Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway – Reviewed – Xbox 360

8 min read
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By now, most of us have had our definite fill of World War II shooters thanks to the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor series of games. Add to that the a couple of crappy attempts from a few development houses (Hour of Victory anyone?) and the previous Brothers in Arms games and we have definitely had enough.

Or have we?

The game puts you into the helmet of Sergeant Matt Baker as he not only commands his squads through Operation Market Garden but also deals with some mental issues of his own.To be honest the game seems to be a semi rip-off of the Band of Brothers TV series.

That’s a bad thing, isn’t it? No wait, if I remember correctly, that show was amazing.

Previously, on Brothers in Arms…

3.jpgI want to start the review off by talking about the story. As mentioned before, you are Matt Baker and you are in the middle of World War II. You have some serious issues thanks to a few events in your past that keep coming back to haunt you.

The beginning of the story plays out in a way that reminds me heavily of some of the elements used in the “Lost” TV show and then pulls you back a few days, so that you have to play back up to that point. As you continue through the missions, more of the story unfolds and more of the heroes dark past is revealed. I am inclined to say that the story is a bit cheesy but to be honest, I really liked it and I always found myself quite happy to see that a new cutscene had started. One of the cutscenes went on for quite a while and by the time I would usually start itching to skip, I found myself sitting back and watching as if it was a TV show.

I was pleasantly surprised to also find that the game was significantly longer than I had originally though and actually had me thinking the game was about to end on a number of occasions, only to have the plot thicken and the next mission begin. The entire campaign should take you around 10 hours to complete, depending on how you approach the missions but a second play through is definitely not out of the question considering that you can approach missions differently.

I See Dead People

This brings me onto the visuals. The cutscenes themselves look magnificent and are all played out within the games own graphics engine. When it comes to the gameplay visuals however, you will find that there will be times when the game looks fantastic and then 10 minutes later you will be running around in a really bland area. So it is inconsistent to say the least.

If you have been following the game on the internet, you may have heard that the game has an action cam. Basically, it is a camera that zooms in and slows the action down to show off the games realistic gore system, which often has grenades blowing limbs off of soldiers, if not tearing them completely in half.

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This concerned me when I first saw the videos but was pleasantly surprised to see that it only happens rarely, keeping it fun and allowing you to appreciate it, rather than abusing it to give the game an unnecessary action feel. Bravo to the developers for showing restraint, it really made a difference to what could have been a cheapening factor to the game.

The sound in the game is what you would expect from any decent shooter. Voice commands will be whispered when the enemy has yet to spot your team as well as shouted out when in the heat of battle, which was a nice touch I thought. The voiceovers in the cutscenes are pretty good too and never pull you out of the experience.

Suppress the Krauts

Now obviously the difference between the Brothers in Arms series and other World War II shooters is that you are required to command a squad. This does change the game significantly and be warned, if you are one of those hardcore players that likes to run in and jump like a bunny while simultaneously getting three headshots on three noobs, then this game is not for you.

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The squad command element of the game brings the best and worst of the game forward. I can however happily say that the former outdoes the latter at the end of the day. By pulling your left trigger down you are able to tell the selected squad (such as the MG team) to set up in a certain spot and then by using the left trigger again and pointing at a group of enemies, you can order them to use suppressing fire so that you can get up to some flanking mischief.

Enemy squads have red circles above their heads, showing how suppressed they are. Once your team has them fully suppressed, you can use other squads to flank them or push closer. All of this is done from your characters perspective and while you can also check the lay of the land in your menu, the fact that it relies on your own field of view means that it gets you very involved in the process and ultimately adds to the experience.

The problems with the squad command system can however become fairly frustrating. Once an order is given, you cannot take it back. This can become a problem if, by mistake, you order the wrong squad to move to a certain area. Although this doesn’t happen that often, it can result in a squad getting all mowed down because of a simple error, so a “return to previous position” button would have been nice.

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The other issue comes down to your squads artificial intelligence, but only with regards to the paths that they run. This sometimes requires you to babysit them to avoid silly situations playing out. At one point I had a squad that was standing in cover behind a building, a mere two meters away from a staircase that leads up to the second level. Everytime I ordered them to go upstairs, instead of doing the logical thing and walking up the stairs, they decided to do an entire lap of the building the other way, which just happened to be the side that all the Germans were firing from. I don’t really need to explain what happened to them after that. It also didn’t happen that often but had me restarting from the last checkpoint a quite a couple of times over the course of the game.

When playing with your friends, be sure to not throw grenades at them

As far as controls are concerned, they took quite a bit getting used to and are fairly different to the control schemes found in most other shooters. While it was fine after a while, I still found myself throwing grenades instead of reloading, or ordering a squad to run somewhere instead of aiming down my sights. The third-person cover system in the game works well for the most part but a bit of tweaking could have made it feel slightly better.

A Dent In My Couch

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All in all I found myself continually coming back to Brothers In Arms. This game is perfect for anyone who loves shooters, but doesn’t want to exert too much effort to get amazing headshots every five seconds. On that same note, it is fantastic for those who appreciate strategy but feel overwhelmed by most of the Real Time Strategy games out there.

I found the pace of the game to be the most enjoyable factor. You can sit back on your coach while your squads are in cover and take some time to scan the battlefield, look for places to flank or a piece of cover to setup your MG42 and then when you are ready, rain hell down upon your enemies.

A Lazygamer’s game indeed.

Gameplay: 8/10 [A great mix of action and strategy] Presentation: 8/10 [ It has it’s ups and downs but still good looking overall] Sound: 7.5/10 [ Corrian, lay down suppressing fire!] Value: 7.5/10 [ Worth a second play but multiplayer is nothing special ]

Overall: 8/10 [A great title that may just not get the attention that it deserves]

Last Updated: October 21, 2008

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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