Iron Brigade Xbox Live Arcade

We’re entering the second half of the month now, which means it’s time for a new free game for Xbox Live Gold subscribers as part of the Games with Gold program. The first November game, A World of Keflings (from the makers of Fusion: Sentient) was a relaxing little city-building game. It was also an XBLA game. So how does Microsoft follow it up?

With a more challenging XBLA game. Iron Brigade (formerly known as Trenched) from Double Fine Productions is now free for all Xbox Live Gold members. Iron Brigade may not be a big retail release, but it’s a surprisingly deep and creative game with great cooperative multiplayer. Head past the break for more details and a download link!

Alternative history science fiction

Iron Brigade Xbox Live Arcade

The developers at Double Fine are known for their storytelling and creativity, with many having previously worked on classic LucasArts adventure games. That experience comes across in Iron Brigade’s story and premise.

Shortly after World War I, a mysterious alien radio message called The Broadcast reaches the Earth, causing most people who listen to it to die. Two military veterans survive the Broadcast and gain super intelligence from it. But one (Farnsworth) wants to spread the Broadcast to the rest of humanity while the other (Woodruff) wishes only to protect it. Thus the conflict is born.

Into the trenches

Iron Brigade Xbox Live Arcade

Woodruff’s solution to warding off the villainous Farnsworth’s alien technology-infused armies (called tubes) is to build mobile assault vehicles called trenches. You can think of them as steampunk mechs. As the player, your trench lumbers around like a walking tank would do and can fire weapons to destroy hostiles and defend itself.

Trenches can’t move all that quickly though, so you’ll need turrets (called emplacements here) to defend your base from the waves of alien robots that assault it. Yes, Iron Brigade combines third-person shooting with tower defense.

The way that emplacements appear is especially cool. Instead of just building them out of the ground, they actually plummet down from the sky. An emplacement can even land on a tube and destroy it.

Equipment and co-op

Iron Brigade Xbox Live Arcade

Iron Brigade offers a sizable number of levels – even more if you grab the DLC expansion. You’ll get even more mileage out of these levels thanks to a well-developed unlocking system. As you complete missions, your level goes up and new weapons, emplacements, and trench parts become available in the shop. Many more items can only be found as random drops from completing missions or playing Survival mode.

Online multiplayer also adds to the playtime. You can complete the main campaign by yourself, but probably not 3-star every level. Invite a few friends for 4-player co-op and suddenly even the stiffest challenges become more doable. A team is pretty much required for success in Survival mode and the DLC. Luckily it won’t be hard to assemble a group now that everyone gets the game for free!

From Earth to Mars

Iron Brigade’s sole DLC expansion is called “Rise of the Martian Bear.” It takes place on Mars and packs even more of the inventive story and witty dialogue found in the main campaign. You’ll also get a raised level cap, new equipment, and several new campaign and survival missions to play. If you enjoy the base game, the DLC is a must-buy.

Co-op fans, give Iron Brigade a try. Of all the shooter/tower defense hybrids out there, Double Fine’s take is easily the best.

  • Iron Brigade – Xbox 360 (XBLA) – 1.43 GB – Free through 11/30/2013 (requires Xbox Live Gold) – Store Link
  • “Rise of the Martian Bear” – XBLA add-on – 277 MB – $4.99 – Store Link