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Reviewed: Brute Force
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 23rd, 2003
Page: 2
The name of the game is Brute Force. Why? Because, unlike Halo, you're not on your own. The Single-player (and Multiplayer co-op) revolve around taking four operatives through various missions, each operative having some specialty that banefits the team.

The four characters are nice in their own way. There's Tex, whose specialty is blazing away with two heavy weapons; Brutus, who goes into a bestial rage, healing himself and getting a free "one shot kill" melee attack; Hawk, who is a stealth operative, able to go invisible and sneak up behind enemies to kill them with an energy knife; and Flint, a cybernetic sniper who can zoom in much farther than any of the others with a sniper rifle.

In single-player, the player controls all four one at a time, switching over to them or giving orders with the D-pad. Functionally, this is where the game's AI first breaks down; squadmates not under direct control are a bit too aggressive, tending to get themselves killed. Once dead, you can't get them back until the next mission.

In multi-player co-op, as long as there are not four players, each player can swap with the computer character at any time, and human players can respawn right after dying; functionally, your squad is never smaller than the number of humans. This imparts a big advantage to getting four humans, and the game facilitates this by allowing people to enter or leave the game at any time. Score one for co-op multiplayer.

Weaponry-wise, Brute Force is rich in options; there are mines to lay down, grenades to throw, sniper rifles, machine guns, sonic guns, pistols, missiles, even a couple indirect fire weapons... in short, the works. Various characters are forbidden from using certain weapons, so there is a major difference between using Tex and laying out firepower, and using Flint, who must place shots carefully for maximum effectiveness. Interacting with weapons is also important, as Tex is the only one who can disarm mines, but anyone with a sniper rifle or pistol can shoot them to remove them from the path. Grenade firing ostensibly uses a rising bar, based on how long the button is held, to indicate distance, but functionally aiming up and down with a quick press, a la Halo grenades, works just as well.

Live competitive play, and at-home (on single Xbox or system link) is also possible; the deathmatch arenas are all nicely constructed, and feel good to play in. Some seem a little small to support high numbers of people, so pick wisely. Deathmatch play also opens the option to use many more character templates, from psionic characters who have no weapon abilities but can teleport and shoot their own mind power for damage, to marine Grunts and grunts of all sorts from within the game, through most of the standard enemies. It's a nice touch, but requiring searching the single-player mode for items to unlock them in multiplayer is a bit much.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. Rag-doll physics on dead enemies are nice, especially noticeable with a good sniper shot, not so much so with explosions unfortunately. All characters are high polygon counts, and quite well done. The between-level cutscenes (read: excuses to throw the team back into a firefight) are especially well done.

Every game has its downsides, and Brute Force is no exception.

First of all, squadmate AI is permanently set on "dumb as rocks." Expect them to die an early death, and hold back your favorite character for the end. The dumb squadmate AI completely destroys Hawk's usefulness, as even when set on "stay here" orders, if you move too far, they advance with you, and that blows Hawk's cover because enemies will spot the rest and open fire. Flint is probably the best with this, because her sniper ability relies on being far away from battle, and squadmates set to follow will at least faithfully hang back when she opens fire.

Secondly, the idea of the multiplayer co-op is strong, but the storyline of the game is really quite weak, consisting of nothing more than a few flimsy excuses to throw the team down on one end of a linear area, point them to a spot on the other end, and tell them to kill everything in between. Not the greatest idea, but one that most players can probably live with, since those buying the game are expecting a good deal of carnage.

Finally, the game's maps aren't as interactive as they should be, a phenomenon most noticeable on the multiplayer areas; items that are low-lying will mysteriously have walls above them, so that players can't jump on them, and there are a good many places where people can get stuck. Also annoying is the preponderance in certain levels of lava and poison water, which instantly kills, and is tremendously easy to strafe into while dodging incoming fire. These are mostly problems with level design, but it does detract from enjoyment of the game.

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Added:  Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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