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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft Game Studios

 

Developer

Digital Anvil

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q2 2003

 

 

- Co-op action is enjoyable
- Relatively precise controls similar to Halo
- Nice graphics throughout

 

 

- No Xbox Live multiplayer support
- Horribly lacking any semblance of a story to weave together action
- Sometimes totally unexplainable AI behavior

 

 

Review: Halo (XB)

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Review: Splinter Cell (XB)

Review: Halo 3 (360)

 

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Brute Force

Score: 7.8 / 10

 

brute force xbox review        brute force xbox review

 

Brute Force, the new squad-based tactical shooter for the Xbox, was supposed to be the greatest Xbox game since the magnificent Halo, with many of the same great gameplay features seen in the Master Chief masterpiece. But as is usually inevitable when anything is compared to a legendary predecessor, gamers expecting Brute Force to be as wonderful as Halo will be mightily disappointed. That’s not to say that the game isn’t good. Many gamers will definitely enjoy playing Brute Force. But a horridly underdeveloped story, too short campaign mode, sometimes weak AI, and no Xbox Live multiplayer support at a time when Microsoft has proclaimed that every first-party Xbox game will have Xbox Live support adds up to a much-less-heavenly-than-Halo experience.

Brute Force’s storyline starts out with some promise. Brute Force is a collection of super-soldiers for the 24th-century Confederation, the 23rd Special Forces Unit. The team is the best of the brutally best killing machines. Apparently, the future is even more corrupted than it is today, where even open assassination is an

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acceptable means to dealing with leaders not in line with your particular governmental agenda.

It’s also a new age with quantum leaps in genetic technology. Cloning is second nature, and all beings can be cloned easily, as long as their genetic imprint is saved or in the case of fallen soldiers, recovered from the field of battle. All the four Brute Force members are long dead

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in their original form and at this point are simply cloned versions of a great warrior. This part of the story actually makes a lot of sense, because it helps to reconcile how a character can reappear in the game after they were killed in your gameplay adventures.

In the first few missions of the game you’re shown how each member is recruited, which serve as not only an introduction to the story but a tutorial for the gameplay. You start out as the brash and tough Tex, the squad’s unofficial leader and heavy assault trooper, who sounds and acts a lot like he’s a futuristic relative of Duke Nukem. Tex sets out to rescue Brutus (you just know it took about two seconds to come up with that name) a member of the huge, mutated Komodo Dragon-like Feral species, and Brute Force’s shock trooper. From there it’s gathering the final two recruits, the female fighters impossible to differentiate between: the human synthetic sniper Flint and Hawk, a human who serves as the team’s scout.

Okay, so far so good Brute Force’s potentially awesome story goes. But, alas, it then goes quickly downhill from there, with zero story development for the rest of the game. Brute Force goes from possibly being a memorable blend of great story with great gameplay (along the lines of Halo or Splinter Cell) to just another video game that’s all action, no story.

Characters display a large amount of naiveté in accepting everything and anything their leader tells the Brute Force to do. There could have been an opportunity for a good plot twist here, having the leader taking advantage of the team’s almost complete and blind trust for some type of nefarious undertaking. But instead, every cut-scene throughout the game has the four characters on the bridge of the spaceship, just standing around listening to a talking head hologram of the leader explaining the next mission, before departing for the actual mission on one of the game’s six planets. This happens over and over. By the last mission, any attempt at story development has been surrendered to simply beaming down to a planet and shooting anything that stands in your way of the level goal.

 

brute force xbox review          brute force xbox review


Fortunately, Brute Force’s actual gameplay saves it from the coaster pile. It’s not totally perfect, but any fan of games such as Halo or Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell will be drawn to the blend of heavy fighting and use of combat strategy contained in Brute Force, including the squad-based tactics your commandos have at their disposal.

Using squad-based tactics can definitely create a more rewarding experience. In single-player action, you take control over any one of the four characters. That character then becomes the “leader” for the time span you control him or her. The strategic elements that come into play are the commands that the “leader” can issue to the remaining three characters. Depending on the circumstances of the current skirmish, you can have the other team members stand their ground, fire at will, move to a desired location, and cover you. I found that I gravitated to using the cover command the most, while moving my squad was the least used order, because if the rest of the squad is already covering you, they will follow behind you and usually be in good position during firefights.

You can also switch to one of the other characters and change the current tactical order quickly in the heat of battle, which can be the difference between completing the mission and getting your squad totally annihilated. Just be aware that even if you don’t employ the squad-based tactical approach to playing Brute Force you can still successfully complete the entire game, even so far as using the same character for each mission.

Co-op gameplay is the best type of battling in Brute Force. The single-player campaign suffers because of how the weak story unfolds, but playing with up to three other players in co-op fighting can cause you to quickly overlook that. This is one of the better co-op games available on the Xbox. Inexplicably absent is Live gameplay, though. I can’t believe that a game that seems so natural for online play doesn’t have online support, especially since Microsoft is pushing their Xbox Live gaming so hard as the wave of the gaming future. Supposedly there will be new downloadable single-player missions, but sadly with a game like Brute Force, that just doesn't compensate for a lack of full-blown Live support.

If you stick to playing single-player, however, Brute Force is a short game. It records the amount of gameplay time spent, and I was able to complete the entire game in just a tad under 12 hours on the normal difficulty level. There are two harder difficulties and all those goals to meet that could extend the game hours spent with the game, but a one-time run-through doesn’t pack much gameplay per hour punch.

Controls are very similar to Halo, only Brute Force uses a third-person perspective instead of Halo's first-person perspective. Having a good control schematic really helps make playing under the duress of combat easy, especially if you are trying to issue squad commands, avoid attackers and their serious attempts to destroy you, and go on the offensive within a short decision-making span.

Each character has a special ability that helps them stand out from the others, but it can only be used in a certain time limit before it must be rejuvenated. Tex can use two weapons at a time, one for each hand. Brutus has the spirit of Vengar, which gives him a Predator-style sense of where opponents are based on their heat signature. Flint’s special ability is on-the-fly auto-aim sniper targeting. Hawk has the best talent, going invisible with her cloaking ability to sneak up on foes and kill them before they even know what hit them. Also lying around the various levels are plenty of health and weaponry-related power-ups. You can swap one or both of the weapons you are carrying for weapons of killed enemies.

Visually, Brute Force is in the upper echelon of snazzy-looking Xbox games. Although there are only six planets to visit in Brute Force, they have been given a quality graphical treatment and are varied enough that you won’t keep on getting that case of the déjà vu’s. The characters are just as nicely pleasing to the eyes. Brute Force may be shamefully short in the story department, but it certainly doesn’t come up short in the visuals. And even though most levels are pretty huge, expect to run into your fair share of invisible walls, a minor inconvenience.

Most clashes with the AI enemies provide a challenging and engaging gameplay experience. Keeping your trigger finger happy while under the stress of possible defeat by tough opposition is one of Brute Force’s biggest strengths. But it’s not completely problem-free. The AI enemies display some boneheaded fighting tactics at times when you are able to breach their line of fire and get behind individual foes. You can stand literally right next to or behind them and get off at least three good shots before they even react to your attack, if they react at all.

The story (or more precisely, lack of a story) puts a damper on the better-than-average action and unfortunately really stops Brute Force from attaining any semblance of instant classic status that it might have garnered if there was indeed a better story scribed and full Live support.

There are redeeming qualities as evidenced by Brute Force becoming the quickest-selling Xbox title to date. Brute Force hits its high notes with generally challenging gameplay, an interesting squad-based tactical approach to combat if you elect to use it, and a very sharp graphical presentation. Instant classic? No. Good game, despite its faults? Yes. It’s an enjoyable ride while it lasts, but don’t expect much more than that.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(July 20, 2003)

 

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