Brute Force (Xbox) (2003)
Developer: Digital Anvil
Review by Faididi and Co.
Needs more brains
Cloned troopers are the future of warfare in this sci-fi world. Someone eats a hail of lead? Someone steps on a landmine? Someone dives into a pool of lava to see what it feels like? No problem; just whip up a clone and send it back into battle. The game's heroes are such clones, and their team is called Brute Force, probably because they can literally swamp their foes to death with wave after wave of their own bodies. The plot is nothing special, and we don't even want to ask why multiple copies of the same hero can't be deployed at once, but it's a good thing that nobody is here for the story.
Digital Anvil's Brute Force is a 4-Player third person action shooter that puts its heroes through 10 lengthy chapters. At first, the four-hero setup bears a strong resemblance to the one found in Core's Project Eden. The good guys each have a set of special abilities, and, thanks to the fancy cloning stuff, they all have infinite lives. (Getting wasted merely results in a lower score.) Tex, the heavy assault dude, can fire two weapons at once, and he can also disarm landmines. Brutus, the reptilian tribal warrior, can enter an enhanced state where he gains improved vision, regenerating stamina, and the option to perform a lethal mauling attack. Hawk, the stealth specialist, can render herself invisible, and she wields an energy blade that can chop up enemies. Flint, the sniper, can perform perfectly aimed shots, and, being a robot (albeit a very human one), she isn't affected by gas grenades. If there aren't enough Players, you can still switch among the uncontrolled heroes to move them manually. Any uncontrolled hero can also be commanded to perform various tasks automatically, such as following another character or holding a position.
However, Brute Force's simple gameplay actually makes it much more like a 4-Player version of Bungee's Halo. Every hero carries only two guns at a time, along with a few types of grenades. The objectives don't go much deeper than killing all the enemies and flipping switches to open locked doors. While the generic intergalactic terrorists who form the bulk of the villains at least try to show some variety, the level design sucks as bad as Halo's. Every chapter contains mindnumbingly repetitive-looking areas. Even worse, Brute Force doesn't feature any controllable vehicles, so Tex and his friends can't drive off the boredom like the faceless hero in Halo can.
Perhaps more problematic are the bizarre balancing issues with the good guys' firepower, and we're not just talking about the very slow recharge rate for the heroes' special abilities. The shared ammunition reserves mean that if one hero gets too trigger-happy, the others may find themselves unable to reload. Furthermore, the strange weapon limitations force each hero to use only certain types of firearms. Tex refuses to equip handguns, and the two female team members can't pick up the heaviest weapons. Brutus has the weirdest set of restrictions, being limited to heavy and medium guns depending on where he holsters them. All of this only serves to make the game more absurd, not more complex.
The controls are responsive. Moving around, firing weapons, and switching guns are all easy to do. The pressure-sensitive grenade-throwing controls are particularly smooth and intuitive, thanks to the handy laser guide that projects the grenades' trajectories.
Graphics: Above Average
The characters are rendered well for the most part. The environments, as tedious as they may look, are heavily textured. The framerate drops a bit with more Players in the splitscreen modes, but not severely enough to ruin the fun.
The gunfire is loud, and so are the explosions. The voice acting is decent, although the characters can use better one-liners. The music is often drowned out by the rest of the audio, which isn't too surprising when the tunes are mostly unmemorable background noise.
Brute Force is far from the greatest action shooter in existence. The 4-Player support for its story mode is nice, but it doesn't have much else to show off. The level design can't be any less spectacular, and the heroes' nonsensical weapon restrictions and needlessly shared ammo reserves make the game more difficult for all the wrong reasons. Brute Force is recommended only for those who desperately want another cooperative multiplayer game, no matter how mediocre it may be.
Published by Sumthing Else, the Brute Force original soundtrack contains all the tunes from the game. There are no bonus tracks on the disc, but it comes with a complementary DVD featuring the introductory movies of Brute Force and its four heroes. This extra disc is nothing special, because those movies are the same ones that can be viewed in the game itself.