Developer: EXE Games / Publisher: Infernum / Price: FREE / Platforms: PC, Mac, Browser, Android, iOS / ESRB: N/A
The Brick-Force cheery motto reads “Build, Share, Play”, and out of the corner of your eye, you might see those adorable Playmobil-looking player-avatars and get the oblique sense you’ve stumbled into a colorful, online Legoland nation of ‘emergent play’ harmony…right up until you get your virtual brains blown out by a ruthless, remorseless sniper you never even saw. And just FYI, that sniper may very well be me.
Brick-Force is a deceptively cute, virtual-toy-block world-builder (populated by Kubrickian player-characters) that meets the most vicious first-person shooter out there. Technically dubbed a ‘sandbox shooter’, Brick-Force lets players create their own unique maps, levels and worlds, Minecraft-style, and enter them in action-intensive deathmatches against online human or AI opponents. Developed by Korean studio EXE games (in coproduction with Berlin publisher/developer Infernum), constructed on the Unity 3D engine and playable through either the downloadable client or right in a web browser, Brick-Force has attracted 1.7 million players around the globe since its 2010 launch.
Now up to its second significant update, Brick-Force offers a free-to-play shooter model (peppered liberally with optional microtransactions) that features extensive character-customization options and now includes a future/outer-space theme with interactive building blocks and gravity/repulsor-plate schemes. Currently-available game modes offer standards like deathmatch, team deathmatch and Capture the Flag, of course, but also include Defense (escort), Defusion (as in bombs) and what could be considered the game’s flagship mode, ‘Build and Destroy.’
In this latter mode, opposing teams have an initial build-phase lasting a set number of minutes, during which they can knock up literally whatever slapdash cover, barricades, mazes, towers or other obstacles they can collectively put together; when the build phase ends, the players trade in their brick-laying devices for the weapon loadout of their choice, and commence to killing each other per the usual drill.
Level construction is done brick by brick, so that means that building up successive layers or stories is done in a you-are-there construction-worker’s perspective (before long, serious Builders will want one of those nifty in-game jet-packs to help facilitate this process). Once completed, maps can be shared with friends or the wider Brick-Force community; and any particularly popular player-made maps—as with the case of everyday victories scored on the battlefield—will earn the players responsible for them the game-currency points necessary to enhance their experience in a seemingly endless game-customization scheme. These comprise of newly introduced specialized bricks and interactive ‘terrain’ features (including the aforementioned gravity-repulsor panels), the tried-and-true Explosive Cannister, rapid-fire turrets (which can be manned by friend and foe alike)…and of course, a robust list of character-tweaking options. My own character packs the sniper rifle and helmet-goggle combo of a Navy SEAL…but otherwise rather stranger protective gear, including a utility-belt and cape, that would be better suited to Bruce Wayne before he got his alternate-personality persona nailed down.
Also, for some reason, the various characters’ audio voice-sets—and cackles of sadistic, victorious, ‘kill-cam’ glee—are apparently done by the Spongebob Squarepants guy; go figure.
Brick-Force supports free client play for PC and Mac plus browser play (in German, English, Polish, Spanish, French, Turkish and, presumably, Korean) and could be considered kin to the (also good, and also quite goofy) Offensive Combat—at least in the sense that they both offer extremely action-packed, supremely responsive FPS combat (with borderline-certifiable avatar/character weirdness) worthy of games that are otherwise normally dubbed ‘top tier.’
In terms of sheer mechanics and fluidity, there is nothing here redolent of that stigma often associated with browser-based or ‘quirky’ free-to-play titles. Brick-Force will also soon see a Medieval-themed expansion, as well as versions for mobile users, whether iOS or Android. Shooter enthusiasts take note: Do not be fooled by Brick-Force‘s deceptive cuteness factor into a false warm-fuzzy sense of ‘security'; people get dead that way. Sniper-dead. Especially if I’m on the server that day.