Review by RockguyKev

"Overrated much?"

Ah Brute Force, no other game has gone through so many ups and downs ever. Announced and shown at E3 2002 this game picked up some serious ''next Halo'' hype. Then it was delayed. And delayed. And delayed. So most accepted that the game would just not be any good. However, as more and more media outlets got looks at it early this year it picked up all of the ''next Halo'' hype once again. The delay helped but not enough it seems. The delay allowed the guys to add Squad Deathmatch but still no Live play, and that ultimately is only part of the problem.


I'll get this out of the way right off, Brute Force is no Halo. I'll also get this out of the way, Brute Force is no Ghost Recon, Woflenstein, Max Payne or Timesplitters 2 either. It is it's own game and if you expect anything else you'll be disappointed.

The controls are fine except for one glaring detail; there is absolutely no reason this game should be third person. It makes perfect sense in a game like Max Payne where you can actually dodge. It makes sense in Splinter Cell where you are trying to hide. It makes no sense in a game where accuracy is the only method of staying alive. You must hit the enemy before they hit you. I don't have a problem with that game mechanic necessarily, just with it in 3rd person. Most old school first person shooters were shoot or be shot and that is fine since you can aim rather well in first person. It is far harder to aim accurately in 3rd person and thus you are almost fully reliant on the spotty auto-aim. As stated though, otherwise the controls are pretty good. The function much like any other shooter. The only complaint about the button set up is that giving commands to squad mates isn't very intuitive. Often you'll end up switching characters instead of giving orders which means you then have to give the orders all over again. This isn't a huge problem but it holds the game back from having a seamless squad experience.

The real problem with the gameplay, as I implied above, is that there just isn't much to the combat in this game. There no dodge, jumping does nothing and the enemies have incredible sight/aim distance. Most levels work like this:
Tex runs into random open area.
Enemy opens fire.
Tex now can see enemies.
Tex turns and shoots.
Tex kills enemies, uses medipack.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sometimes you can mix it up by having your squad mates follow you into the open field or on some of the more well-designed levels you might get to snipe a guy or two before the see you and fire at you with their uncanny accuracy. The problem is that this is all pretty much mindless. Since there is no dodge or anything like that it all comes down to shooting fast and hoping the auto-aim works out. Now, once again, this works fine in other games (See: Serious Sam) but not in 3rd person, and not in a game that has been in development for 3 years.

There is an additional problem with a few of the missions in that they suffer from the much hated ''destroy random item X before advancing'' objectives. One level simply says ''destroy all equipment.'' Now, you have yellow ''do something here'' markers on your map but when those yellow markers lead to a computer that you have to use to blow up a satellite dish you think you've finished that market. But no, you have to figure out that you must blow up that computer. With a grenade? No. With an energy bomb? Nope. Oh, well certainly with my HUGE FREAKING GUN then? Uh no, try again! Oh, you don't mean my pointless little energy beam gun that I drop as soon as I can do you? You do? Oh, well that makes perfect sense then...

Nobody likes to complete objectives in shooters. We hated looking for the stupid thing on the Silent Cartographer level in Halo, we hated looking for the exit to the Alien Craft level in Time Splitters 2, and I almost threw BF out the window figuring this part out. We paid to shoot things, not to hunt for exits.

And of course there is the AI which I nearly forgot to mention which should tell you something. I am adding this paragraph after re-reading my review, that is how forgettable the AI is. The enemies pretty much stand around waiting for you to shoot them all the while shooting at you. Some have half a brain and will hide behind a rock so you can come up behind them and shoot them in the head. None even remotely try to work together or anything even remotely like that. It is funny to hear them yell ''GRENADE!'' and then not move at all though.

Ok, so the single player is pretty forgettable. It is worth playing through once but you could do that about 6 times during a 5 day rental. So, for the game to have any lasting value the multiplayer has to hold up. Luckily, it is pretty good. The co-op campaign plays pretty well. Yes it is mindless, but it can be fun to be mindless with a buddy or three alongside you. It can be fun to laugh at the Tex player when he runs ahead and you decide not to give him any support because you're sick of him ''stealing'' all the kills but this implies a basic flaw in the co-op; half of the characters (that being 2 out of 4 for those weak in math) are pretty much useless. Tex and Brutus will see, oh, about 80% of the action leaving the two sniping females to relative boredom. To be fair, there are at least a couple levels where sniping is encouraged and those levels really do play pretty well. Overall though the lack of any character balance weakens the experience. It would put it above most other coop offerings though so if you're into that sort of thing (and I really am) than the game picks up some value.

They also added Deamatch and Squad Deathmatch modes (which is why we had much of the 18 month delay) to be played on a single system or system link. Both modes are forgettable in my opinion. The squad deathmatch is a bit unique as you basically fight 4 on 4 with only two players but the standard deathmatch is a joke. After about 10 minutes of it you'll question why you aren't playing Halo, TS2, Ghost Recon, Wolfenstein, Mech Assault or Jedi Knight instead. So, bleh. They aren't bad modes, they just aren't as good as other ones out there already.

The game doesn't have native online play but using XBConnect ( or Gamespy will get you playing online. Currently it isn't running very well online (which explains why Live was never implemented) so good luck. If you can get some really low pings you can get an ok 3 xbox game going. Anything more than 3 seems to crash the game though at this point. There is a new XBC release tonight that hopefully will clean that up.

The cutscenes are awesome and so are most of the character animations. The sight distance is great as well. The bullet animations are horrid however and the character models are pretty jaggy at any distance. Overall it looks nice but not great.

Borrowed quite liberally from Halo even down to the rockin' music change when you hit an enemies full of enemies. Guns sound good, voices sound good and the enemies are quite funny in their comments.

Replay value:
This is a tough choice. If you don't have Xbox Live the replay might be very high for you because it is a pretty ok offline shooter. If you have Live you'll be back to playing Wolfenstein pretty fast. Ultimately it comes down to this. Once you've finished the game and you want to play again you will have to say:
''I want to play co-op more than Halo''
''I want to play deathmatch more than Time Splitters 2.''
Quite frankly, I don't see how you could say either.

Ultimately BF is slightly better than the sum of its parts if for no other reason than co-op is fun. It isn't a bad game, it just isn't any kind of next-step for shooters. In fact, it is a few steps back.

Give it a rent. I wasted the $50 because of the ''new game'' factor (if you haven't seen my theory it is that all new games get good reviews because people try to convince themselves they didn't make a bad purchase) and reading too many user reviews. Maybe this time I'll finally listen to myself and stop doing that. I guarantee this, by the end of June you will see more negative opinions on the game than positive so rent it first.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 05/31/03, Updated 05/31/03

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