Giant Bomb Review

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Iron Brigade Review

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Though some aspects of it are short-lived, there are enough great multiplayer moments in Trenched to make it worth your while.

Double Fine's recent forays into downloadable territory have been solid vehicles for clever comedy, and that's the primary reason why you're there. The games have been short, solid, and sharp-witted. Trenched keeps the same comic sensibility that you've come to expect from these releases, but the game that backs everything up is an exciting-but-brief piece of multiplayer action that feels well-balanced and reasonably deep. While it could be a bit better at exploiting that depth, Trenched is a great mix of funny and fun mech combat that's great while it lasts.

The story is that two soldiers, manning a communications outpost after receiving wartime injuries, stumbled onto some kind of mysterious broadcast that made them super-smart. With newfound abilities at their disposal, one went and invented "mobile trenches," which is a silly word for "mech," and the other went the dark route and became obsessed with spreading the broadcast to the world. Vlad, the evil one, makes monsters out of televisions screens called Monovisions, and the different types of monos make up the enemies you face while piloting your trench, dropping turrets, and protecting various targets.

Most of the 15 missions in Trenched are defensive in nature, which is where the comparisons to tower defense games come in. There are one to three structures in each level that you must defend from wave after wave of enemies. Your first line of defense is probably your trench itself, which can be customized with various weapons, chassis, legs, and so on. Outfitting machine guns onto your trench gives you a pretty direct way to impact the enemy, but in some cases, you'll want shotguns, or perhaps large sniper cannons or gigantic artillery guns are more your speed. Trench customization is key to your success in each mission, and the game gives you helpful tips about the things you'll need to win.

One of the other ways to customize your trench is to pick which emplacements you'll take into battle with you. These are various turrets that you can plop down just about anywhere on the map. Most of them are pretty straightforward. Shotgun turrets take out ground-based enemies, flak turrets watch the skies, and machine guns can handle both. Sniper turrets and minelayers give you some additional weapon-type turrets to bring out, when you need something a little extra. There are also support turrets, such as dampeners that slow down enemies when they enter the turret's range. This sets up the classic tower defense strategy of slowing enemies down so that your emplacements can really pound on them while you mop up the rest with your mech's weapons.

It's certainly possible to play Trenched by yourself, but it's better with others. Up to four players can get into the game at once via Xbox Live, and once you get comfortable with the weapons and know what to expect out of the levels, an experienced team of players can clean up without taking much, if any damage along the way. As you play, you'll gain experience and collect loot, giving you a reason to revisit levels, but you'll probably hit the highest level--10--after six hours or so. This doesn't mean you'll have access to every part, though, so if you're a completist, you still might find plenty of reasons to keep playing Trenched's levels again and again, because the various weapons and loot you get is usually great. It's also where most of the game's comedy is found. Trenched does the "clever item descriptions" thing exceptionally well, even managing to throw in a trio of wonderful Insane Clown Posse gags along the way.

The items themselves are worth checking out, too. The game does well with stats, letting you see things like range and damage for all the different weapons while you're building your trench. But some weapons also come with additional effects, leading to machine guns that also emit flak to make them more effective against aerial targets. Or artillery shells that hit the ground and cause area of effect damage for a few seconds after impact. Or shotguns that shoot slugs, turning them into smaller sniper rifles for chassis that can't handle the big guns. You'll also get upgraded chassis as you play, giving you more armor and a variety of types that almost serve as classes. The engineering chassis only have a couple of weapon slots, but can take more turret types into battle. Assault chassis, on the other hand, let you load up with weapons, but you'll only get a couple of weaker turret types to take with you.

The game also dabbles in social elements by putting your recent teammates into a regiment. Between missions, you'll get updates on the stats that your regiment has put together, and some unlockable items and challenges hinge on meeting certain regiment goals. Also, between missions, you can run around the deck of a ship and salute each other like crazy. You can dress your marine in different clothing, and the hats confer different saluting animations. It's the right kind of goofy inclusion that feeds in just a little bit more charm.

The downfall of Trenched is that you unlock all of this great stuff, but don't have a ton of opportunities to face tough opposition once you get to the end. The lower levels are a breeze once you've unlocked better gear, and most of them are built in such a way that you want to take specific things into each mission, rather than just loading up with the most savage gear you've got and laying waste to everything. Also, the menus that you use to customize your trench aren't so good, so changing out your chassis, legs, and weapons between each mission takes a little longer than it probably needs to. Once you get used to its particular quirks, it's not a huge deal. Also, the game's frame rate can get a little rough when you've got four players shooting off weapons at the same time.

For something that sounds like such a simple combination of existing genres, Trenched comes together surprisingly well, and it's the way it plays and controls that makes it all work. Shredding the different enemies with your varied arsenal is quite satisfying. It'd be a thin experience if you were looking for something to play by yourself, but if you like to just saddle up with friends and blast things apart, Trenched is a strong download.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
137 Comments
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Posted by Scrumdidlyumptious

YO TRENCHED IS BULLSHIT! Relase it on Steam or PSN.

Posted by onan

@Mumrik said:

@onan said:

@Jeff said:

@Mumrik said:

Damn Jeff. Why would you review the games (Trenched and Bastion) that you've so clearly championed? You've made it obvious through the special coverage that you at GB have an especially close relationship with the devs of these games. I'm sure you're capable of setting that aside when you review the product, but that's not really relevant at all. I know plenty of people here disagree with me, but I really think you should leave it at the QLs and other material with these games.

I would be interested to hear specific examples from you of spots where I've "clearly championed" Trenched.

It's pretty clearly spelled out on pages 3-26 and 43-118 of his DoubleFine/GiantBomb slash fiction. I honestly don't know how Luchadeer can show his face in the office anymore after what happened. I guess that's why he got the mask.

Bla bla. Anyway, I have no idea why you'd say that GB hasn't promoted Bastion when they've done a weekly show about the game. Anyway, Jeff pointed two things out in a private message: 1) Bastion won't get a review. I guess they said that in a Bastion show too. That's good to hear, I guess the people claiming they were going to review it are full of crap. 2) Jeff personally doesn't have a close relationship with the Trenched team. Ryan did that coverage...

You forgot #3: Trenched is developed by DoubleFine, while Bastion is developed by Supergiant Games. This review you commented on is about Trenched, I only mentioned DoubleFine, and you're backpedaling on Bastion. "Bla Bla" to you too.

Posted by mscupcakes

Is there actually a different release date for Europe or is it just going to added later today?

Posted by Apollo87

I hope at some point this is released for PSN.

Posted by waypoetic

First Bastion and now Trenched. What's up with the no-love for the PSN games?

Posted by CrazedMaverick

See how this is published by Microsoft Game Studios, I doubt it's coming to PSN in the near future.

Posted by RYNO9881

How can anyone question the integrity of Jeff Gerstmann or the entire Giantbomb crew for that matter? Have people already forgotten how this site came to be?

Posted by onan

@Scrumdidlyumptious said:

YO TRENCHED IS BULLSHIT! Relase it on Steam or PSN.

Are those the designated homes of bullshit?

Posted by pawsoffury

It's my opinion that the 'members' (mostly non paid subscribers I might add) complaining about this review are completely missing the modus operandi of Giant Bomb. If you want an named organisation rather than a person's personal opinion on a game, then why not read a review at GT or IGN or say the bazillion other gaming websites on the internet?

How it works is that as long time consumers of Jeff's original content be it quick looks, features, bombcasts etc. have come to understand his personality as almost something to buy into in a lifestyle sense. So if Jeff, Ryan, Brad etc think that DoubleFine are worth our support and that their products are worth us investing in so they can continue to provide us with entertainment, why shouldn't they champion it to us?

I think it speaks to the strengths of Giant Bomb that smaller companies like DoubleFine are more hospitable and welcoming to the attitude prevalent on this website than other bigger sites who are purely interested in featuring larger games with bigger advertising revenues to please their owners.

tl;dr: trolls gonna troll, haters gonna hate. Thanks for the comprehensive coverage on this game Jeff et all, will definitely give this game a go!

Posted by GalacticPunt

I'm not going to be surly or anything about this, but I'm among the members who feel that there should never have been a Giant Bomb review of Trenched. There has been so much fraternizing with the lead developers of this particular game in recent months. The staff have pimped it so hard: two interviews in as many days, since the first one went too off-topic. An obscenely lengthy Quick Look EX. The developers guest-starring on Quick Looks for other games. A TNT this week that has been promoted well in advance, with the developers again slated to make an appearance.

Everyone who goes to this site and has a pulse, knows a great deal about this downloadable game already and can decide for themselves if it's up their alley. I have no problem with Giant Bomb championing this game, but a text review and score is meaningless when the site is already so invested in Trenched succeeding. Clearly Jeff doesn't feel that way, but I think this was a bad road to go down. Regardless of score, a Trenched review does nothing for the regular readers and can only lead to weirdness with the developers tomorrow.

I would never question Jeff's integrity, but this is an exceptional case just like Bastion. Neither game should have a Giant Bomb review. It will LOOK like a conflict of interest, and the members are very, very aware of both games. I've said my bit. All the best, duders.

Posted by HydraHam

Damnit.. i shouldn't of blew my monthly gaming budget so early, actually i blew it and more :(

Guess ill pick this up next month. And before some snarky kid replies no i am not a child and get an allowance, i give myself a monthly budget on games/movies because i like my life to be structured and set goals with my money, along with overpay my internet and other bills.

Posted by enemymouse

I wish he would review Bastion anyway, just to piss people off.

Posted by GalacticPunt

@pawsoffury: I like that our comments ended up right next to each other. It's like a debate team contest suddenly broke out!

Posted by BaconGames

I was going to add it to my list and realized, oy! it's 360 exclusive. And it's published my Microsoft so probably no chance of it ever coming to PSN. Here's hoping for a darkhorse last-minute PC release but I doubt it. Oh well.

Posted by Dracomaster01

Good review and I agree completely. Surprised you didn't mention how annoying the dialogue can get when you're playing. Hearing the same stuff over and over again gets really old...really fast.

Posted by Teran
@GalacticPunt said:

I'm not going to be surly or anything about this...

...Everyone who goes to this site and has a pulse, knows a great deal about this downloadable game already and can decide for themselves if it's up their alley.

     
Here's a tip.  If at the end of writing your post you look back over it and realize the entire thing is surly, go back and remove that line in the start about how you're not going to be surly. 
 
Fortunately for those of us with pulses, you aren't the content director for this web site.  One of the most valuable tools we use when trying to determine whether to buy a game or not is a review from a trusted source.  Not a neutral source, but a trusted source.
...but a text review and score is meaningless when the site is already so invested in Trenched succeeding.    
I'm not sure you understand the concept of investment.  Giantbomb has already put that content out and if they turned around and gave the game a one star rating they would not suddenly find themselves in financial or intellectual ruin.

I would never question Jeff's integrity, but this is an exceptional case just like Bastion. Neither game should have a Giant Bomb review. It will LOOK like a conflict of interest, and the members are very, very aware of both games. I've said my bit. All the best, duders.

If you would never question Jeff's integrity, what exactly were you doing in the first two paragraphs of your post?  If, in your opinion, Jeff is will not compromise his integrity what was the purpose of your post?  People of substance don't care about appearances as much as they care about truth. 
 
I'm a regular reader here at giantbomb and while I was aware of Trenched and watched the Trenched quicklook I still wanted a written review from this site to see if the product is as good as it looked before deciding whether to purchase or not.
Posted by bigsmoke77

@JayDee: get the fuck off his website

Posted by Oginam

@waypoetic said:

First Bastion and now Trenched. What's up with the no-love for the PSN games?

They've done some, but Sony just isn't as good at promoting PSN stuff compared to Microsoft. No matter if you like MS or not, they are very good at getting attention for these "-blank- of Arcade" promotions. And Bastion is a special case because GB has been highlighting the "Making of" process for that game rather than treating it like a game they would have to review.

Posted by FMinus

Trololol

Posted by bigsmoke77

@enemymouse: Haha the best part is that from the look of the game it would probably be 5 stars and then everybody would be up in arms.

Posted by Brackynews

@Portis said:

I'm really surprised Giant Bomb even reviewed this, for various pretty obvious reasons.

Not that I don't trust our editor duders, but man if they trashed this game -- how amazingly awkward (great?) would TNT have been this week?

I believe you're coming at this hypothetical from totally the wrong angle. Have you ever seen a TNT game chosen that wasn't great fun to play? Nobody here believes it would be possible for a publisher to "buy" their way onto a TNT. It's an editorial decision based on the (known) quality of a game, not a dartboard. So yeah, /bunny, /pancake, /argument invalid. :)

It should be great fun to watch.

Posted by Mumrik
@onan: Ryan has made several videos with the Trenched team where it's clear that they're friendly and they refer to having gotten drunk together. They've been in live shows, in other TNTs and in podcasts. I've also never seen a more positive QL EX and they arranged a new TNT appearance with the team there, which seems to have been setup before the review went up. Again, this is about appearances. I don't think any of us who are writing this stuff actually doubt Jeff's honesty here. We know how he ended up at Giant Bomb.
Posted by Animasta

if they were REALLY invested into trenched, I think this would have gotten a 5; a 4/5, otherwise known as an 80 on metacritic, is right in line with how everyone else has been reviewing the game.

Posted by notjw
@taugehz said:

It's a fair point to question reviews in some cases, but as @Zolfe said, just check other reviews from other sources. The Metacritic score for Trenched shows consistency.

If integrity really is the issue here, then Tron: Evolution should have gotten 5 stars.

This. Also, people seem to forget that the people at Double Fine are PROFESSIONALS, just like the Giantbomb crew. They can handle criticism if their game turned out bad. They understand that the Giantbomb crew are honest reviewers, and have a job to do. Besides, an honest opinion is the most useful for game developers.
Posted by leejunfan83
@GalacticPunt: Friends how many of us have them? Friends ones we can depend on. Let's be friends
Posted by leejunfan83
@notjw: actually it should of gotten 2
Posted by ThePickle

@rjayb89 said:

MAD ICI POINTS

Posted by Phreaker

Thanks for the review Jeff. It's kind of what I was figuring after playing the demo. I picked it up after having fun with it. Too bad there isn't more of an "end game" game.

Posted by shrinerr

@Mumrik: Wow, I like how you just had to mention that Jeff gave you a PM then mentioned a couple of points in that PM. Regardless whether or not he said it'd be okay to mention it, I always figured the "P" in PM stood for private for a reason, but what the fuck do I know? *shrugs*

Online
Posted by Deusoma

Hmmm. This game looks good, but it's clearly focused towards multiplayer, and I have no interest in taking it online. I might have to pass.

Posted by Chris2KLee

Good review. I am having a blast with the game, and just had 3 hours of my life vanish in the blink of an eye. The multiplayer is really fun,minus the framerate issues Jeff started (although I think it might also be connection related issues). That said, I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel, but a testament to the quality of this game is that I already want more. I hope they do more than 1 piece of DLC, and I would honestly pay for a longer full priced game with some more features and levels. I could see Trench filling the mech franchise void with it's easy accessibility and great sense of humor and style.

Edited by megalowho

Damn haters, these guys are professionals. This game is getting some excellent word of mouth from all outlets, and this review is pretty clear on what Jeff's likes and dislikes were with it. Just because Brad Muir and the Trenched folks are entertaining guests means they don't deserve a review from this site?

Also I remember a long, amazing interview/walk with Jeff and Tim Schafer at an E3 past, followed closely by a decidedly mixed review and Bombcast chat regarding Brutal Legend. There's no love affair going on here, just a legit fun downloadable game that I'm gonna go play right now.

Posted by Eyrune
Was on the fence about this game until I saw the quick look today. Multiple salutes? SOLD.
Posted by Chris2KLee

@megalowho said:

I remember a long, amazing interview/walk with Jeff and Tim Schafer at an E3 past, followed closely by a decidedly mixed review and Bombcast chat regarding Brutal Legend. There's no love affair going on here, just a legit fun downloadable game that I'm gonna go play right now.

An even better example would be what happened to NBA Ballers, a game Jeff gave 2 stars. A game produced by super GB guest Johnny V.

Posted by RenegadeSaint

Great review. Really looking forward to checking this one out.

Posted by WindFall259

@Mumrik: Go take your conspiracy theories somewhere else, and leave the rest of us to the real world.

Posted by Stackboy

Will be downloading this after work in a few hours!!

Posted by HassaniSabbah

I'd just like to clarify some of the comments I made in this thread regarding the Trenched controversy (or lack thereof), because I think it may have come off as hyperbolic and reactionary which was not my intent. Or, if you prefer, I'd like to backpedal slightly.

Having now read it I will say that the review itself is remarkably uncontroversial, which was to be expected. It was never my intent to cast apersions on or ascribe malicious intent to Jeff or any of the Giant Bomb staff, nor to question their professional integrity. In fact, this really has nothing to do with Trenched as a game or any of the members of the development team, who seem like stand-up gentlemen. I regret that the game itself has been unfairly roped into this discussion.

I want to reiterate that, to me anyway, this was never about GB's ability to give a "fair" review to a game made by people to which they have personal ties. Many people have given examples (most notably NBA Ballers and Tron: Legacy) of games that have received fair to middling reviews despite Jeff's personal friendship with Johnny V. To these people I say: Of course they are capable of putting aside personal relationships when it comes time for the review. They do this shit for a living, after all. They've done it for a long time and they do it very well.

My trepidation, which may have been somewhat presumptuous, was caused by the perception of a possible conflict of interest, real or otherwise, to which the GB staff seemed oblivious but which seems to exist within a vocal minority of the community. Obviously, the GB review staff is free to review whatever they wish and associate with whomever they please. If they weren't allowed to review games made by people they know, nothing would ever get reviewed.

So hopefully I didn't step on anyone's toes. Congrats to Double Fine for "shipping" Trenched, and thanks to Jeff for another fine review. I like this site; I wouldn't be here if I didn't. I bitch because I care.

- tl;dr

Edited by YOJO117

Will for sure buy this now! Was waiting for Jeff's review.. He seems to know what kind of games I like to play

ps -- All the haters can stfu

Posted by Brendan

It speaks to my naivety that I scrolled down to the comments section not thinking that a bunch of idiots would be calling out Jeff for being friendly with the Double Fine guys.

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Edited by MiniPato

Friends don't bullshit friends into thinking everything's okay. If Jeff thought it was a bad or deeply flawed game, he'd say it. Because being honest is much more useful than fake praise, it gives devs something to consider and improve. So quit with all the conspiracies!

Not reviewing the game would be a pussy way out and compromise content just to avoid any awkward feelings people have about it. Did you guys think Jeff shouldn't have reviewed K&L2: Dog Days because of the past? They have a lot of friends in the games industry, but they have never let it affect review scores.

I mean really, did ANYONE watch the podcast with David Jaffe asking about their relationship with game devs and how it could possibly affect reviews? They put the consumer first and don't worry over damaging their relationships. If they ran a review that a dev didn't agree with and hated them for it, they don't want to hang out with that dev because they were obviously just being friendly to score an extra star.

Posted by HadesTimes

Sounds like fun, but it doesn't sound like it's for me.

Posted by OllyOxenFree

Almost everybody in these comments needs to shut the fuck up. Goddamn. Sometimes I just really hate the video game community so much.

Posted by Tesla

Good review. I just finished playing the first few missions and already Trenched has become my favorite Double Fine game this generation.

Also, as if it needs to be said, the conspiracy theorists need to get a life. You people have no clue.

Posted by vinsanityv22

I thought Double Fine's deal was with THQ to publish their downloadable titles? I just think it's weird that they put Costume Quest and Stacking on both, but screwed over the PS3 owners out there with regards to this one. I can understand Sesame Street being exclusive to the Kinect though - the Move is not geared towards children or families (I don't really know WHO it's geared to, honestly. It requires such an investment, yet there isn't a killer app for it and "hardcore gamers" scoff at motion controls). 
 
If Double Fine brings this to PS3, I'll be happy to give it a download. Until then, may 360 owners enjoy it. There is a massive dearth of quality mech action games out there these days.

Posted by onan

@Mumrik said:

@onan: Ryan has made several videos with the Trenched team where it's clear that they're friendly and they refer to having gotten drunk together. They've been in live shows, in other TNTs and in podcasts. I've also never seen a more positive QL EX and they arranged a new TNT appearance with the team there, which seems to have been setup before the review went up. Again, this is about appearances. I don't think any of us who are writing this stuff actually doubt Jeff's honesty here. We know how he ended up at Giant Bomb.

It's like we're speaking different languages. That, or you think people who drink together are instant BFFs..? How many people have you drank with from a job? How many beers would you say is around the number where your principles and integrity become acceptable sacrifices to make them feel better about themselves? I'm going to guess it's around the point where you start confusing people named "Ryan" for people named "Jeff" when it comes time to support your suggestions of impropriety.

If you're implying that having a good social relationship with people in an industry it's your job to learn about and report on is a conflict of interests, I don't even know where to begin. If the gaming press couldn't do reviews with people they drank with, *there would be no gaming press*. (I mean, seriously, what do you think actually happens at E3?) Some relationships, naturally, are going to better than others. However "being friendly" with people doesn't necessarily mean they are "friends", and it makes me very sad that I have to explain that to anyone other than a small child. The DoubleFine guys aren't coming over to do a TNT for the bro-hugs, they're coming to promote their game (for free, to enthusiasts), and Giantbomb invited them on because putting on a gaming night when devs show up to play games is freaking awesome. It's mutually beneficial in and of itself. It's not like they gave them an extra star or two just to have them over for a playdate. If your mind at any point jumped to conspiracy theory, I don't know what to tell you.

Posted by SlinkDickens

Dear GiantBomb, I've been looking forward to the review of Trenched ever since I saw the QL. Please don't let the fact that you have members of a dev team in for a QL or as guest on your podcast EVER prevent you from writing a review because I enjoy reading them. I haven't read anything that would lead me to believe you would allow a personal relationship betray the trust of your readers, so I will not penalize you for something that hasn't happened. That would be crazy. Like my ex girlfriend who broke up with me because she was afraid that I'd accuse her of nagging me too much and we would have huge fights just like what happened with her ex boyfriend, even though I never did such a thing and we never had a fight.

Posted by Skooky
@Mumrik said:
I don't think any of us who are writing this stuff actually doubt Jeff's honesty here.
That's exactly what you're doing. Unless you're writing these comments for no reason.
Posted by Vodun

@DarkidRising said:

not shit stirring here but... what with the double fine guys coming in for TNT to play this game, how do Giantbomb tread that fine line between a genuinely honest review and a review that satisfies the developer? If this game had sucked, that would have made TNT a seriously awkward event. That said, I assume the Giantbomb guys have had a review copy for awhile now, and set up the Trenched TNT already knowing the game to be good. Does anyone know how this all actually works?

Yes, shit stirring. It's exactly what you're doing. Shit needs to be stirred, so don't start off like a pussy.

GB have had developers in before and been all buddy buddy only to completely thrash the game later (Tron for example). I can imagine being to close to the developers makes them a little more prone to be kind, but I doubt they'd ever give a good score for a bad game to not hurt anyone's feelings.

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