Developer: Digital Anvil
Release Date: May 23, 2003
Buy 'BRUTE FORCE': Xbox
In the year 2340, humanity has spread itself and colonized a huge chunk of the universe, developed wonderful technologies, and encountered and even befriended many intelligent alien races. However, to counteract the wonders of human advancement the universe is also host to a good amount of hostile forces of both humans and aliens. As a peacekeeping force it’s the Confederation’s job to mop the universe of these blemishes, using both normal means and the 23rd Special Forces unit, code named Brute Force.
The plot of Brute Force is one that isn’t entirely original, but has enough zest and creativity to pull itself through. A evil leader of the Seer race named Shadoon is trying to expand his evil grip upon an ever-increasing area of the universe, aided by many different races, and its up to the Confederation to put a stop to it. The Confederation assigns Tex to the mission, one of its best soldiers. Tex can best be described as a jaded, cynical soul who can definitely carry his own in any battle but also is accustomed to the fact that even if he is somehow felled in battle the Confederation and simply clone him and place his memory chip into the clone. Thus, he’s just as hardcore as any hero, but he isn’t exactly a soldier boy either. As the game progresses the plot expands as well as Tex’s squad. The first member to join the 23rd is Brutus, a loyal warrior of the Feral race. The Ferals are a reptile-like race that walk on two legs and are not only intelligent but loyal to their “pack”. The second member to join up is Hawk, a slender human female trained to be a scout / assassin. Finally, to round out the squad the last member to join your squad is Flint, a female cyborg that is deadly with a sniper rifle.
Each squad member has a special ability to give them an edge over the enemy. Every character can hold two guns at a time, one in their hands read for use and one stowed away. Tex’s special ability is the ability to wield both guns at the same time, whether it be assault rifles or miniguns. Brutus’s special ability is the Spirit of Vengar, in which goes into a rage and can detect enemies from long distances and through fog and smoke to see hidden enemies. Since stealth is her forte, Hawk has the ability to turn completely invisible thanks to a personal cloaking device, allowing her to sneak around enemies and stealthily take them out using an energy blade. Flint’s special ability is probably the most deadly, an advanced targeting system that locks her on to any enemy she can see within a mile. If she is using a sniper rifle, god help the fool that stays in her line of sight.
Brute Force’s gameplay is not really like anything else. Playing as one of your squad members, you lead your squad along using a third person view and utilize tactics and your squadmates abilities to the fullest to complete your objectives and eliminate any enemies you encounter. To command your squad you use the D-pad, which proves to be extremely easy and very well thought out. To simply switch characters and control a different member of your squad simply tap a direction, shown onscreen via a small command menu. If you want to issue orders to your squadmates you hold that characters direction until a command menu pops up and the gameplay pauses. There, you can hold other directions to add members of the squad to the current order and then you press A, B, X, or Y to issue a specific order to the selected squad members. The orders you can give are Cover Me which makes the selected squad members follow you, Stand Ground which makes them stop where they are and take a defensive position, Move To which enables you to order them to move to a specified spot, or Fire at Will which orders them to search out and eliminate any enemy within sight.
To complement the orders and general actions of your squad, the games AI is extremely well done across the board. If you order your squad to cover you they will actually intelligently cover you, firing only if you fire or if fired upon, following your path, and spacing themselves a good distance apart so as to minimize the effect of enemy area-effect weaponry like grenades and mines. When in combat, your squad will duck behind cover, rush the enemy when they are off balance, and try to cover each other if one squad member is being overrun with enemies. Even in levels filled with instant death obstacles such as lava pits your squad will never walk into oblivion, due to the awesome pathfinding code of the AI. On the other side of the spectrum, the AI of the enemies you face in the game are equally well designed, with enemies regrouping, taking cover, rushing your position, and workings together dynamically. Like your squadmates they also aren’t just going to idiotically run into a pit of lava and eliminate themselves, their demise is entirely up to you to execute.
The multiplayer aspects of Brute Force is hit and miss. On the bad side, the deathmatch and team deathmatch mode is exactly the same as what you have played in any other game with the same modes made since 1997. On the plus side, every game on the planet could learn a lesson in excellence from the way Brute Force has implemented its co-operative mode of play. Playing single player when a friend pops in? Simply throw him a controller and when he presses start the screen shrinks and gives half to him, and he automatically takes control of one of your squadmates. He has to leave suddenly? Alls he has to do is press start and go to exit, and your screen expands to the full size again and his character is taken over by the AI. It is that easy. You can also play co-op over system link, so instead of using one TV for 4 players if you have another copy of the game, another xbox, and another TV you can have some players on each xbox. However, the ability to join and leave on the fly isn’t available in this mode of co-op but still, its nice that the option to have system link co-op is even there.
The graphics in Brute Force are impressive to say the least. The character models are on par with any other high quality game, with sharp and detailed texture, fluid animations, and a good degree of shadowing both on the model and the ground beneath. The levels of the game take place on a vast palette of landscapes, from the steamy jungles of the Feral homeworld to the dusty deserts, and actually look way different from each other. The effects in the game such as explosions and gunfire all not only look good but are distinctly different from one another. If you find one effect used over and over again, quit letting that guy shoot at you as none of the effects are overused.
The sound in Brute Force is fairly solid but doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground. Don’t misinterpret this, the sound effects and musical score is of high quality and are used well, don’t expect to want to go and buy the soundtrack. What it does do though, it does right and won’t disappoint anyone who wants to turn their system up and get immersed in the battle orchestra of the staccato bursts of assault rifles and the subwoofer-rich whoomph of a nearby explosion.
But, does the control scheme hold its own? The way you control yourself is not only simple but intuitive, with the left stick controlling movement and the right stick controlling aim (Think Halo, only third person). The A button makes your character jump, B manages your inventory (Tap to scroll though, hold and use the D-pad to pick an item yourself), the Y button switches between your two available guns, the X button reloads or activates objects such as computers and doors, the left trigger uses your inventory item, and the right trigger fires your selected gun. The white button activates and deactivates your characters special ability, which is limited in its duration by the on-screen stamina bar. However, one of the best features is the black buttons assigned function, which automatically makes your character use a medkit if you have one. Rather than using the B button, the D-pad, and then the left trigger to find and use a medkit you just have to tap the black button, which proves to be a godsend when your health is low and the enemy numbers are not.
Overall Brute Force is a great game that doesn’t really have any major flaws and does indeed raise the bar in terms of quality of artificial intelligence and the implementations of co-op play. The mode of multiplayer besides co-op could use some work and a little more creativity, but at least the solid single player and dynamic co-op modes make up for it. While Brute Force probably won’t hold your attention for multiple runs through, it will hold your attention at least until the end of the game and possibly longer due to the ability to download additional content via the Xbox Live service. Great alone or alongside friends Brute Force looks good, sounds good, and is a great ride for the duration of the game.