reviews\ Oct 20, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Brothers in Arms Hell

The Brothers in Arms series has offered some of the most compelling takes on the WWII shooter genre, mixing in a healthy blend of squad mechanics, as well as some excellent story elements. Now, developer Gearbox has launched the fourth proper entry to the series, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. Hell’s Highway plays up the series’ strengths quite nicely, offering intuitive squad elements and great action, as well as a compelling storyline. While there are some issues with the game, including problematic AI, it still stands as a solid entry to the series and worth a look for fans of WWII shooters.

In Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, you once again fill the heavy shoes of Sgt. Matt Baker as he commands his units through Operation Market Garden, a risky move that pushed military forces through Holland and into Germany in an effort to end the war before Christmas 1944. The story focuses heavily on Sgt. Baker and the toll that has been done to his emotional and mental state throughout his tour of duty, and does an excellent job of adding seriousness and emotional gravity to the game’s plot.

Like its predecessors, Hell’s Highway is a first-person shooter with squad command elements. You’ll be able to command squad groups around the map, getting them to suppress enemies with fire, allowing you to flank their position and move in for the kill, as well as move to different locations. Another element that comes into play is the destructible cover system. Some objects that can be used for cover, like barrels or wooden tables, can also be destroyed if hit with enough firepower. Therefore, you can command your units to focus their attacks on your enemy’s cover, breaking it and exposing them to fire.

Your individual squads will each have their own strengths in battle, as well. You’ll have squads that are better at laying suppressing fire, as well as bazooka units, leading you to utilize a bit of strategy when giving out orders to your different units.

While you do have access to squad commands in the game, it is primarily an FPS, and features some great mechanics. The cover system works quite well, similarly to Rainbow Six: Vegas, as you’ll be able to find cover in a variety of objects throughout the environment. Once you move into a cover position, the game will switch to a third-person perspective, from which you’ll be able to fire at enemies while avoiding gunfire.

The game does have some issues that prevent it from being a truly great WWII shooter, namely the often problematic AI. Your enemies will often perform some screwy actions, including popping out of cover for no reason, or just generally leaving themselves out there to get shot. However, the biggest problem with the AI comes from your squadmates. Although the game states that your squadmates are soldiers and therefore will react to enemies and find cover whenever necessary, you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of handholding in order to keep your teammates out of harm’s way, otherwise they’ll get wiped out fairly quickly.

Additionally, ordering your troops around can be a hassle when the action gets hairy. You can be pinned down by enemy fire and try to get your squad to suppress your foes, only to accidentally order them to run out of cover and getting taken out. This happened to me more than a few times, and became quite frustrating.

Graphically, the game looks very good, utilizing the Unreal Engine 3 to some great results. The character models look great and showcase some varied emotions. The environments are also great looking, offering tons of details and destruction effects.

The sound is also done very well. The voice work and dialogue sounds very good, and the soundtrack is dynamic and changes when the action gets intense.

Hell’s Highway is a welcomed addition to the series, bringing some fine new elements to the series’ successful blend of compelling narrative and squad-based gameplay. While there are some problems, including spotty AI and rough squad controls, the game is still a solid title for fans of WWII shooters.

Review Scoring Details for Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway

Gameplay: 8.0
Hell’s Highway delivers some great action and intense situations, as well as an intuitive cover system and easy to learn squad command mechanics. Unfortunately, both the teammate and enemy AI often act erratically, leading your squadmates to make some stupid and costly mistakes unless you babysit them, and controlling them during heated battles can become frustrating.

Graphics: 8.5
The game features some pretty impressive graphical features, including some expressive character models and detailed environments. There are also some pretty impressive destruction effects, making this a pretty nice looking shooter.

Sound: 8.5
The game features some good voice work and quality writing, as well as a dynamic soundtrack that builds with the action.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
Hell’s Highway does well on its predecessors with a compelling storyline and some truly heart-wrenching situations.

Multiplayer: 8.0
The game features 20-player online gameplay modes, but the graphics take a noticeable hit online to compensate for the high player cap.

Overall: 8.0
Hell’s Highway is a solid shooter with some great elements, but the AI issues are very problematic, especially for a squad-based shooter.


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