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Brute Force Preview
game: Brute Force
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
publisher: Microsoft
date posted: 09:10 AM Sat Jun 15th, 2002

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Brute Force is a squad-based third-person shooter that successfully combines intense combat and team-based tactical maneuvers with intuitive control and multiplayer gameplay. Built from the ground up exclusively for the Xbox by developer Digital Anvil, this is a title you will want to keep your eye on.

Set in the future, the story involves exotic planet locales, hostile alien aggressors, and a shadowy government federation. Players control a squad of four specialized clone operatives. Hawk, a slight, redheaded female, specializes in stealth tactics. In stealth mode she blends with the environment (think Predator), makes no noise, and leaves no footprints. She can bypass detection by alarms and motion detectors. She is quick on her feet, and makes an excellent scout, but is also lightly armored and cannot use some of the heavier weaponry. Flint, the sniper, has greater range than the other characters, locks onto targets faster, and misses less often. Her primary weapons are long-range rifles. Tex, the Schwarzenegger of the group, provides the brute force. He is slow, but has the strongest armor, is armed to the teeth with the biggest weapons, and can go into berzerker mode, using two weapons at once to lay out a devastating barrage of ground-fire. The last member of the team is Brutus, a Gorn-like lizard alien who strikes a balance between speed and strength.

Characters can be switched on the fly at any point during the game in order to utilize each member's strengths, and balance their weaknesses. In a single-player game, the computer controls the actions of your teammates and carries out commands that you give them. The AI is top-notch-characters follow orders, improvise, defend themselves, and, most importantly, rarely get in your way. Gone are the days of frustrating computer-controlled allies who trip you up, interfere with melee combat, or engage the enemy while you are in their line of fire. Also, each character has a profile and back story that plays prominently in the game. Brutus, for example, comes from a somewhat primitive, highly ritualistic, and suspicious race. He is deliberate and cautious, and is often afraid to enter large, high-tech installations. Flint prefers to take cover, stick close to walls, and take well-placed shots at the most powerful foes. This makes for a unique team play experience, and must be factored into your strategy.

The control set-up is extremely user friendly. The issues I have had with most squad-based console games in the past, especially PC ports, were often due to miserable control schemes. Brute Force, however, manages to use every button on the Xbox controller efficiently and intuitively. The left and right analog sticks move your character and the camera. The right trigger fires your weapon, the left uses the item you have chosen from your inventory, which includes grenades for gunnin' and chuckin'. The Y-button switches weapons, white initiates your character's special move, and you can use the D-pad or black button to change characters. The D-pad is also used in conjunction with the four colored buttons to give team members their orders in the command menu. First you select one or more of the characters using the D-pad. Then you use the one of the colored buttons that has been assigned a command. Commands include Engage, Follow, Move, and Defend.

Brute Force features both cooperative and deathmatch gameplay that supports up to four players. People can join in and leave at any time, with no changes or penalties to the game. This above anything else demonstrates that Digital Anvil knows what console gamers want. We are social creatures, partaking in a split-screen, pass the chips and slam your friends party atmosphere. So what if the PC gamer who sits alone in nothing but his underwear and a stained T-shirt, playing an MMORPG with a group of people he has never met doesn't understand us. So what if he has his own screen. That's what big screen TVs are for. With Brute Force, if your buddy, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, or all three (figure that one out for yourself) stop by, they can all just grab a controller and play. All of the characters are already there, anyway.

While playing Brute Force at E3 2002, I asked one of the developers if Digital Anvil was hoping to slide in and capture the HALO audience now that they have about punched themselves out on that game. He gave a rather wicked grin and said, politely, something to the effect of \"we would never presume that our game is better or will sell anywhere near as many copies as that game, but...yes.\" Nice answer. I don't think the people at Digital Anvil need be presumptuous or pompous. It looks like they have a great title on their hands and they know it. Brute Force has everything that a fan of great sci-fi adventure could wish for in a video game.

Brute Force is due out in Fall 2002, only for the Xbox.

Jeremy Kauffman (06/15/2002)