System: Microsoft Xbox Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Developer: Digital Anvil ESRB Rating: M for Mature (Blood, Violence, Language) Genre: Third-person Action/Shooting

\'Well, it sure took \'em long enough to get this one out.\' That\'s my most coherent thought as I\'m sitting here writing this review. I just beat a very fun, highly anticipated game called Brute Force. This little gem\'s been in development for quite a while; I believe it was announced way back when the Xbox first came out. Yep, it\'s been a couple of years of waiting for us Xboxers. But it was worth it. But first, a little side note. A lot of gaming websites and magazines have hyped this title up, with some saying that it would be \'the next Halo.\' Now, of course, they\'re whining that BF didn\'t live up to their own expectations. I\'m not entirely positive that this game wanted to be \'the next Halo,\' but I am sure that Digital Anvil wanted to make an enjoyable, action-packed romp through a clich?d sci-fi universe, with lots of action and cool visuals. I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with this one; it isn\'t the greatest game ever made, and I do have a few moral issues with it, but it\'s a good game, if you\'re of age and mature enough to handle it.


So, without further chatter on my part, let\'s move on to the game itself. BF\'s concept is like Star Trek meets Star Wars: you play as one member of your four-person squad at a time, while giving the other three simple orders via the control pad; travel to exotic, though unoriginal, alien worlds; and proceed to destroy everything in your path in order to complete your mission. The people your squad works for are called the Confederation, a sort of generic, space-age United Nations. Your squad is called the 23rd Special Forces Unit, codenamed Brute Force, which consists of four members: Tex, the hardcore, gun-toting, shoot first/ask questions later, veteran military commando; Hawk, the stealth specialist/scout, who is the fastest member of the team; Flint, your cyborg sniper, who can shoot down bad guys with great skill and efficiency; and Brutus, a feral alien (he looks like a humanoid lizard dude) who\'s a mixture of speed and strength. The squad-based game play isn\'t the most strategic, due to some artificial intelligence issues with your teammates, but it is nice to have some backup and variety in a game which would have been less fun if it was just another \'one man army against the galaxy\' themed game. Now, that\'s not to say that all of the game\'s squad-based elements are broken; on the contrary, you have to manage your four characters in the game, and you must know your squad\'s strengths and weaknesses for them to survive. For instance, Tex is a very strong character who is good with guns, but he is the slowest guy in the group. Hawk, on the other hand, is quick and agile, but has the smallest health bar. Despite this, she has the most useful maneuver in the game: with the press of a button, Hawk can turn invisible for a short period of time, sneak up behind an enemy, and dispatch him silently using her powerblade (a knife weapon). This is also her special ability in the game. Also, your squadmates do follow your orders quite well, and although they use medikits to replenish their health, the AI always saves the last kit for the character you directly control. Oh, and speaking of the special abilities... Tex\'s is called the \'Berserker,\' where he uses his two guns simultaneously to really wreak some havoc on the baddies; Brutus\' is called the \'Spirit of Vengar\' (Vengar is a deity that the Feral aliens worship), which gives him a sort of infrared vision and replenishes his health; and Flint\'s is auto-targeting from far away, which greatly enhances her sniping ability. Of these, I find Brutus\' self-healing and Hawk\'s stealth attack the most useful. Tex\'s is fun, too, but it doesn\'t work that well if you have a wimpy laser rifle paired with a huge rocket launcher. That\'s not really a good weapon combination.


Technically, the game\'s spectacular graphics and good, if not great, sound will leave you satisfied. I was very impressed with the bump-mapping and particle effects on display here, such as the dust which scatters after a fragmentation grenade explodes. The volumetric grass and plants are nice-looking, as is the bubbling lava on one planet. The sound is also polished, as the weapon and environmental effects are well done and very clear. The voice acting is cheesy, but I think it fits. This is not really a serious game, and the characters are stereotypical sci-fi heroes and villains. I particularly enjoy some of Tex\'s wisecracks.


The controls are very reminiscent of Halo, with major functions relegated to the two analog thumbsticks and the two triggers. The directional pad handles the squad commands, while the face buttons control weapons/grenade selection, and an action button lets your character flip switches. There is also a very useful medkit button, which saves you the trouble of cycling through your inventory in order to find them. Cool feature. The one technical complaint that I have is that the frame rate sometimes chugs when the environmental effects are in full force, or in sniper mode when you\'re searching for enemies. It can be bothersome sometimes, but usually the game clears up quickly. You\'re looking at a pretty consistent thirty frames per second in this one. Okay, but I wish it ran a bit quicker.


Now, the important stuff: appropriateness. There is plenty of shooting in this game, whether it be with the more conventional guns (like the sniper and assault rifles), pulse lasers (which has self-replenishing ammo!), or rocket launchers. Most of the enemies you kill are alien creatures, except for a few, like the Red Hand mercenaries. Still, if the virtual act of killing offends you, stay away. Also, there\'s quite a bit of foul language in the game. The worse it gets (or the worse I\'ve heard) is the seven-letter \'b\' word, if you know what I mean. Another thing is the cloning issue. In the game, if your characters die, they can be recloned by the Confederation, for a price, of course. The ethics of the issue are not discussed in the game, and in truth, it\'s just a story device to explain the reappearance of your squad after they die in the game. Nothing real harmful about that. I didn\'t find the female characters to be too scantily clad either, for a change. But if you\'re concerned about violence and language, try this game out before you buy, if you want.


Overall, I enjoyed this game. I thought it was definitely worth the wait, and it is polished. It\'s an entertaining ride while it lasts, even with a cookie-cutter story, and rather bland character designs. The good presentation and game play make up for it, though. And since I love adrenaline-pumping action, the focus on the shooting (as opposed to the team strategy) works for me. Worth picking up, if you\'re not offended by the language and violence.

Final Ratings

Game Play: B+ Sound: A Graphics: A Appropriateness: C+ Control: A

Overall: 87% Great, but not perfect.

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