Quotes And Notable Notes From Bungie's Brute Video

Since some HBO forumgoers were kind enough to hold open the thread for me, I'm now morally obligated to deliver the goods on the Brute documentary. Given that it is longer and more up-front with its new content than the TV ad, I think a frame by frame analysis, in most places, is unwarranted, so instead I thought I would cherry-pick a few notable quotations or bits of information, and add my own commentary.

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Halo 3 is all about all the things we wanted in Halo 1 and 2.
Shi Kai Wang

Such candor heartens me. That Bungie isn't bragging that Halo 3 will make you its prison bitch, but rather acknowledging that some cool things were left out previously, and that they are working to make Halo 3 even better, despite the runaway success of the first two games, I find hopeful.

The Brutes were... they were added in a little too late, I think. And we didn't have a chance to really flesh them out.
Shi Kai Wang

But right from the start, the design of the Brutes was not consistent about reinforcing that they were supposed to be worthy adversaries for the player.
Chris Butcher

They're not interesting to fight.
Shi Kai Wang

He was just a damage sponge. There weren't any interesting reactions. There wasn't an interesting death.
Paul Bertone

The only tactic that the player has is to just pump them full of lead until they fall down.
Chris Butcher

Bungie here is being more Brutal in their treatment of the Brutes than I could even be, and they're right to be so. Next to Flood combat forms, Brutes are probably the least interesting units to fight. They're not as annoying as Jackal snipers, they're not as cute as Grunts, they're not as intimidating as Hunters (despite their damage absorption) or even Elites.

Since they don't have shields, most of the combos that work on Elites or Jackals are much less useful. One of their preferred weapons, the Brute Shot, is particularly annoying in that it seems to bounce and spread damage in a way that feels most unfair. I have to admit, I never properly learned to use the gun. More often than not, when I fire it, the projectiles bounce harmlessly away and behind things I'm trying to hit, whereas Brutes are able to nail me with it around corners and other places where I thought I was safe.

Other than sniping, multiple headshots with a battle rifle or carbine, or a sticky grenade, they didn't have a single particular weakness. The berserking behavior seemed specifically designed to annoy, as the lumbering gait made headshots much harder to get. It makes you wonder why Brutes don't walk that way all the time.

Brutes Evolved
The video goes on to show how Brutes are evolving in Halo 3. They will be getting their own collection of special weapons, instead of just the Brute Shot. They're even getting their own grenade, although it appears from the video that they will also have access to the rest of the Covenant arsenal. If their behavior is consistent with what we've seen in Halo 2, they might also use human weapons when available.

Where only Tartarus had a hammer as a melee weapon in Halo 2, it seems other Brutes will get this in Halo 3. The TV commercial has already shown at least one Brute wielding a hammer, and in the documentary we see a wireframe animation of a Brute knocking down a marine with one, as well as the particularly shocking move where he rips off a marine's arms. Wonder if Bungie took a hint from Stubbs the Zombie's tactics against riot troops with that move?

We also see a Brute charge into a marine, knocking him into a bit of scenery for a crushing death. I wouldn't mind seeing the charging, berserker behavior used a little more intelligently than it was in Halo 2-- rather than as a last minute, suicide charge, but as a calculated tactic, either when a unit is weaponless, or there is some other special opportunity for such an attack.

Animation Reference Area
A lot of people have talked about the "motion capture" area at Bungie, and it's worth repeating here again that it does not appear that they are actually doing motion capture; at least, not in the scenes in the documentary, anyway. Nobody's wearing any special suit, and there are no markers on anyone. More likely, this is just movies for reference, so an animator can look at a video clip in a window right next to a character they are animating.

Punch Through That Marine
Nathan Walpole makes a good point in that video: that Bungie wants to exaggerate the behavior of Brutes to make them... well, more brutish. Hence some of the more extreme attacks seen in this vid, like the limb removals, the other melee attacks, and even the taunts. At least part of Halo 3's action seems to focus on Earth, where the forces still loyal to the Prophets will be led by the Brutes. Bungie wants us to get territorial and indignant, says Jaime Griesemer-- to hate the Brutes for what they are, not for how they play the game.

Adding Some Texture
A bit past the four-minute mark, we see the new Brutes in more detail, although the models are all untextured. We see Brutes with armor very different from what we've seen in Halo 2, and carrying a new weapon, presumably the Spiker. Like the Brute shot, it also has a blade on the underside, but it is held in one hand, unlike the Brute Shot. Six such Brutes walk down towards a crashed Pelican, with a Phantom in the distant background. Later, six Brutes are seen moving through what looks like part of a human settlement. Vehicles and damaged infrastructure are strewn about. A hammer-wielding Brute charges through a crate-filled room shows some color particle effects from the weapon, even though nothing in the room itself has any color or texture.

A group of Brutes-- perhaps the same one, is seen laying siege to a structure with marines inside. Lots of things here are also unfinished. Nothing seems to be textured, and some projectiles seem to be simple, untextured polygons.

We're Not In Kansas Anymore
Bungie pulls a nice trick coming up to the five minute mark, as a headdress-wearing Brute wielding a hammer smashes into a marine kneeling with his hands bound behind him. As the blow lands, the scene gains color and texture, with a level of detail on the marine's figure that seems quite higher than what we were used to in Halo 2. The menacing Brute, who issues a mighty roar after the blow, also seems more apelike in appearance than Halo 2's Brutes, even as Chris Butcher says he wants Brutes to behave less like "dumb apes".

The Clothes Make The Ape
There will be more visual differentiation between Brutes, Brute Captains and Brute Chieftains. The armor is more elaborate for the higher ranks. Brute Chieftains, it seems, may wield better weapons as well, including not just the hammer already seen, but a long, plasma rifle that seems to resemble a plasma turret, such as those carried by certain Grunts in Halo 2, but with the base removed. We also see a Brute wielding a plasma energy sword, which is something I don't remember seeing in Halo 2.

Brute On Brute Action
Brutes, it seems, may move and attack in groups, what Bertone calls the "Brute pack". We get to see several Brutes who have boxed an Elite into a corner and are delivering multiple melee attacks. It is this Elite who seems to be wearing armor reminiscent of the Arbiter's from Halo 2. We see suggestions that Brutes will influence the behavior of nearby units-- or that at least the appearance of this will be created.

Ulterior Motives
Curtis Creamer says we might round a corner and see Brute behavior unrelated to fighting that is revealing of their mentality. This subject probably deserves a much more detailed discussion, as it is of particular interest to me. Generally speaking, the actions and motivations of the Covenant that are not directly related to fighting the Master Chief are revealed only within cutscenes. It is there that we see what they really want and what they are trying to do. When we meet Covenant in-game, they are rarely doing anything except hanging around, waiting for the player to show up so we can fight them. They rarely seem to have an agenda other than to be in a particular area, waiting to fight the player. If this remark is an indication that we'll see the top-down motivations of the Covenant as a group more directly influence the individual actions of units encountered during gameplay, then I'm all for it.

Just Following Orders
Damian Isla says part of Brute behavior will be synchronized action in a group of Brutes, performed on the orders of a Brute captain or chieftain. As both Halo games are chock full of combat dialogue which is context-sensitive, this might also be good to see, with a more direct connection between what is going on and the dialogue we hear.

One Shotgun, No Waiting
The player then takes out a series of Brutes in a textured indoor area, confirmed to be the same area from which we have our lone campaign screenshot of the Chief, using primarily the shotgun. As Bertone discusses it, a Phantom wafts to and fro mesmerizingly on a screen behind him. Unlike many of the other screens behind employees in the documentary, this one is puzzling. Behind the animators, we saw weapon idle animations from Halo 1. Behind Wang, there were some new Brutes idling in their fancy new armor. The scene behind Bertone seems particularly strange. It doesn't appear to be completely textured, and shows a Phantom sliding sideways in the air between some sort of platform and another object that may or may not be a Covenant dropship, unseen since Halo 1.

A couple of shots apiece from the shotty seems to put down these new Brutes. Later, we see a player taunting one at close range with an SMG. I think it's fairly safe to assume that it isn't just the textures that are incomplete; things like damage and difficulty levels, as well as AI behavior, seem to be being tweaked while we watch, as some Brutes go down very easily, others put up quite a fight, and still others seem to be almost disinterested.

When shot, Brutes produce an almost Marathonesque spray of bright green slime.

Better Get Used To It
While it seems that Covenant units (perhaps other than Elites) will be distributed on both sides of the conflict in Halo 3, it seems fair to say that the bulk of the high level units on the side supporting the Prophets will be Brutes and not Elites, which means we'll be playing against them a lot. Anything Bungie can do to make them visually and behaviorally more interesting to fight is a positive step, and from this video, it seems those steps are being taken.

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Comments

[quote=narcogen]Brute On Brute Action
Brutes, it seems, may move and attack in groups, what Bertone calls the "Brute pack". We get to see several Brutes who have boxed an Elite into a corner and are delivering multiple melee attacks. It is this Elite who seems to be wearing armor reminiscent of the Arbiter's from Halo 2. We see suggestions that Brutes will influence the behavior of nearby units-- or that at least the appearance of this will be created.[/quote]

Replace the Brute models with Flood combat forms and tell me if you've seen this 'pack' behaviour before.

We know that Bungie have been working on new behaviours.

I wonder if its just generic fighting abilities that could be applied to any Covenant species or is it 'pack' behaviour that they have been working on?

Or are the new behaviours just for the 'scripted' encounters that show what Brutes get up to when they aren't fighting us?

[quote=narcogen]Just Following Orders
Damian Isla says part of Brute behavior will be synchronized action in a group of Brutes, performed on the orders of a Brute captain or chieftain. As both Halo games are chock full of combat dialogue which is context-sensitive, this might also be good to see, with a more direct connection between what is going on and the dialogue we hear.[/quote]

I've heard Elites giving group orders in h2 so this isn't a new Brute behaviour. Group grenade throwing is new, but is it enough to constitute pack behaviour?

What is pack behaviour? (The 64K$ question)

Damian Isla:
What makes it feel like two characters are aware of each other?
Deciding to do the same thing at the same time.

That's a promising question. Its not enough that units do the same thing at the same time. It has to feel natural to the player.

Of course you can write code that has every enemy unit suddenly perform the same action but it would be bizare to witness this in game, without any context to explain why they all did that.

The monkey see, monkey do, follow the leader behaviour is a step towards that.

We saw two Brutes throw grenades simultaneously. Did you see any obvious cues as to why they did that? Its unlikely that it was just coincedence as it followed Damon's question.

I probably just missed the cues because its my impression that Bungie has been thinking about these issues and that they will implement a system that has naturally occurring cooperative behaviours that feel natural. As opposed to units acting like a pianist's fingers, coordinated by a single mind.

Maybe a Brute commander had given an order that we just didn't hear, something like, "You two, throw grenades simultaneously!". But that seems a bit clumsy.

Is 'Pack behaviour' just a marketing term for cooperation or simultaneous behaviours? Or is there really going to be something distinctly pack like about their behaviour?

So what IS pack behaviour? Is it more than just having a guy giving orders?

How would you define pack behaviour?

Oblique stubbs reference contender in there??

It seems like everything described in there is unseen in halo or halo 2. Enemies often spawned together, but rarely stayed together due to anything other than random chance. I don't recall many times in h2 where group commands were given, and even fewer (any?) where I noticed them being obeyed.

Really in previous halo games, you were fighting against a collection of individuals, rather than a group. If two enemies threw grenades at the same time, it was by chance rather than some sort of tactical advantage. In pack behavior I think they are going for having the enemies react to eachother more than just to the player.