Brute Force Has Not Aged Like a Fine Cheese

My memory of Brute Force from when I originally played it in 2003 was hazy at best. I remembered that it was a 3rd person shooter, and that’s about it.

I picked up the game some time in 2003 when I was gaming frequently on the original Xbox, and I just got around to finally clearing it from my backlog this week, with my original copy that I purchased back in the day. I do remember the game fondly, but I couldn’t remember why I failed to finish it. Now I understand why.

Developer Description

The year is 2340 and more than fifty star systems are populated with colonies. But when an alien invasion threatens to put every living organism on the endangered species list, the Confederation of worlds must dispatch its elite special forces unit, code-named Brute Force. That’s you. As Brute Force, you command four separate intergalactic mercenaries. The trigger-happy assault trooper, cyborg sniper, stealthy assassin and feral alien are all played by you. As you guide these shooters through 20+ missions and 6 exotic worlds, your knowledge of squad based combat will be severely tested. Depending on the danger at hand, you’ll need to utilize the right Brute Force member for the job. Whether you play alone or in co-op mode, the battles escalate, the plot thickens and the violence gets addictive. It’s an experience of such epic proportion that it could only exist on Xbox. Good luck. To all four of you.

The game was developed by digitalANViL, a company that was founded by Chris Roberts in 1996 to bring back the “small-team” element that characterized the computer gaming industry throughout the 1980s. During the beginning stages of development of Brute Force (which was slated to be a PC game) the company was purchased by Microsoft for their Xbox platform, and support for PC was dropped. Chris Roberts left the company to pursue other avenues, and went on to found Cloud Imperium Games of Star Citizen fame.

Brute Force is a tactical 3rd person shooter, where you control one of four special forces mercenaries on missions laid out by the commander during cut scenes in-between each stage of the game. You are able to switch mercenaries on the fly. Each of the four characters has their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a special ability.

is a stereotypical tough-guy marine type who can wield most weapons in the game, and can also disarm land mines. His special ability is dual wielding two guns at once for a short period of time. You start out with only Tex to play, and gain the other squad members throughout the beginning stages of the game.

is a Feral. A lizard-like creature from the planet Ferix. He can also wield many types of weapons, and his special ability is a sort of rage mode where he slowly heals, is more resistant to damage, and can see enemies clearer with thermal vision. He also gains a charge attack.

Hawk is another human who’s main focus is stealth. She cannot carry most heavy weapons, and must always have a pistol of some sort. Her special ability is a stealth mode where she can sneak attack enemies with a power blade.

Flint is a cyborg female. Like Hawk, she is limited on what weapons she can carry, and mostly uses a sniper rifle for long range combat. Her special ability is an auto-targeting mode for sniping that can make quick work of dispatching enemies.

The difference in the characters is where the tactical branding of the game comes into play. Unfortunately, the balance of the characters is lacking, leading to the ability to easily play through the entire game using only Tex. At times, Hawk can feel almost completely useless due to narrow weapon choices, and much smaller health pool. I would occasionally switch to Flint at times for cleaning up enemies at a distance with a sniper rifle, before charging in to battle with Tex. I played through probably 95% of the game as Tex, which doesn’t exactly strike me as tactical. The game does a good job at introducing you to the characters separately, and hilighting their abilities, but the game doesn’t give ample opportunity to use each class, taking away from what could have been a lot more strategic focus in the game.

There are some basic commands that can be issued for your squad: Stand Ground, Move To, Fire at Will, and Cover Me. They are particularly useful on some of the tougher missions later in the game, where you do not want your party jumping into the fray all willy-nilly and dying. You can have them hold back a moment, while you pick off some of the stragglers with a sniper rifle to thin the herd.

Gameplay then, is oddly straight-forward. It’s a fun romp through various environments, but you may find that the levels are very linear. You always have a yellow dot on the mini-map to walk towards, and there are no actual side missions. There are secondary objectives like blowing up all the missile storage racks, or finding a certain item, but there is no real choice to be made about your next plan of action.

Throwing grenades into groups of enemies and watching them scatter and flee to cover is always fun, and the gun play feels decent for a 3rd person shooter. However, I can’t help but feel like the game would benefit from a 1st person perspective for the sake of gun-play and immersion. The enemy AI is quite good for 2003, and enemies will jump out of the way of grenades, take cover behind objects, and throw grenades towards your squad.

"The gameplay is a little too vanilla for what the hype built up."

Brute Force is a very linear game full of potential. I did enjoy the experience, but I wouldn't say it's a fantastic game. It's story line is forgettable, the characters are cliche, and the gameplay is a little too vanilla for what the hype built up. The difficulty of the game ramps up towards the end of the game, which adds a welcome addition for the need to use some tactics, but overall I found the game to be quite easy, and I am terrible with a controller.

I'm happy I spent the time with it, and I'm happy to remove it from my backlog, but I wouldn't play through it again. Perhaps for the time it was a much better game, but it certainly hasn't aged as good as I would have hoped.

Brute Force
Developer: digitalANViL / Microsoft
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Released: May 27th, 2003
Platform: Microsoft Xbox
MSRP: $49.99 USD

Why am I picking up all this DNA?

Skip it.

– Good gun play
– Varying locations
– Co-op mode

– Too linear
– Not enough squad based tactics
– Not difficult enough
– Repetitive mission style

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Raskulous is an avid gamer, retro gamer, and computer enthusiast. He also spends portions of his free time doing electronics service and repair, and console modifications.

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