Review by firstknt

"As good as it gets"

Introduction

Brute Force was what the OXM (June 2002, Issue #7) promised to be, “The Next Halo”, it was a revolutionary (as they stated) 3rd person squad-based shooter. Not much was heard about the game after the initial buzz; info on the game was scarce, and it wasn’t until recently, months prior to the game’s release, which hype started to build.

So is the game what people say it would be? Is it “the” game to help gamers tide the wait until Halo 2? Almost, not that it misses the mark, but comes so very close to being “The Next Halo”.

On another note, since the game was touted to be “The Next Halo”, not to mention having collaboration from the makers of Halo, Bungie themselves, Brute Force is bound to be compared to Halo and be measured against the great standard of gaming excellence Halo has set.

Graphics (10/10)

The graphics are simply top notch; the particles effects are eerily great. The volcano dust, the mist/fog is simply breath taking; it’s one of the best looking games on the XBOX to date. The environments are huge, the draw distance is great and the textures are better that those of Halo in some instances. The levels in Brute Force actually remind me that of Panzer Dragoon Orta, which art direction provides the gamer a sense of immersion unparallel to other games. When gamers play Brute Force, it’s like they can smell the volcano ashes and feel the heat of the lava; or feel the dense humidity of the fog in the rain forests.

The character models are simply the best to grace the XBOX. The in-game character models move with fluidity and the animation of all the character movements; from simple ones like walking/crouching to complex ones like switching weapons (a la Tex with his gun rack) are smooth and very life-like. The cut-scenes which provide the narrative of the story show great amount of detail put into the facial animations and lip-synching. Simply put, the graphics of Brute Force is what the XBOX is all about.

Sound (8/10)

With Halo having set the high standard of music score and immersion of the game via great sound effects and voice acting, Brute Force follows closely, but has yet to achieve the level of greatness that Halo has. That isn’t to say the sound effects in Brute Force are sub-par; on the contrary, they are good if not great.

Projectiles whiz by with great authenticity, the ambient sound effects of the environment once again provides the gamer a good sense of “being there”. The musical score is adequate, nothing stellar but still good enough to pace the game accordingly.

The best aspect of sound in Brute Force is the voice acting. It’s simply great; the voices are sincere and fit the character accordingly. The humorous antics are great and provide a grin/smile to gamers, and in turn, provide a connection to the characters they are controlling.

The only quip I have about the sound is that when the gamers issue commands all the while new objectives are given (scripted sound events), it can be a bit confusing. But that aside, sound is great in Brute Force.

Controls (9/10)

With Bungie having given support into the development process of Brute Force, the similarities in terms of control with Halo are staggering. Again, not to say that’s a bad thing; for those gamers who were accustomed and came to enjoy Halo’s control scheme, Brute Force is very easy to pick up, there’s hardly anything learning curve.

Customizable control schemes/options aside, the right trigger shoots, the left trigger throws grenades or uses whatever is assigned to it. The left thumbstick when clicked in, makes the character crouch and the right thumbstick clicks in to zoom the rifle if it has that feature. In short, it’s just so similar to Halo that it’s great. Jump is assigned to “A”; weapon switching is “Y”; reload and action is “X” and “B” is different, it allows gamers to toggle through the inventory. The white button is for special abilities and the black button is for quick med-kit use.

The minor complaint is that toggling different items to be used from the left trigger can be annoying.

As for the assignment of squad commands, it’s simply brilliant. Squad members can be toggled with a simple press of the corresponding d-pad direction. Hold it down a bit longer and gamers can issue commands to the respective character. Although there are only four commands, they serve their purpose nicely. Stand ground is exactly what it means, cover-me is great when gamers want the other character(s) to follow and provide assistance. Fire-at-will gives the character full autonomy, which is ok as long as they don’t get into tense fire-fights, gun blazing and using med-kits like mad. I’ll elaborate on that aspect a bit later. Move-to is the command I like the most. Characters when assigned the command will move to a target location, engaging any enemy within the transit and stand ground when the destination is reached.

Gameplay (9/10)

On a similar note, the AI of the game is great. It has to be great because Brute Force being a squad based combat, team AI is very important or else gamers will find their more vulnerable characters getting into adverse situations and killed in the process. Luckily, with the command features and the good AI, gameplay is smooth but still, there are times when gamers may get frustrated.

The revival mechanism is believable and the lack of save features makes the entire gaming experience more engaging and dare I say, more “real”. In any instance when a team member is killed, continuing through the level just won’t be the same, not to mention you might miss some pre-scripted events, like dialog or others.

This aspect of the gameplay makes the gamer value each character and employ battlefield tactics instead of going in guns blazing and dying a absurd death and expecting to re-spawn. Not to say that going in head strong, regardless of strategy is bad, it’s fun; but expect the consequences of such actions.

As for the point of med-kits usage by non-player controlled squad mates, it’s a bit annoying when the character doesn’t need to use a med-kit but chooses to do so, dwindling the supply rather quickly.

The AI is great, but could have been so much better. Instead of using med-kits when health is low, the squad members should disengage and seek cover, not abiding by the original command given. Elites and Halo could do it, and they were the enemy AI, why couldn’t Brute Force have something “smarter” like that?

Story (9/10)

The story is the typical sci-fi setting. Nothing awe-inspiring, but the story is no slouch either. Gamers will find small twists that encourage more gameplay. The superb voice-acting and cut-scenes push the story along nicely.

For those who wish a more complete experience, reading the book, Brute Force: Betrayals might to the trick.

Replayability (9/10)

Replayability would be a perfect 10 out of 10 if Brute Force included FULL XBOX Live support as in online multiplayer. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But Brute Force still offers great multiplayer option and utilizes the system link feature (of the XBOX) unlike any other game in the entire XBOX library.

Multiplayer is fun, period. Going through the campaign with another person or more (up to 4) is a blast, not to mention they can join in at anytime. ANYTIME, no need to pause or reload, just plug in the controller and they’re in. WOW! Completing the campaign this way is simply the best, and if the gamer and his/her buddies decide to up the stakes by going Brutal, it’s so much more fun.

As for the other multiplayer options, like standard deathmatch and squad deathmatch are great fun. In short, this is the game to get the system link cable for.

Final Verdict (9/10) not an average

With all the hype surrounding Brute Force prior to its release and the inevitable comparisons to Halo, the game delivers on its promises, although the AI isn’t as brilliant as it could have been. All in all, the game is bloody fun, and for those gamers who have pals that own an XBOX as well, coming over and system-linking has never been more fun.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/30/03, Updated 05/30/03


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