Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

Once again we return to the battlefield to exchange fire with another first person war shooter. Unlike it’s allies though, Brothers in Arms challenges us all to not only get home alive, but to bring your squad back with you.

Setting itself apart from the pack by adopting ‘Full Spectrum Warrior’ like tactics, BiA manages to excellently blend strategy, realism, action and fun into a very impressive title. Putting you in charge of either one or two squads, BiA makes use of authentic WWII, ‘Find, Fix, Flank and Finish’ tactics; a manoeuvre that relies on suppressing the enemy with a ‘fire team’ and then moving your ‘assault team’ round to say hello the American way. Using the manoeuvrable, context sensitive command ring to issue these and other orders is incredibly easy and really allows the player to take full control of both his squads and his environment.

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Integral to it’s development and ultimate success was GearBox’s extraordinary attention to detail; each house, wall or fence present in the game actually existed sixty years ago and has been remodelled to scale to represent the most realistic WWII experience ever conceived. Thankfully, Gearbox did diverge from the reality of war enough to give us plenty of questionably situated walls and hedgerows to hide behind. While many of the structures seem very coincidental in their placing and height, they are nonetheless a necessary evil on the march to good gameplay. Similar conveniences can be seen in the immortality of your troops, who miraculously seem to recover from ‘really bad cases of death’ at the beginning of each level.

Also worthy of mention is the movie like elements of BiA; clearly GearBox has taken a few props from Spielberg and tried to emulate movies like ‘The Thin Red Line’ and series’ like ‘Band of Brothers’. Moreover, they’ve done so with arguable success, and though the game never made me reach for the Kleenex, I did find myself taking scary delight in bullet hosing the corpses of the more annoying krauts!

One thing that does truly stand out in the game is it’s sound effects. Having fired a WWII rifle myself I can vouch that the sound produced in BiA is definitely the closest I have ever heard to the real thing. Ever ‘ping’, ‘boom’ or ‘thud’ in the game is startlingly realistic, and when coupled with the strikingly urgent yells from your teammates, it can really give you the impression that you’re fighting for your life. The graphics present in the game are good, but nothing special, and when compared to the brilliance of the rest of the game, would have to be considered BiA’s low point. Certainly they are not bad, and offer us a perfectly acceptable palette with which to paint the game.

Like all games based on realism, BiA does have it’s more irritating moments; for instance, your enemies seem to share the same line of sight invulnerability that players do. While this is arguably fairer for the AI, it is ultimately quite annoying when you can clearly see the head of your target yet are unable to fix it with some ‘sniper rifle goodness’. Unlike many squad-based games however, BiA very rarely suffers from AI idiocy. Though there were occasions when my team-mates decided to restock with ammo the hard way, they were nonetheless rare, and could usually be prevented by better planning on my part.

A nice touch Gearbox added was the ‘Situational Awareness View’, which allows you to take a birds eye perspective of your surroundings. Unfortunately, in an attempt to prevent the player from seeing further than they should, BiA used a fixed focus method of handling the camera which ultimately means that you’ll forever be swinging the camera round and round in order to try and figure out where you are in relation to the enemy. Though a top-down free roaming camera with borders would have worked much better, the situational awareness view was nonetheless a good addition that did extend the tactical elements of the game.

Like any FPS worth it’s salt, BiA comes packaged along with a multiplayer mode. The difference however lies in it’s innovative integration of squad control into the multiplayer spectrum. Online, split-screen or system link games can be played with two to four players and places each person in control of one squad that the player can direct as he would normally in campaign mode. Additionally, each map is objective orientated, which usually means that one side (either the Germans or the Allies) has to achieve a goal, such as blowing up two AA guns, while the opposing side tries to stop them. A greater variety of maps and some customisation options would have gone along way to increase the longevity of the multiplayer mode, but all in all, the added re-playability and sheer novelty of being able to pit your squad and tactics against a friend’s has made me as giddy as a school girl.

In conclusion, Brothers in Arms is one of the most realistic, if not the most realistic, WWII shooter ever made. Add to this the unique multiplayer twist and you’re left with one of the freshest and most inventive titles this year. I guess thanks should go out to Hitler’s mom, had it not been for her I never would have gotten the chance to kick Hitler’s ass in so many top notch video games.

"Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 is an excellent first showing for Gearbox Software’s newly filed console resume."
- Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Hard   


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