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Brute Force

Developer: Digital Anvil | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 05/27/03 | Genre: Action

Brute Force is the long-awaited third-person action title from developer Digital Anvil. Two years ago, it was shown at E3 and was expected to be released in 2002. However, Digital Anvil delayed Brute Force so they could further polish the game and add in Xbox Live elements. Everyone was ready to play a big first party action title over Xbox Live and Brute Force was supposed to be the title to fill this void in the online lineup. However, with the release of Brute Force, the only online elements found are "soon to be announced" downloadable content. This is very similar to what Microsoft promised with Mech Assault. While they ultimately have delivered some content, sadly and I am sure they will do the same with Brute force, the only way to play multiplayer is to play with up to four players on one Xbox or up to eight players over a system link cable and two Xbox consoles. Oh where, oh where has my Xbox Live multiplayer support gone? Oh where, oh where can it be?

Okay, so you can probably tell I am not very pleased with the lack of multiplayer options over Xbox Live, Brute Force was built up to be the third person heir to Halo. So I popped in Brute Force expecting to be blown away by an unbelievable gameplaying experience that could only be found on the Xbox. WRONG. What Digital Anvil has delivered after all of this development time is a pretty average third person action game. Don't get me wrong, Brute Force isn't bad, it just isn't nearly as spectacular or fun as Halo. In fact, the only thing Brute Force has in common with Halo is that they are both first party games on the Xbox and both titles were in development for a long time.

Before I go on any further, can someone please tell me why it is so difficult to open up the packaging on Xbox games? I really wish someone at Microsoft would offer the easy to open plastic like Sony has done for the PS2. While this has nothing to do with the game, I just hate having to get a knife or scissors to open up the plastic wrapping. (Okay Kaleb, enough about the plastic wrap--talk about the game!!)

Brute Force is an elite squadron of the Confederation. You begin the game as Tex and as you move through the levels, you add three other members--each with their own skills and abilities. Tex uses the Berserker power and can hold two weapons at once to attack his foes with. This causes devastating results but can use ammo very quickly. Brutus is an alien warrior that uses the Spirit of Vengar to attack his foes. This ability causes Brutus to see hiding enemies, regenerate health, and crush his enemies using a charging attack. Next in your group is Hawk who uses the power of stealth. While not as powerful as the other members, if you use her abilities to sneak behind enemies, she can unleash a devastating blade attack that will kill a surprised foe. Finally, rounding out the group of four, we have Flint--the sniper. Her ability is Advanced Targeting that allows her to auto aim using her sniper weapon and hit enemies with precision--even while moving. With this group, players can get through any situation that is presented before them. Using the D-Pad, you can change between different members of your squad. You can also assign them different commands like "hold your position," "attack targets at will," etc.

The game is played through the third person perspective. The left analog stick allows you to strafe left and right and move up and down. You use the right analog stick to change your target cursor and move your body so you can walk in other directions. To attack, get your cursor over an enemy and squeeze the right trigger. If you have a grenade, you can use the L trigger to throw it at different strengths. The farther you want it to go, the longer you hold down the L trigger. To quickly use a medkit, just hit the black button and your energy will be healed. However, these can sometimes be scarce--so use them only when absolutely needed.

If one of your characters dies during the game, you will be scolded for costing the Confederation money for cloning. None of your characters ever have to worry about death because they are just a clone away from coming back. However, the only way to get a deceased character to return to the battle field is to start the mission over or to get to the next level. Unfortunately there are several escort missions scattered around Brute Force. These wouldn't' be so bad except why the heck are these stupid people unable to hide? Instead of hanging out in an area you have already cleared, the person needed escorting will run around and follow you--even if you are trying to take out a group of enemies that are trying to kill him. And if that is not crazy enough, you will have your own squad mates "accidentally" hit yourself or the person needed escorting. OOPS! I have a suggestion to make here... I understand this may be a bold statement... WE HATE ESCORT MISSIONS! Why should any developer make players in an action game where you run from scene to scene blasting up foes escort a defenseless punk to an exit!!! It is enough to make someone go crazy.

As you progress through a level, you will be told of anything important through a link to the Confederation General. He will also be the one giving you orders between missions. When you reach the yellow marker on your radar, a new marker will be placed showing you where to walk next. This works very well to keep the players going in the correct direction. The only real problem with the gameplay is that changing directions can be tough. For example, if you are being attacked from behind, there is not an easy way to get your cursor over the enemy. You have to use the right thumbstick to move the targeting cursor all the way over. It would have been very nice to have an "auto-center" button so the cursor would automatically appear in direction you are facing. This type of system is normally used in third person action games... so I am a bit perplexed as to why Digital Anvil did not include it in Brute Force.

Visually Brute Force looks great. The game makes great use of the Xbox hardware with fog and lighting effects. Besides the great use of the visuals, the sound and music are both great. While there aren't a lot of voices in the game, they are very well done.

Overall, Brute Force is a fun action game. However, it does not come close to matching the excitement or magic of Halo. That said, if Digital Anvil would have added online play through Xbox Live, this title would have been a must-have addition to every Xbox owner's gaming library. If you are a fan of action titles, Brute Force is definitely worth a look. If you go into knowing this is not the next Halo, you should have a great time--even if it is a pretty average action title.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 06/06/03
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence
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Screenshots for Brute Force

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