in Arms: Road to Hill 30
when we were thinking there was nothing left to do with World
War II shooters, along comes this. With tactical depth, a convincing
plot, and realistic presentation, Brothers in Arms brings an
eight-day stretch from the assault on Normandy in 1945 to dramatic
life. It'll bring everything -- including the mud -- to your
in Arms follows the fictional story of a paratrooper squad from
the 101st Airborne Division, and centers on one sergeant, Matt
Baker, in particular. The game opens with a dramatic sequence:
Baker's plane, flying over the Normandy coast, is struck by
antiaircraft fire and his squad is scattered. After reuniting
Baker with his compatriots, a based-on-a-true-story of combat
and heroism ensues.
this time, it actually does. Rather than a generic shooter with
vaguely wooden-looking rifles, goose-stepping Germans twittering
Teutonically, and the odd interlude, Brothers in Arms has the
ring of truth about it. Like HBO's Band of Brothers, it portrays
a troop of men who feel real in a convincing setting.
course, that would be wasted effort if the game had the sort
of awkward interface that's plagued many squad-based shooters.
Thankfully, with a quick and easy control scheme that's explained
in the opening missions, and a zoomed-back tactical view that's
toes the line between informative and cheating, we have no complaints.
Your squad members are smart, find appropriate cover, pick sensible
targets when left undirected, and don't shoot you in the back
of the head.
a thumbstick lifts your gun into firing position (firing without
your weapon raised is useless in all but the most up-close encounters).
Here, you can look down the barrel at the "iron sights"
and take aim more carefully. Crosshairs are absent, so you'll
have to rely on this view constantly -- it's the only way to
hit anything, but slows your movement to walking pace. Run-and-gun
tactics aren't likely to succeed.
what's the alternative? Often, you're expected to cross fire
corridors or advance on a machine gun nest. Brothers in Arms
cleverly introduces the concept of suppressing fire -- you,
or the soldiers under your command, can direct fire at an enemy
unit in order to intimidate them. You don't need to hit them
or even be firing directly at them, but if you do it enough,
the enemy unit will reduce its rate of fire and accuracy for
a perfect opportunity for a little knees-bent advancing behavior.
Use the tactical view to spot a good flanking route, and while
the enemy is suppressed, you can sneak around them for a clear
shot. This is important in both single and multiplayer; thanks
to the AI troops' excellent use of cover, this maneuver is useful
throughout the game.
icons above the enemy units' heads depict their current state
of suppression (you can turn these off, which we'd recommend
for dedicated realism fans). It's possible -- although by no
means easy -- to solely rely on the shouts of your squad members
and observing enemy behavior. This removes almost all on-screen
interface elements, leaving nothing to get between you and Brothers
in Arms' outstanding sense of immersion.
a pretty place, even when there's a war on. It looks good in
Brothers in Arms, too. Although it's not a flashy game, the
soldiers are well animated, the backgrounds are convincing,
and weapon effects are realistic. Spaced out over the course
of eight days, the game's levels darken and lighten appropriately
with the time of day; it's a small touch, but one that encourages
connection with Sgt. Baker and his squad.
also deserves a mention. In proper Saving Private Ryan tradition,
Brothers in Arms is absolutely stunning. Positional audio is
constantly used to great effect, weapon sounds are so convincing
you'll find it hard not brace yourself from the recoil of an
MG-42, and the sounds of larger weapons like anti-aircraft guns
and mortars are perfect. This game will show off a capable sound
system to its full potential.
once, Brothers in Arms pulls no punches with its violence and
language. Here's a World War II game that isn't afraid of its
subject matter: Realistic, obscenity-strewn dialogue and blood-spattered
corpses are everywhere. Somehow, this approach is less offensive
than all the EA-sanitized shooters out there -- it's a cliche,
but war is hell, and we do those who died in Normandy a disservice
when we pretend otherwise.
is also a cut above your average World War II first-person shooter.
Four players on Xbox Live (and two on split-screen) can battle
each other over ten objective-based maps. You'll generally have
a few good men under your command in this mode too, and just
like Ghost Recon, you can step into the shoes of one of your
fellow men after dying.
the overcrowded world of Second World War shooters, Brothers
in Arms stands out. It's not just its uncompromising realism
or its emotive theme, it's the whole package -- great looks,
fantastic sound, and a gameplay and plot structure that promotes
bonding with the men under your command. Wrap that up with a
slick control method and, for once, some tactical depth, and
you're left with a very special recipe.