Review by stonedwal

"Bipedal lizards with guns, dull action, and the wrong perspective."

If you own an Xbox, there’s also a large chance you own a copy of Halo. Therefore, if you enjoyed Halo, you’ll be waiting for Halo 2, right? You’ll need something to fill that gap between now and 2004, and that’s where Brute Force is supposed to come in. Promoted as being “the next Halo”, Brute Force has a lot to live up to, especially after countless delays and a lot of hype. Is it a fair comparison, or an act of desperation?

Boring Force

In the year 2340, cloning technology has made training and recruiting soldiers obsolete. The future of the Confederation, of humanity itself, is in the hands of the most skilled warriors of the age-warriors who can fight to the death and be cloned to battle another day. You control the team known as Brute Force, a crack squadron of four troops whose sole purpose is to end the threat the humanity.

Brutes without a clue

Brute Force is a 3rd person, squad based shooter. Perhaps it was rather unfair for the mass media and Digital Anvil to compare it to Halo, because the only thing they really have in common is that they’re action games on the Xbox. While Halo was a relatively polished effort, Brute Force lacks a lot of the “oomph” required to make such a positive impression. The action feels highly generic, so instead of planning out your objectives and relying on tactics, you can run through the missions purely by blasting everything in your path. This is multiplied by the fact your team mates’ AI is rather lacking, though this theme seems to continue to the enemy AI, who seem largely geared for having the stuffing shot out of them. The game’s radar can also be quite problematic, not hesitating in leading you astray when you’re looking for the next nav-beacon. The problems in the main gameplay seem to give a couple of hints that Brute Force may not quite have been ready for release at this time, but was hurried out to fill the mid year gap.

The Brute Force squad consists of four different characters. Tex is your all-round heavy weapon soldier type, good for taking on lots of troops by himself, especially when you activate his special power, which allows him to use two weapons of any sort at once. Brutus is a silly looking lizard man who has a similar style to Tex, but his special power lets him go on a Wolverine-like berserker rage. Hawk is a stealthy girl, with the ability to cloak herself, which comes in handy when you need to sneak up on people, and slice them with your energy blade. Last, but not least is the cyborg Flint, who happens to be a sniper, and can auto-lock on and shoot any enemy when her special power is activated. There are a variety of weapons, though they’re fairly generic once again, including machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers and laser rifles. Each character can carry two weapons at once as well as a limited payload of grenades. Controlling the combat is very similar to Halo, so most people should be right at home.

Co-operative play is Brute Force’s saving grace. Each player can pick one of the members of the Brute Force, and tackle the game’s single player. You can also link four Xboxes and let each player have their own screen – something which makes playing co-operative a bit more bearable. Deathmatch modes are also available, some of which let each player commandeer his own little force of 4 troops, though this can get extremely crowded on a small screen. The main problem with all modes of multiplayer is the nasty slowdown you’re bound to experience. Strangely enough, there’s no Xbox Live play in Brute Force, only the option to download new content, so people wanting to play online are going to have to use Xbox Connect.

Expect to get a decent amount of use out of Brute Force, if you don’t mind the highly generic action gameplay. The main quest runs somewhere in the region of 20 hours, and then there’s co-operative play and deathmatch, as well as a bevy of extras and unlockables to find. Microsoft have also included playable demos of Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus and Mechassault and trailers for Halo 2, Fable, PSO, Sudeki and Amped 2 for your enjoyment.

Beautiful, but not too quick

Brute Force looks relatively impressive, but unfortunately, the frame rate of the game suffers from time to time in the single player and constantly in multiplayer. Some decent effects are in place, including weather effects, bump mapping, lighting, particle effects and rag doll physics – the usual jazz. The weakest portions of the graphics are the locations and the player models. Locations don’t really vary at all during the piece, with only around 6 different kinds of location used throughout the game. Player models and animations are relatively poor, and make you wonder why they bothered to use a 3rd person perspective when the game could have been adequately constructed using first person cameras – in fact, that may have even helped the struggling frame rate. Brute Force includes a PAL 60 Hz mode, and (according to the box) supports 480p progressive scan, but this is unconfirmed due to the fact the High Definition AV pack was pulled from shelves shortly after the launch of the Xbox.

The vocal department is a little lacking, with some samples used over and over throughout the game. Voice acting isn’t anything to write home about, and the script isn’t a very inspiring piece, given that the story is about as generic as you can get. Music sounds like something from a cheap sci-fi show, and doesn’t achieve anything special. Sound effects are the main strength of the aural department. Weapon sounds are unique, and thanks to some very good audio separation in the Dolby Digital support, the overall experience is very impressive, especially when a bullet or lazy whizzes by your character’s head.

May cause anger

Brute Force falls victim to its own hype and promotional campaign, because in all fairness it’s not the next Halo, nor should it ever have been promoted to be. To be honest, the game doesn’t really need to employ the third person perspective, as first person could have done the job, and freed up a bit of weight on the processor. Squad AI needed to be a lot better, and more emphasis needed to be placed on sensible tactical play, rather than just running in, guns blazing like Rambo. If you’ve got some friends, and want to play through the game, rent it and have a sleepover, because this one isn’t worth buying.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 07/10/03, Updated 07/10/03

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