Review: Brute Force (XB)

Brute Force was first revealed at E3 2002 and was called “the next Halo” by many people. Several delays later, E3 2003 proved to be another taste of the yet to be released gem from Microsoft Game Studios. Finally, during the last week of May 2003, more than one year after its playable debut at E3, Brute Force has finally arrived on the Xbox. With such high anticipation and expectations, Brute had a lot to prove to live up to the hype. That being said, does Brute Force deliver the high expectation goods?

Gameplay

The most innovative feature in Brute Force is without a doubt the team concept. Instead of just playing as one person, or even the team swapping feature that was used in Resident Evil Zero, Brute Force allows you to control four different characters at the same time. The game starts off with Tex, who seems to have gone to the Duke Nukem School O’ Voice and Mannerisms. As you progress in the game, you pick up a frog-like creature and a couple of hot cyborg chicks to complete your team, known as Brute Force.

Once you learn the basics, controlling each member of your team is incredibly simple. With the use of the d-pad, you can switch to a team member with the simple press of a direction. If you want to remain as your current character, but boss the other team members around by ordering them to do something like “Fire at Will” or “Cover You”, simply hold the d-pad for a couple of seconds and a menu pops up, allowing you to assign tasks to the other teammates. Mastering the orders takes time, and the more you work at it, the easier your progress through the enemy-filled stages goes.

The stages themselves are fairly dense, and usually require the provided map on the bottom of the screen to advance. The map, known as the nav beacon, directs you to the spots you need to visit, as well as locate enemies in the area. The beacon can be very tricky at times, where it seems as if you have to run to an empty invisible checkpoint to get new locations on your screen. This doesn’t really detract from the gameplay, but it does become irritating when you have to waste five or ten minutes finding the right place to go, or resorting in a restart of your current chapter (level) to get new enemies to fight.

Battling enemies in the game can be both fun and tiring. The AI responds naturally to attacks, the most natural responses seen since a certain game called Halo. For instance, if you throw a grenade directly at an enemy, the opposition may shout something and dive out of the way. Depending on the skill level, the enemies may also run to hiding spots instead of being your usual stereotypical generic bad boys who stand in the same spot and take their inevitable death in stride.

The key to fewer deaths in Brute is having the discipline to be patient. Playing as Tex, who has a special ability to go into “Berzerker mode”, with two guns and shoot at everything that moves, may give you the idea to just run through the level and shoot at anything that moves. In Brute, the team concept is the key to success, utilizing every character and their special skills to beat the level with the entire team in one piece.

Besides Tex’s berzerker, the other three team members have unique and necessary features of their own, which all must be used to beat a level. Hawk, the red-haired babe is able to become invisible, allowing you to choose her to scout ahead, and possibly run directly to the target without ever being shot or noticed .Flint, the brown-haired babe is a sniper, who can find a nice quiet place and proceed to take out each target one at a time from a long range. Finally, you have the frog-like character known as Brutus, who can go into somewhat of a night vision mode and see enemies and troops that not everyone else can see or perceive. The utilization of all four team members is without a doubt the best and most unique feature of Brute. My only complaint with the concept is the obvious question: “Why isn’t this game on Xbox Live?” Teaming up with three other real people against another team of four would’ve put this game over the top as an incredible experience, but apparently we’ll have to wait for an inevitable sequel to get a taste of true Live action. The good news is that you do have the ability to play with three other people on your own Xbox, as you can all team up to beat the campaign mode. If you have three friends and a decent amount of time, you’ll have even more fun going through the levels as a real life team.

Overall, the gameplay is solid, albeit at times the levels may seem repetitive. The team concept is by far the best feature and the necessity to use each player gives the game its skill, setting it apart from the thousands of other generic shooters you can find in the world of video games.

Graphics

It seems to be a requirement for all in house Microsoft games to look absolutely beautiful. Brute is no exception, as it has some of the best graphics I have seen in a video game, ever. The in game movies are among the best I’ve ever seen, as even the common plague of poor voice-syncing is absent with each character’s lips moving in perfect harmony with the dialogue!

Each character is well-rendered, and all of the environments are very bright and detailed. The only possible complaint could be with level design, as many areas seem to have the same feel as a level you have already completed. Not every area suffers from this problem, and in fact some places have a very unique feel to them such as Brutus’s tree-filled level. Overall, it is very hard to fault the graphics as Microsoft has done an incredible job of utilizing the full power of the Xbox.

Sound

Another area that Microsoft seems to have down to a science is the field of sound. Voice acting is for the most part incredible, and the sounds while playing seem true to the location. Explosions, gunfire, and everything in between can be heard with ease, and in fact helps you during your gameplay. For example, in one level a hiding enemy attempts to snipe out your team. Flint exclaims that she is hit, and Hawk replies “I didn’t see which direction that came from, did you?” It wasn’t a specific boss, but rather just some random enemy which proves just how interactive Brute Force can be. When issuing commands with the d-pad, your character will proceed to yell out orders, and as expected the teammates each reply individually, and not always the same way. The only possible complaint would be the stereotypical voices of Tex and Brutus. Tex, as I mentioned earlier seems to have graduated from Duke Nukem University with his voice and mannerisms, while Brutus’s garggling voice can also tend to get on your nerves. Other than possibly the voices, Brute Force fares extremely well in the sound department.

Fun Factor

If you have three friends that share a passion or even a minor interest in battle/shooter games, you’re in for a lot of fun. Brute Force makes the lost art of co-op play fun, and probably does it better than any game, ever, on a video game console. As I’ve previously mentioned it almost should be a crime that this game isn’t on Xbox Live, although the downloadable content feature is available, which may add extra areas or some other goodies to our downloading pleasure in the coming months. If you’re strictly into the single-player mode, you might be done with the game after beating the campaign mode. However, if you do have some friends who like the multiplayer shoot-em-up action, you have a worthy new addition to your game library in Brute Force.

Ratings

Gameplay: 8.0
Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9.5
Fun Factor: 8.0