Brute Force was my very first Xbox game! It must have been around Christmas when we visited a BestBuy to replace our (mostly) broken PlayStation 1. After a bunch of browsing around, the choice boiled down to the new and exciting Xbox or the tried-and-true PlayStation 2! My sister, who was savvy to the latest trends suggested we get the Xbox. Her word was reliable when it came to anything tech related thus, it was settled! Now there came another challenge; the store bundled a free game with the purchase; the choice was now between something called Halo: Combat Evolved and Brute Force. Brute Force sold itself as a cooperative third person shooter following a rag-tag band of soldiers saving humanity in a space-age setting. There were 4 characters: Tex, Brutus, Hawk and Flint. Each had unique abilities; Tex was the guns of the operation boasting the ability to duel wield, Brutus was the berserker who charged into battle with regenerating health, Hawk the assassin who could cloak to go in for a stealth kill and Flint the operator could lock onto enemies for precision shooting. This was an innovative premise at the time, at least from what we had experience with. Ultimately, we decided to go with Brute Force as it could support 4 player co-op as opposed to Halo's 2 player limit. Though we all agreed Halo would be our next game when we had the money!
Brute Force is kind of an obscurity these days, being an Xbox exclusive with lackluster reviews upon release, it quickly fell out of history. The premise was straightforward, you go through a linear mission-based campaign and kill things. Can't say I really recall much about the overall plot of the game, except that something was a threat to Earth and the main characters were all clones, which is why the intro to the game depicts them dying ROFL! It doesn’t pull any punches either, in Hawk's intro she is just straight up gunned down! For a game with a lot of sarcastic humor, this intro sure was something! Aside from the main campaign, there was also a multiplayer PVP component. As someone who did not have Xbox Live, I can't really speak for it outside of family screenlooking battles XD. I bet it would have been super fun online though since you could unlock tons of secret characters through the campaign!
Me and my family could spend hours playing Brute Force. Hell, we must have gone through the campaign at least 3 times! It took alot of teamwork between us. The game was quite hard actually and this time, it wasn't even because we were bad gamers XD! Enemies hit hard and you can easily go down in a few shots! Hawk and Flint have much lower health than Tex and Brutus, so it's imperative to not charge into a fight. The Shadoon levels in particular come to mind, enemies here deal A LOT of damage, can teleport around, and even hide in lava for an ambush! There's also a brief segment where you have to escort a spy to a safe area, while not particularly any more difficult than usual combat, His voice lines are engraved in my memory "I am under attack!". There's a lot of incredibly nostalgic audio here; the "Nav beacon updated" every time you reach a map marker, Tex saying "They finally got me" whenever he dies, even the sound of weapons! the shotgun and the laser rifle are pretty distinctive. The music also had its moments! A few memorable tracks are the main menu theme , "Tex and the Red Hand", "Back in This Hole ", and my favorite; the mission complete theme; "Another Day Another Dollar"!
Oh boy! Where to begin with this one? Conker is easily one of my top games of all time, and I don't even like platformers! Conker is such an anthesis to the entire genre; it's packed with crude humor, gratuitous violence, and unbridled self-awareness! I probably shouldn't have been playing such a game at my age, but my family has never been puritan about anything like that! Though, I do distinctly recall the cashier at a GameStop scaring both me and my mom away from buying a Fallout 3 collector's edition because he vilified the game's use of drugs and prostitutes? Anyone whose played Fallout 3 can attest it's nowhere near that explicit aside from the gratuitous violence and gore XD! (Yes, I'm still salty about this random GameStop cashier >:c ). So yeah, Conker is raunchy; full of cursing, violence, sexual innuendo, and worst of all... *Fart Noises* potty humor! It's a hilarious game with fun characters that are charming in their own weird ways! Not to mention that it's chocked full of references to popular media, including two of my all-time favorite movies: Aliens and The Matrix! Honestly, what's not to love x3?
Conker's soundtrack is iconic, Robin Beanland really delivers a quality soundtrack while also having a lot of fun with it! Many tracks are in reference to other media; however, they still stand on their own merit. I guess you could define the whole game like that XD! But seriously, these tunes are stuck in my head! The Medieval styled Clockwork Orange theme "Conker the King", the innocent and wacky "Windy", The dramatic Godfather styled "Don Weaso", and the string heavy "Bats" which is a frantic yet regal tune. There's really so much here, I could practically list the whole soundtrack! I can't really describe what makes audio enjoyable so all I can say is give them a listen. I think you'll be surprised!
You can't talk about Conker and not talk about The Great Mighty Poo! There's an entire shit filled area you have to trudge your way through whilst this jazzy tune composed of farts plays ROFL! You'll have to feed cows laxatives, roll giant balls of poo and fight off dung beetles! If you can manage that, then you'll have to duke it out with the big scat himself! The Great and Mighty Poo! and wouldn't you know HE SINGS OPERA! That's right, this is a musical boss fight with a great big pile of shit! your weapon? Toilet paper topped off with a straight flush! This was literally the best thing ever at the time, me and my sister would even make it a running joke between ourselves to recite the lyrics, it's so catchy!
The tone of this game changes so quickly, one moment you're storming the beaches of Normandy a la Private Ryan and the next you're about to rob a bank Matrix style for the Godfather esque Don Weaso to have an Aliens power-loader confrontation with the final boss! To say a lot is going on in this game is an understatement XD! Though it's not as jarring as it sounds, the first part of the game plays the platforming pretty straight but it slowly eases you into the coming chaos by mixing up the gameplay a bit. I think the Castle level does a pretty good job at summing it up! Before you can even enter the castle, you have to fight your way through a zombie infested courtyard with a shotgun, practically turning the game into a third person shooter! But it doesn't end there! Once you reach the castle, you get turned into a bat and must fly around dive-craping on any villagers you encounter to drag them into a grinder!
There's only one thing Conker shares with platformers that's not part of the parody; uneven difficulty. This is really my only gripe with the whole game, some sections are really easy while others are frustratingly difficult. The most infamous example is the lava race. Conker must ride a hoverboard through an extremely narrow course multiple times to kill the 3 Uga-Buga who robbed him. Conker is going to be riding at a ridiculous speed with nightmarishly slippery and unresponsive controls. Turning corners is going to require perfect timing and a whole lot of luck. Don't even think about slowing down either, once you're on a crash course your fate is sealed! Okay well, once you figure out the course it shouldn't be much of an issue, right? WRONG! XD There are also two areas where a dinosaur roams, the problem is that its movement appears to be completely random. You might turn a corner just to crash right into it without a moment to react! This section is a huge speedbump in an otherwise normal paced playthrough. As I was recording to gather screencaps and such for this write-up, I found that this part nearly took me a whole hour to get through!
I really want to take a second to appreciate how this game looks. It's clear the Rare team utilized the Xbox to it's full potential. The lighting is really impressive, backdrops are highly detailed and characters are well modeled. I don't really know how to explain it, but there's also this particular level of grunginess to it? It's kinda fuzzy lookin? Whatever it is, it helps cement that this is not your typical lighthearted platformer. The visuals in general are always throwing you for a loop. Take Conker for example; he's a cute and fluffy squirrel but he's a bit of a greedy twat (still adorable tho x3). The first level is your generic bright grassy plains, but its full of assholes; a deadbeat king, snobby catfish and tons of pissy creatures! That's not to say it can't just be straight up with you either, don't forget there's the whole D-Day level XD! I guess a good way to put it, is that the facade slowly fades away as you progress! I know some may argue that the N64 version has the best visuals. I can't deny that it has its merits especially when you consider Conker is a parody of their own game Banjo Kazooie! So, There's more visually in common with the N64 version as opposed to Live and Reloaded which visually parodies the grunge of games during the Xbox era. Regardless of your stance on that, I think we can all agree that either version is preferrable to whatever monstrosity Microsoft created!
I can't quite remember exactly where we got our copy of Stubbs the Zombie, all I know was that we were in a big department store 2 weeks away from Christmas. I was so fascinated by the game that I didn't even bother looking at the other options. This was it; this would be my Christmas present! Though, I would have to wait until Christmas day to play it! Until then, the game was sealed away beneath the impenetrable armor of red wrapping paper! Every day would I beg my mom to skip the formalities of holiday law and allow me to hastily tear open the gift wrap! Eventually after much persistence, we came to a compromise. I was allowed to remove the wrapping paper ONLY so I could look at the back cover, I would still have to wait till Christmas to break the game's seal! Oh, but when the day came... there was a reckoning! I played NONSTOP, when I beat it, I simply played it again and again!
So, what is Stubbs the Zombie? It's a third person action game that takes place in a retro futuristic depiction of late 50's America. You are Stubbs, a rotted corpse freshy risen from the grave on a mission of love and vengeance! utilizing a variety of ORGANic abilities, you'll be eating brains and raising an undead army to unleash destruction upon the city of Punchbowl and its creator, Andrew Monday! While violent, Stubbs is primarily a humorous experience. The story is ridiculous, characters are wacky, Stubbs himself is also very nonchalant, it's clear he is having the time of his (un)life! This is literally just a video game B-movie XD!
Stubbs isn't like other zombies; he is cognizant, can drive vehicles and can even regrow organs! But that's not all, each of Stubb's organs have unique abilities that would surely make George Romero roll in his grave! Using the awesome power of his INTESTINES, Stubbs can release a GAS that stuns most enemies. Getting shot at? Close the distance with your remote detonated sticky GUT GERNADES. "Outsmart" crowds of enemies by rolling your EXPLOSIVE HEAD at them. And finally, take control of your enemies by giving them a HAND! The hand is probably my favorite to use as the concept of possessing NPCs and having to navigate with their own set of limitations and abilities is fascinating! Also, the hand's ability to crawl on any surface whether it be a wall or ceiling is just awesome! It's kind of a shame that possession is only ever directly required once throughout the game.
The soundtrack is really what makes Stubbs stand out! It's primarily composed of modern rock covers of 50's and 60's classics; Earth Angel by Death Cab for Cutie, My Boyfriend's Back by The Raveonettes, Mr. Sandman by Oranger. The list goes on, these covers are awesome! The height of the soundtrack is during your confrontation with the police chief. He has you cornered and intends to deliver on his promise of dancing on your (second) grave! Instead of gunning you down, the chief gives you a fair fight... ON THE DANCE FLOOR! That's right this is a musical boss fight! (I LOVE THESE :D) The dance off is 5 intense rounds of Simon Says, each round a different song. This literally comes out of nowhere mind you, one minute you're eating brains, and the next you're groovin!
I'm not kidding when I say this speech was stuck in my head for like a year! That about sums up my sense of humor >:3c
It was the afternoon on a weekend. I was at home messing around with some Legos, when my mom comes home and tells me she has a big surprise! She hands me this metallic case. "When I was out, I passed by GameStop and thought I'd look around for anything good. Well, turns out they made DOOM for the Xbox!" I was so surprised, normally new games were reserved for my birthday, I guess my mom must have been excited too! A new Doom game?! neither of us could believe it. "The guy at the store said it even comes with DOOM 1 & 2! and we can play together at the same time like in Halo!" This was groundbreaking, when we played DOOM 1 on the PC, we would have to take turns playing.
Can I just take a second to gush about this case? It's the coolest game case I've ever seen, it's made of metal and cold to the touch, the logo also pops out a bit so you can feel its ridges. The art on the front is full of various pentagram imagery and scratches, while the back proudly boasts the intermission background from DOOM 2. I'm surprised my mom was okay with how "satanic" this all was.
The first level of DOOM 3 is engrained in my memory. No other game I've played has matched the dread of walking through that decrepit facility knowing damn well everything was about to go to hell real fast (Literally). While very similar to Half-Life's intro, the Mars facility does not even try to hide the fact that everyone is DOOMed. Everything is pitch black or dimly lit by worn-down fluorescents. The NPCs you meet are all miserable, the most positive lines are spoken by that bubbly AI and the corporate advertisements assuring you everything is hunky dory. It's really hard to break down how everything just fills you with dread in this game, the sound design, the rustic but futuristic tech, it's all perfect!
Now, I must admit, I never actually got very far in the game. It was way too terrifying for me! This was not like classic DOOM, you were not DoomGuy! You're just some rookie marine at the mercy of hell. You are being hunted, if you let your guard down for a moment you can easily be overwhelmed! Everything is working against you; the facility is shrouded in darkness, and you won't be able to use your flashlight and a weapon at the same time. Doors are locked and will require access codes be manually input in real time. At any moment, a portal can open and force you to drop what you are doing and defend yourself. To say it's a stressful game is an understatement!