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Brothers in Arms Review

Developer: Gearbox Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 1, 2005 Also On: PC, PS2, and Xbox

The virtual World War II genre has been fought for years and years and told through many different stories. Dozens of games, including the great Medal of Honor series, have featured WWII or focused on it. Most of them have been decent, but lately, there haven’t been many changes to the typical Allies-kill-Nazis premise. With Gearbox Studios’ Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, all of that changes with phenomenal gameplay and a sense of immersion that hasn’t been captured in most of these other WWII games.

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In Brothers in Arms, you assume the role of Sgt. Matt Baker, a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne. You and your squad are preparing to drop over Normandy after the beaches of Omaha were stormed in the morning of June 6th, 1944. However, Germans shoot your plane down and you escape the crash, landing in the thick of fighting. Once on the ground, you search for and find other groups of soldiers and begin your assault against the Germans. In the game, the story is told through several different ways, including cut scenes and pre-action dialogues. However, the way the game begins is very interesting, and the way it ends is equally so.

While you can’t make much of an original story out of a WWII game, you can try your hardest to draw the player into the lives of the soldiers he or she commands – and this is the case with Brothers in Arms, as Gearbox successfully strapped me into Sgt. Baker’s shoes and made me feel like I was controlling my men into battle. This is the draw of the game – it’s not a typical shooter, but rather a tactical one, where the choices you make will certainly determine your success in any sort of battle.

Basically, the game is much more slowly paced than I had originally imagined it would be. As you go through the game, you’ll have access to various squads. Each of the three squads has a purpose that when used correctly will increase your chances of survival. You’ll take control of a Fire Team, Assault Team, and Tank Team. The fire team provides suppression fire while the assault team flanks an enemy position once the enemies are suppressed. The tank team is just what it sounds like: a virtual middle-finger to a pack of Nazi enemies. Controlling your men and seeing the results is extremely interesting. I found a lot of pleasure watching my fire team suppress an enemy, only to see my assault team rush the enemy. Watching the enemy scatter when a pack of Allies appears out of nowhere is very exciting.

Of course, all of this control is done very seamlessly in the game’s first-person view. You don’t just sit around and bark orders though; I found myself participating in various suppression/assault situations alongside my troops. Sometimes it pays to send your men into battle while you help your suppression team pick off Nazis, and sometimes it’s fun to rush into battle with your M1A1 Tommy Gun spitting lead. Like I said, the first person view works well, and adds to the immersion. There aren’t very many on-screen indicators, and when using precise aiming, there isn’t even a firing reticule. This means you will have to look down the sights of a M1 Carbine much like a 1944 soldier would have had to.

The presentation is enhanced by very lush visuals. Though you’ll bloody-up much of the beautiful French countryside, props must be paid to Gearbox for accurately recreating the scenery. Off in the distance, you can see for a long way – including other towns, beaches, forests, and the like. However, the graphics are missing a fresh coat of paint that would have made them top-notch. There is a certain grittiness that is apparent during the game and it slightly degrades the graphical package.

The sound effects, however, are flawless. I can’t imagine playing this game without the sound. Imagine being pinned down behind a wall with your fire team; your soldiers screaming and swearing about the Germans shooting down at you, with bullets pattering against the wall and grenades exploding around you. Now imagine the screams and swearing coming from the Germans as your assault team flanks them. The experience is only made more and more gratifying when the sound is factored into the equation. However, the music is too depressing, though it makes you realize the awful events going on around you, it doesn’t do much to intensify the situation.

Multiplayer in Brothers in Arms is simply amazing. Rather than standard deathmatches, players on split-screen or the online component will be able to play in different levels, each with its own objective. Up to four players control a squad on each team. Players can choose to control Allie or Axis fire and assault teams and duke it out on each other. Generally the Germans are on defense, which I found to be much more interesting than the Allied offenses. In one game, the Allies are instructed to pick up explosive satchel charges to place on German anti-air guns. The Germans, in turn, must protect these guns and prevent the bombs from being placed. The result is intense, and unlike anything I’ve ever played.

Overall, Brothers in Arms is exceptional. Though the single-player campaign can be completed rather quickly, the multiplayer experience is a lot of fun and adds a lot to the value of the game. If you’re looking for an intense shooter that actually makes you feel like you’re in the game, and that’s a pretty big feat, Brothers in Arms fits the bill rather nicely.

Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9.5
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9
Written by Cliff Review Guide