps his cool at critical moments. He is voiced by Bob Papenbrook.