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Breakdown is a first person brawler that implements techniques from beat-em-ups into its gameplay. The combat in the game strongly emphasizes hand-to-hand as opposed to traditional firearms, since a majority of the opposition are immune to bullets. The first person view is also highly interactive with the environment, allowing for the player to feel more part of the world they are running into. For example, when you pick up ammo or items, the view shows the protagonist actually picking up the items with his hands. This leads to having a more tangible feeling to the world and your interactions with it.
The plot follows the main character, Derrick Cole, who awakens in a training area of a research facility with supposedly superhuman powers and a case of insomnia. The game begins to fill you in on who Derrick is and how he got his powers as you traverse the research facility.
The game also received early attention for being the first game to feature a First Person vomiting sequence.