Review by RyuGB

"Not quite Brutal enough"

Xbox gamers in the need for a good tactical squad-based shooter, have been left with few options. Sure, the Xbox received a port of the enjoyable Conflict: Desert Storm, but that title still didn't quite measure up to the almighty PlayStation 2 release Socom: US Navy Seals.
Brute Force developed by Digital Anvil has been shown around for quite some time (In fact, it was featured in the demo section of Halo), and has long been touted as the premier squad-based shooter on the market. Finally, (after nearly two years) Brute Force has been unleashed on the public. Question is, does it deliver on it's promises?

Gameplay:

Brute Force like so many space titles before it, opens with the galaxy hanging in the balance.
Your squad is tasked with restoring peace and order; by blowing away every scum that gets in your way. Seem like a contradiction? I know, but I doubt going about the process all diplomatic like would make for an exciting game experience. Each member of your squad has specific strengths and weaknesses, and you'll need to use each member properly if you expect for a smooth mission. Issuing orders is done through a simple command menu, and should prove to be a snap to learn how to use effectively. I actually consider the command menu easier to use then in Socom, since commands are simply labeled, rather than in jar head talk.(like in Socom)

Before I go any further, I feel I should do a quick rundown of each member of your team.

Tex
Tex is the real commando of the group, laying waste to enemies with the strongest weapons available. He has the ability to disarm mines for use later, and has the largest health meter of the group. His berserker special ability allows him to fire two guns at once.

Brutus
He is the only non-human member of the team. Brutus carries a heavy weapon and a light rifle, and he has the second largest health meter. Brutus taps into the feral ability Spirit of Vengar, which gives him thermal vision, regenerates lost health, and a devastating charging attack.

Hawk Hawk is the James Bond of the group. Utilizing a cloaking ability, she is able to stealthily sneak up on enemies, and deliver the death blow with her Power blade without them even knowing what hit them. Hawk is only able to carry light weapons, and has the smallest health meter of the group.

Flint
Flint may look human, but she is merely a synthetic. Flint wields a high performance sniper rifle, so enemies in the distance won't even have a chance. Her Auto-targeting special ability makes aiming all the easier for the player. Her health meter is slightly larger than Hawk's, but the boys still rule in this area.

From the offset, Brute Force may look like it will require a ton of strategy to complete. However, my friend, this couldn't be farther from the truth. The action is in fact heavily slanted towards running and gunning; so only those with twitchy trigger fingers need apply. This feeling of total frenetic play spills over into a variety of places, and never does the insane pace slow down.

Which brings me to my main point: If the gameplay pace defies the very nature of a tactical squad-based shooter, why do the developers bother implementing such mechanics?

Honestly, I have not found an answer to the above question.
I rarely (if ever) make use of the squad commands, and only seem to use it to order my female squad-mates to stay back, while the boys clear the way. So in essence, (without meaning to) Digital Anvil has crafted something much different than what their vision intended.
This isn't such a bad thing, since there is a place for non-stop action shooters.

One issue that nags at me, is the artificial intelligence. Halo spoiled us with it's incredible A.I, and has left many titles struggling to grasp how to craft such elegant A.I routines. For one, your squad mates falter big time, and without supervision can bite the big one mighty fast. What also surprises me, is you can never count on your squad-mates to make use of their special abilities.
For example:You can position Flint on a perfect sniping spot, but don't count on her to actually make use of it. Enemies are equally disturbing; sometimes it's almost as if they are throwing themselves into your cross-hairs in some kind of insane sacrifice. They makes themselves such easy targets that I nearly want to laugh at their ignorance; but then I simply want to cry since I was looking for a truly challenging experience.

Multi-Player

Brute Force has an innovation that I am sure will set itself ahead of the pack in ingenuity.
You are allowed to go through the main game with up to three of your gun happy friends, and better yet, players can join and resign at their leisure. So, no one is chained down to a marathon Brute Force session if they don't desire to. It must be noted that the game runs a tad slower then it does in single or two player, but such is the price for such an incredible cooperative innovation.
The game still runs at a pretty steady pace though. Brute Force also includes a Multi-player mode with plenty of options, and a pretty solid selection of characters. However, I must note that I'm not a very big fan of the levels. They seem to lack much in the way of creativity, and are kind of boring to combat in. The frame-rate is also known to be a bit hit and miss.

Graphics:
Brute Force is a prime example of both the powerhouse visuals Xbox can pump out and just what developers can do when they develop a game solely with the Xbox in mind. In single player, the game is simply outstanding, and one of the finest examples of Xbox's massive graphical power at work. The six worlds of Brute Force are fleshed out in the finest detail and complexity, this side of Panzer Dragoon Orta. Whether it be lush jungle areas, a tree house village home to vicious feral inhabitants, or a dreary desolate volcanic planet; there is no end of praise to be had. Texturing is some of the finest seen on the Xbox, and just goes to show you don't have to accept blurry drab textures when you have something as powerful as the Xbox around. The only concession I can make, is the texture work at times looks far too similar. It's as if the developers repeated the same textures a few too many times. Subtle lighting and weather effects are common place in Brute Force, and weapons and explosions actually look like they have some actual force behind them. The frame-rate is rock steady with one or two players, and is slightly less speedy with additional players. Still, it's pretty solid nonetheless. Animation on your squad members is super fluid, but when it comes to enemy forces; this is where Brute Force falls. Enemy animations are very stiff; and at times, border at robotic. Death animations look very poor, as if the developers forgot to implement a few frames. Aliasing is off course cleaned up for the most part, but we expect that of an Xbox only title; don't we? I must note that the graphics take a sharp hit when you factor in more then two players, with a complete downgrade overall (although, the textures stay looking marvelous.), with a seriously nasty case of the stair-step jaggies blues.

Sound:
Brute Force takes advantage of the Xbox's extra power to spare, and delivers an incredible sound experience. Weapon and sound effects are highly explosive, and certainly keep the kick ass vibe flowing. Much like the Covenant in Halo, enemies in Brute Force are highly vocal; and never fail to run out of things to say. Your squad isn't one to not be part of a good thing either, and enjoy swapping trash talk with enemy forces. Music and voice acting seems to border on the cheesy side; but seeing as this is a sci-fi title, I can't help but wonder if this was intentional.

Control:
Those who have already played Bungie's epic title Halo, will instantly be familiar with Brute Force's control scheme. For one, each character can only hold two weapons at a time. (Just like Master Chief in Halo) You switch weapons with a press of the Y button, and pick up new weapons off the ground by holding X. Grenades are even defaulted to the left trigger. However, you can assign other items like mines or explosives. The only thing missing is the flashlight!
Brute Force is home to one of the most player friendly camera systems I've encountered in a third-person perspective title. Seeing as the action is so intense, that is saying quite a bit.

In the end, Brute Force is a very beautiful shooter with a decent experience to be had. It is not the monster hit you were led to believe it was going to be, but it is not a disaster by any means.
It provides a very intense shooting experience, that perhaps should have been devoid of the squad dynamics. Honestly, the squad functions feel out of place, like they were simply an afterthought; rather than the main focus like they were billed to be. Regardless, Brute Force is worth at least a rental to any proud owner of the Xbox.

Score: 7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/28/03


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