Once again we return to the battlefield to exchange fire with another first person war shooter. Unlike itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœFull Spectrum WarriorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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, Ã¢â‚¬ËœFind, Fix, Flank and FinishÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ tactics; a manoeuvre that relies on suppressing the enemy with a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfire teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and then moving your Ã¢â‚¬Ëœassault teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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.
Integral to itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s development and ultimate success was GearBoxÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreally bad cases of deathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe Thin Red LineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and seriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ like Ã¢â‚¬ËœBand of BrothersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Moreover, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœpingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬ËœboomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœthudÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 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 youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 BiAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsniper rifle goodnessÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. 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 Ã¢â‚¬ËœSituational Awareness ViewÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, 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 youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s salt, BiA comes packaged along with a multiplayer mode. The difference however lies in itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 friendÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re left with one of the freshest and most inventive titles this year. I guess thanks should go out to HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mom, had it not been for her I never would have gotten the chance to kick HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ass in so many top notch video games.