Checkpoint: Rejoneador

Corey Milne stands at the intersection of gaming and world history to see what he can see.

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This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #89. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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ARTICLE 5: OBLIGATIONS OF COMPANY – 5.01. Company agrees to assume no liability for any Contractor actions, damages inflicted by Contractor, or damages inflicted upon Contractor (both physical and emotional) in pursuing the Agreement.

I was charging through residential areas in a hundred tons of thunderous metal. The crash on rain-slicked concrete together with neon ballistics and a synthetic soundtrack that rolls in like a wave to break upon the debris, serves to create a depressingly cool picture of future carnage. It would be wrong to label Brigador cyberpunk. Cyberhorror seems more appropriate.

On the isolationist planet of Solo Nobre the government is in disarray following the death of its dictator. Several factions scramble to seize power and fill the political vacuum. The machinations of ministers and generals rarely breach the cold walls of your cockpit. You’re paid vast sums of money to create havoc and take countless lives.

There might not be such a thing as a clean war, but Brigador knows what makes them tick. It’s all about the cash. Everything you do earns you rewards for your night’s work. Completing objectives and destroying enemy tanks. Every club and housing complex annihilated, every ammo dump blown sky high, and every civilian that is crushed underfoot or is caught in the crossfire makes sure your reward rolls higher. For the pilots who probably grew up on this planet cut off from the outside, there’s no sentimentality or attachment. Only the fee for their freelance services.

There can be no conscientious objector at the helm of a war mech.

This lends Brigador a sense of clarity. When you catch glimpses of conflicts on the evening news and you wonder how state leaders can bury their own people under the rubble of their own cities, the simple answer is that someone somewhere is profiting on violence. As has always been the case. Brigador does away with the pretense. The players are here to blow things up, so why not reward them? There can be no conscientious objector at the helm of a war mech. Your client, the Solo Nobre Concern, want control of the planet. Until then little else matters. I paid $100,000 Solo Nobrean dollars to unlock the info about the civilians you often see running around and dying. The yellow raincoats they wear are a symbol of pacifism. How many civilians do I need to kill to recoup that fee?

The game was called Matador early in its development. This game is crushingly tough and death comes often. Its violence has heft. It asks you to strategize on the fly where any lapse in concentration will most likely result in failure. No matter what you think of bullfighting, there’s a certain heroic poise to a matador. A lone figure standing against the unrestrained violence of nature present in a charging bull. Though they work alone, there is nothing particularly heroic about the mercenary actions of the brigadors. That title must surely fall upon the loyalist foot soldiers. Those foolhardy figures who inhabit battlefields full of murderous heavy metal. They disappear after one squeeze of the trigger, but they stand and face you knowing death is certain.

If anything, you are a rejoneador. The bullfighter who fights on horseback. The tower of armaments and clanking death is your steed. In fact, a matador must wait for the bull to attack and acts in response to that. A rejoneador agitates. They attack and they punish. In Brigador, you insert yourself into the battlefield, to seek out the enemy and kill them. The enemy reacts to your violence. Civilians flourish their yellow coats in lieu of red cloth.

It is said that the point of the bullfight is to demonstrate the skill and nerve of the rider, in controlling both the bull and the horse. To have any hope of surviving Brigador requires a strategic mind. For the common observer things can only look like a mad melee, with the barks of guns, the scream of torn metal and the ever-burgeoning circle of destruction that spreads out from the epicenter of your mech’s position. To come out the other end means you have kept your cool. Your uranium shells have done what the enemy’s plasma beams could not. The dead lie together indistinctly. Your skillful dance of death is nothing but a brutality to an onlooker. Every target is a bull to spear. All the while, your services become more costly. You are the Brigador.

Great Leader is dead. Solo Nobre must fall.

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Corey Milne is an Irish freelance writer who likes to poke at that strange intersection where games meet history. A roundup of his writing can be found at coreymilne.com. You can join his Rad-Lands motorcycle bandit gang on Twitter @Corey_Milne

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