So the Brute documentary is out. I'm going to stop using Bungie's VIDOC or Video Documentary term, because I really couldn't think of any other kind of documentary except perhaps for film, and since George Lucas says film is dead and HD Video is the way to go, I suppose it's redundant.
Certain pockets of the fan community, while they enjoyed the very slick and polished Halo 3 Announcement Trailer, have been bothered by the stream of apologia that accompanied first the non-real-time, non-Halo-engine CG television commercial, and now the pre-pre-alpha, not-yet-finished visuals of the Brute documentary.
I'd like to praise Bungie for its candor, however. The documentary on the Halo 2 Limited Edition was quite frank about some of Halo 2's shortcomings, as well as some of the reasons for them. This latest documentary is no different: first and foremost Bungie is admitting that Brutes in Halo 2 were a late addition to the game. They were tough only because they could take a lot of damage; there was no differentiation between different Brute individuals except for Tartarus himself and a few honor guard headdresses, and fighting Brutes was more like fighting Super Flood than fighting Elites or other Covenant units.
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That, it seems, is set to change in Halo 3. More than showing off any flashy new effects or eye candy, is the idea that this documentary is trying to get across: things like group tactics. Brutes in the video seem to behave differently in groups. There are small touches, like the way they look side to side when marching single file, or the way they take cues from each other, taking actions like grenade-throwing en masse instead of just individually.
One trend started by the Brutes in Halo 2 continues: their willingness to use any weapon at hand, which is one thing that distinguishes them from the Elites. Elites, in both the games to date and the novels, seem to prefer their own plasma-based weapons, eschewing available human weapons, and to opt for energy weapons as opposed to projectile weapons, Needlers excepted. Brutes in the Uprising level of Halo 2 would take and use human weapons like shotguns, and tended to prefer concussive or projectile weapons, like Brute Shots or Tartarus' hammer. It seems that more Brutes will get hammers for melee use in Halo 3, perhaps as a counter to the Elites' sword melee weapon, as well as a range of other weapons, both projectile and energy.
Some of the behavioral differences seem relatively simple, such as Brutes acting a bit more like Elites usually do, hanging back and taking cover. Some actions are new: a Brute rushing at the player but juking as he goes, as if to avoid a potential attack. Above all, the emphasis seems to be on appropriately brutal close-quarters combat, as we see untextured Brutes severing and smashing the limbs and torsos of defenseless marines, as well as getting sliced and diced by dual sword-wielding Elites.
Far from identifying with the Brutes enough to play one in campaign mode, it seems a good portion of Halo 3 will be learning to hate Brutes as enemies but love playing against them as opponents. Halo 2 started the player down the road towards the former; this video goes a good distance towards showing that Halo 3 will be a significant step towards reaching the latter.