Review by The Vic Viper

"Dispite several shortcomings, Brute Force is still a fairly good game"

Brute Force (BF) is the latest game by Digital Anvil, in fact one of the only games developed by DA. This is also the first game to be released by a member of Microsoft Gaming Studios since the launch of the Xbox. BF was originally promoted as the next Halo, which was a bad idea, since BF has more than enough qualities to stand on its own, but still could not live up to the hype. Regardless of your opinion of Halo or BF, the two games do have a number of similarities worth noting and comparing.

The most obvious similarity between Halo and Brute Force is the control layout. For the most part, Brute Force uses the same scheme as Halo, with the left analog stick controlling movement and the right one controlling the camera. This was a good move on Digital Anvil’s part, since many people had already played Halo, they would be comfortable with the controller from the start.

Aside from the camera controls, you fire guns with the right trigger and grenades with the left trigger. Also borrowed from Halo are the two weapon limit and the button choices to pick up and swap weapons. The gameplay design works well, and gives the game a Halo-like feel, which in some ways is good, but in other ways hurts the game. By making the gameplay like Halo’s, it makes it hard not to compare the game to Halo, rather than judging it only on its own merits.

There are many aspects of Brute Force that are exactly like Halo, such as the basic premises of aliens at war with humans and a mission based single player mode, and a lot of the gameplay. It may sound like a Halo clone, but once you dig deeper you find that they are different enough.

The Brute Force is a squad of four soldiers on a mission to eliminate the alien threat and end the war. Each of the four characters has different attributes and abilities, such as different types of firearms and amount of life. Additionally, each character has a unique style of fighting. Hawk can turn invisible and use melee weapons, Brutus can charge and regenerate his life, Flint can auto-target and snipe enemies, while Tex can use two weapons at once. This not only gives variety to the game, but lets each player fight in a way that they prefer. Instead of simply picking your preferred character and then fighting alone, you will play as all four characters, choosing the best one for each task.

The characters are all useful in certain situations, but it is easy to favor Brutus and Tex over the other two since melee and sniping attacks are not particularly useful in a gun battle occurring on an open field. Brutus and Tex also have the best defense and will most likely out last the other two. However, in all likelihood, you will use each character at least once every mission and if a character dies you get them back in the next mission, thanks to the ability of the military to clone a dead person and give their memories to the clone.

What really distinguishes Halo and Brute Force is that BF is more squad based combat, while Halo focuses more on fighting alone. Co-op mode is excellent in almost everyway, and when you don’t have three other people to play with, computer controlled allies will aid you. While the computer directly controls your teammates, you have the ability to quickly issue basic orders using the controller.

The AI in Brute Force is by no means perfect, so you will end up with a dead teammate occasionally, but for the most part it is more than enough. Depending on your orders, allies will protect a spot, hunt enemies, cover you, etc, and do a decent job of it. You can, and will have to, switch what character you are controlling in order to fully take advantage of each character’s abilities. Fortunately this can be done quickly with the touch of a button. Genius AI isn’t really needed because, despite being advertised as a tactical shooter, the amount of tactics needed is sadly limited to avoiding getting shot and killing everything that moves.

Like your allies’ AI, the enemy are not tactical geniuses, but are still more that capable of putting up a good fight, especially when they are in large numbers or around structures. The enemies are also able to use sheer numbers to there advantage since there are so many of them.

Each mission is basically a continuous firefight while you try to accomplish several objectives. While this isn’t necessarily a major blow to the game, the fact that there is little variation between battles is. For the most part, each mission will consist of fighting your way from one end of the map to the other.

Brute Force focuses more on combat than mission completion, so most of the objectives are limited to securing an area, destroying/killing targets, or finding items. Not only are the objectives for each mission very basic, but each mission is not particularly in-depth or imaginative. Cut scenes between missions will explain the reason for the next one, but most explanations are rather shallow and meant to be little more a short break between fights. On a positive note, the scenes are very well done, with great graphics and voice acting, so they are defiantly worth watching. There are quite a few missions, which can be either a good or bad thing, depending on how repetitive you find gun battles.

Like the objectives, the storyline is underdeveloped and has almost no purpose other than to set up the game and give you a reason for killing everything on the planet. Despite having four radically different people in the squad, there is very little character development.

Brute Force is not the most difficult game around, but it can still be a challenge. There are multiple levels of difficulty, as well as a scoring system that judges you on everything from completion time to how much damage you took during the level. Simply completing the game can be done, but mastering it will take time and effort.

Once you finish the game you may want to play through it again, but there is a good chance you won’t pick it up for quite a while. The scoring system and varying difficulty defiantly give you a reason to try again and do better or fight a harder fight. On the other hand, the repeating levels and pointless missions give you a reason to find another game to play. If you have other people to play then you will probably find yourself enjoying the game more than if you are playing solo.

With four-player co-op, Brute Force can make a fairly entertaining party game. Because each member has unique abilities, players will have to work together to make it through the game rather then everyone fighting on their own without worrying about the other players. With four people on one television things can get really cramped and cause major frame rate drops, but using the System-Link everything runs nice and smoothly. Co-op play is Brute Force’s strongest aspect, allowing players to either start co-op campaigns, or to simply join in a single player game by taking control of one of the characters under computer control.

To go along with the co-op mode there is the standard deathmatch competitions found in most shooters. You can choose between team deathmatch and free-for-all deathmatch, making competitive multiplayer a decent add-on, but by no means a reason to buy the game. The fact that there is no online play further hurts the deathmatch games, since so many other games offer it.

There is a lack of variety in the enemies and levels, but what the game has looks very nice. The maps and character models are highly textured and look very nice, giving the game a very nice hostile alien world atmosphere. The music and sound effects are a nice touch and help develop the gaming environment. In terms of appearance, everything would be perfect if it wasn’t for a glaring lack of diversity. The enemies are all too similar to one another and move exactly like the humans, while the levels are all very typical and every spot looks a lot like the last one.

Conclusion

Brute Force had the potential to be an amazing game, but lacked enough diversity to be interesting from start to finish. Like so many other games, it looked good before it came out, but in the end it had too many shortcomings to be as good as everyone hoped. Since the game was being hyped as Halo in the third person it made it impossible not to judge it based on how well it compares to Halo. Sadly, almost everything Brute Force does, Halo does better. It may entertain gamers for a while, but it doesn’t stand out enough to be a game that will be played for years to come.

Calling the game a tactical shooter was also a major mistake, since most of the game is a run-and-gun shooter. If you want a cooperative game to play with a group of friends, then Brute Force is a good selection. The design focus of Brute Force was to make it one of the best cooperative games around, and Digital Anvil succeeded with that. Unfortunately this meant sacrificing things in the single player and deathmatch modes, so those looking for a strong single player game or a competitive deathmatch, then you may find Brute Force to be lacking. This is not to say that nobody will like the non co-op games since Brute Force does have enough qualities to make it a good low-budget purchase, there are plenty of games that are better.

The moral of the story is that hyping a game as the next Halo (or any other series that the game isn’t part of) will only lead to disappointed fans. Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not companies will actually learn to stop doing this.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/03, Updated 03/23/04


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