EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by William Thompson
previewed on PC
I’ve played a couple of team-based cop games in the past, so when I saw Hot Brass on show at PAX AUS last year, I gave it a quick playthrough with a couple of other gamers. We soon learned that we’d need to coordinate ourselves better if we were to complete our mission. We didn’t fare too well in our short time with the game, but certainly had fun. So, when the Closed Beta was announced, I jumped at the chance to spend a little more time with the game in the comfort of my own home.
Many police games allow you to play with a range of game styles, some even allowing you to go into a scene all guns blazing. Hot Brass is somewhat different. Although you can still blast your way through an operation, Hot Brass penalizes gamers for committing infractions such as shooting or injuring criminals that have been subdued. After all, which policeman wants to have to fill out paperwork for their fatal mistakes. Having said that, players can use the destructible environments to their advantage. Windows can be shot through and doors can be blasted open, allowing for those different play styles to be used.
Players (up to four locally or online) take the role of a SWAT team in this top-down squad-based game. Prior to entering each scenario, the team is presented with a brief of the mission and must then select a loadout of weapons and other potentially useful devices. Selecting the appropriate loadout can go a long way to determining how well you perform within the scenario. Having a well-balanced team with a range of weapons and specialty items certainly increases the options available to your squad when dealing with various criminals within each location.
Each mission contains objectives specific for that mission, but also requires five SWAT criteria to be met across each mission. Completing these criteria are often more difficult than the mission objectives themselves. In the main scenario of the Closed Beta, a reasonably lengthy scenario across multiple levels of a building, the objectives involve bringing order to chaos (either by apprehending felons, or shooting those who are not compliant), collection all the firearms and evidence, and rescuing the two hostages.
These objectives are straight-forward to tick off, particularly if you just go in all guns blazing. But as mentioned, Hot Brass is not about taking down as many perps as possible, but instead requires team members to subdue the criminals with a non-lethal resolution. One of the SWAT criteria requires missions to be completed without infractions, so rather than blindly shooting your way through a scenario, ordering felons to lay down their weapons is a much better solution. This can often be enough for them to comply, but for stubborn criminals, firing on them with a taser will be required for them to obey your squad’s commands. When worst comes to worst though and a villain begins shooting, your own weapons will need to be used. Just make sure that your squadmates are not in the line of fire, as friendly fire is just as dangerous as that from a foe.
Players are iconized, a coloured token indicating each player, with their currently equipped weapon or device displayed in the round token. Locations are viewed from a top-down style and look like a coloured version of an architect’s floorplan. The rooms are often quite dark though and require the use of a flashlight to help navigate safely. The floorplans are full of appropriately placed furniture, much of which can be slid over. There was one section in a basement that had a couple of vehicles. It was so satisfying to slide over the bonnet of a car like a policeman from a 1980’s cop show. Furniture also allows players to crouch behind, keeping themselves out of sight from criminals and stray bullets, but crouching also slows down movement. Getting shot also slows players down, with drops of blood indicating the amount of damage taken. The larger the pool, the more damage you’ve taken and the slower you travel. This of course affects the whole squad.
Movement through the levels are smooth thanks to the uncomplicated controls. The control scheme makes full use of all buttons on a controller, the face buttons each representing one function. That is except for the X button which has multiple context-sensitive functions. For example, opening a door and arresting felons uses the same button, but will work in the way that is required depending on the situation. Use of the dual thumbsticks is required, as one acts as the movement, whilst the other is used to aim your weapons and flashlight. The controls are responsive, making for smooth progress through the levels.
Closed Beta Verdict
Hot Brass has some cool features. Destructible environments that allow for varied tactics, a range of equipment to bring into an operation and the requirement to work as a team in order to apprehend offenders in a (preferably) non-lethal way. I like the icon-style visuals as it clearly shows which weapon or device your character has currently active. And with the simple controls and appropriate 1970’s soundtrack, Hot Brass has much to like. We’re definitely looking at seeing more of this game closer to launch.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.