To clear something up from the beginning - Brute Force is not the strategic tactical squad-based game that Microsoft want to you believe it is - a sort of Halo on speed with more players and better co-op mode. Those looking for a Counter-Strike, one-shot kill styled game will be sorely disappointed. However, what Brute Force does give you though, is a squad based action romp with plenty of killing, plenty of shooting and plenty of action.
As you might have guessed you play one of four characters and using all of these characters at some point in the game will allow you to get through the levels set before you. Each of the characters comes with their own special skill set and each are better suited to certain environments and tasks. Hawk, carries a light rifle, can turn invisible but has the smallest health meter. Flint, is the sniper of the group, again has a small health meter but she excels in one-shot kills from great distances. Tex on the other hand carries the artillery, has the large health power but is slow and awkward. While Brutus is your token alien and has the ability to use his thermal vision and regenerate his heath to get him out of trouble.
Gameplay is similar to Halo and gamers who have mastered the Bungie control mechanics will be right at home here. Like Halo, you can only hold two weapons at any one time and like Halo you can switch these weapons by pressing the Y button.
Rather than do plenty of sneaking and stealth like so many games seem to be heading at the moment (Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid et al) Brute Force has fashioned itself around the belief of the gung-ho tactic and the majority of missions involve you charging the enemy and blasting everything in sight. This has been made even easier by the control setup and you can take medikits (if you have any) on the fly as you charge enemy positions.
Being touted as a squad-based game, might suggest to most this is best played with friends and you'd be right. You can of course play on your own or get up to three other friends to join you and the screen is simply spilt accordingly. If your playing on your own the AI is someone lacking and you end up having to do most of the work - good if you are a egomaniac gun-toting action freak - and let’s face it, if you are playing alone you’re more likely to be one. You can order your computer-animated comrades around by "cover me", "fire at will" and "move forward" commands, but this is as far as it goes.
The visuals are the best we have seen on the X-Box since Halo and the game brings the same style and visual eye-candy to the screen once again. Even with the demanding scenery and action the console coped well with everything on the screen at any one time and only caused some lag when we tested it with four players over a couple of machines.
While this isn't the tactical, strategically empowering game that we were lead to believe it was through the marketing campaign, Brute Force is great fun. The gameplay is gung-ho enough to be enjoyed by most and the eye-candy and sound enough to match most people's expectations and more on the X-Box. It's nice to see a game that is multiplayer, suitable for after the pub with your mates, and doesn't revolve around driving or mini-games with crazy hedgehogs or plumbers.