Picture this. An office building is under siege, hostiles have taken multiple hostages, and it’s your job to neutralize the situation and get everyone out safely. You’re only given a brief dossier that outlines possibilities as to who is inside and where they may be, and it’s up to you to figure out the rest. You and your squad scope out the perimeter, choose a point of entry, and jump into the unknown. Welcome to the world of elite SWAT operations.
Hot Brass is a tactical, top-down, real-time strategy meets twin-stick shooter; that combines the frantic 2-D styling of Hotline Miami with the tactical coordination of Rainbow 6 Siege. Up to 4-players can take on a scenario through either online or local co-op in pursuit of strategically executing the perfect mission. With a variety of weapons, tactical gear, and an intimidating shout, you’re equipped to arrest every suspect without sustaining any casualties or infractions, which is easier said than done.
Check out the announcement trailer for Hot Brass below.
For being in Alpha, Hot Brass is already incredibly well polished. Throughout my playtime, it held a consistent frame rate and the lighting and animations looked like they came from a title well beyond release. Much of this has to do with the simplicity of the art direction, which combines static, almost labyrinth-like floor plans with a dark atmosphere and small sources of directional lighting for your character to navigate.
The lighting effects are, by far, the most impressive piece. With red and blue police lights slowly cascading through open windows and small office lamps, providing a dim vision of what’s in the cubicle down the hall. Combine these with your operator’s flashlight, and it illuminates your surroundings just enough to let you see where you’re going next without ever allowing you to feel comfortable.
Aside from navigating the environment, the core gameplay focuses on reading situations and making decisions. This process fully depends on the state of an enemy when approached, as they will display either a red (openly hostile), yellow (irritated) or green (neutral) icon. The goal in any situation is to make their icon turn green to handcuff them and collect their weapons. Most enemies will start in the yellow category, giving you the chance to deescalate the situation by intimidating or tasing them. If they go red, you are now in an active firefight that either ends by shooting them or throwing a flashbang to disorient them.
While this system fed into the idea of facing the unknown and making split decisions, I did find the execution somewhat frustrating. The enemy encounters would lead to multiple versions of the basic red and yellow icons, requiring different methods to try and neutralize. These often weren’t displayed clearly, meaning I wouldn’t know how to address the situation correctly and would mistakenly try something that only caused the enemy to start shooting.
To be clear, I like what they’re trying to do here; it’s just difficult as the player to quickly make a decision when there are no clear tells aside from the basic colored icons. The developers do point out that the Alpha mission is midway through the game, and therefore more difficult, so this issue may resolve itself just by naturally progressing through earlier levels.
I Shoot You, You Shoot Me
Combat, when it occurs, is fairly straightforward and relies on line-of-sight shooting, with the only barriers being larger walls. You’re able to switch between primary and secondary weapons, along with a handful of gear options like stun grenades and breach charges. I enjoyed getting in shootouts but often found the results to be less than ideal if I took on any damage.
Your character doesn’t have a health bar, and the only way to tell if you’ve been shot is the appearance of small cracks on the character icon and pools of blood you leave behind. I’m not entirely sure how much damage you can take before dying, and it seemed almost random at times. Possibly the most frustrating part is if you take enough damage, you slow to a crawl, which made me want to restart a mission no matter how far I had made it. The inclusion of a health bar and possibly speeding up the injured movement would go a long way.
Hot Brass doesn’t do anything new in the tactical shooter space, but the developers execute what they set out to do almost perfectly. For being in Alpha, it felt like a polished game, aside from a few personal gripes, that I would gladly revisit in pursuit of perfecting each mission. I’d recommend, as do the developers, to squad up with at least one other person when playing to take the edge off and execute missions more tactically. If you like titles such as Rainbow Six Siege or just tactical strategy, then be sure to check out Hot Brass when it releases, it’s definitely worth the time.