Sergeant Matt Baker blinks
and wonders why he’s laying on the soft emerald green grass and why he’s
throbbing with hot pounding pain. His vision is still a bit blurry but he can
make out the shapes of men rushing around him and the sounds of something
popping like champagne corks fills his ears. Suddenly he’s looking up at a face
. . . a familiar face but one he can’t immediately put a name on. Then those
popping sounds become louder and Baker knows that those aren’t champagne corks.
He gets up, picks up his weapon and shakily joins the men around him as he
begins to shoot at the men in the gray uniforms. Then the explosion comes. He
is knocked back only to see the bloody face of his fallen friend . . . his
brother in arms. This is how Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 for the Xbox
begins and if that didn’t hook you then wait until you hear what other things
this action-packed World War II shooter has to offer.
You assume the role of
Sergeant Matt Baker, a real-life paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, who
on the night before D-Day is dropped off into German occupied Normandy on that
fateful day of June 6, 1944. It didn’t feel that long ago that you were
standing before the Supreme Allied Commander–General Dwight Eisenhower–and now
you’re on a mission to repel the German forces at Hill 30. Since the events in
this game are taken from actual accounts from those that lived it and the
battles overseen by retired Colonel John Antal (who’s input as a military
advisor did wonders for the combat and strategy in the game) you can expect the
historical events that unfold to leave you shellshock. You’ll witness
everything from the jarring nighttime drop into Normandy to the fierce battle
that lead to the capture of Carentan–an important Allied victory.
Played as a first-person
shooter, you’ll experience the confusion of being separated from your company
only to meet up with individual soldiers throughout the first two chapters of
the game’s main campaign mode. You’ll come across the headstrong Staff Sergeant
Hassay and then be joined by Corporal Hartsock as you attempt to find the other
members of your company. The game’s first chapter serves as a tutorial,
allowing you to be comfortable with the controls, the aiming and the enemy
suppression indicators that are seen as circles (red if the enemy is
unsuppressed and gray if they’re suppressed). It just means that when it turns
red you’re being fired up while gray means they’ve either stopped to change
position or reload. Early in the game you’ll also learn the team management
options. With the left trigger you can bring up a circular icon that can be
placed anywhere and this tells your men to move to that position. You can even
order covering fire by pointing a red target over the enemy. The commands are
far easier to learn than those seen in Full Spectrum Warrior so you can
concentrate on coming up with strategies.
The game’s strongest
feature is the fact that the enemy will not blindly expose themselves or rush
out to meet their deaths. They will actually duck for cover or move to a better
position if they’re in the line of fire. They are good at providing covering
fire and they too will attempt to outflank you. This means you’ll be constantly
trying to come up with effective strategies, something that’s not easy to do but
thanks to the healthy number of commands (such as fall back or assault enemy
position) and a feature called Situational Awareness mode (that allows you to
get a bird’s eye view of your surroundings and enemy position) you have all the
tools necessary to keep your men from getting killed. Because of this reason
not only is combat realistic but it’s also challenging and very addictive.
You’ll actually look forward to every skirmish, even the ones where you’ll go up
against enemy tanks.
The first-person shooter
parts are also pretty good considering the fact that you’ll be using actual
firearms of the period like the M1 Carbine or the Tommy Gun. You can even pick
up the enemy’s firearms just in case you run out of ammo or like some variety.
With all the tools to help you complete each chapter you’ll earn medals
depending on your performance and, of course, unlockable extras. You can unlock
some deleted scenes and photographs of the actual location. Gearbox has also
included some making-of features worth taking a look as well as some historical
As amazing as the single
player campaign mode is it’s the multiplayer mode that will have you coming back
for more . . . and more and more. Up to four players can go up against each
another using a single Xbox or, preferably, using a System Link connection.
Best of all, however, is the Xbox Live support that just moves along smoothly.
Here’s the good news, the multiplayer modes stray from the usual deathmatch and
capture the flag modes and offers actual missions with objectives to complete.
It’s the US Airborne verses the invading German forces. You can play through
various multiplayer campaigns that have the US attempting to deliver documents
to an Allied way station while the German side attempts to stop the delivery or
play through a mission where the US troops attempt to destroy a German supply
truck while the opposing team makes a move to defend the truck. If you die in
battle, instead of respawning you take control of another member of your squad
until the objective is complete. Really, it’s a multiplayer dream come true.
Graphically speaking, the
game is filled with visual detail that will not fail to immerse you in the
action and the events that unfold before you. It’s the little effects that make
an impression in this game like bullet wounds that splatter blood all over the
screen or even mud if the bullets missed you and struck the mound of dirt you
were using for cover. Explosions will fill the skies and the muzzle flash from
a gun emplacement will catch your eye right away. You’ll watch the expressions
on the faces of your men change, although the lip synch doesn’t match the actual
dialogue. And while watching the enemies get hit in a mist of their own blood
while they fall back against objects is great, the fact that they suddenly
vanish after a few seconds kills the realism. Otherwise, this is one
amazing-looking Xbox game.
While the visuals do a
masterful job of recreating fierce combat, it’s the sound that truly deserves
recognition. You’ll be surrounded by sound, whether it comes from distant
mortar fire or skirmishes in the outskirts of a village. Bullets will whine
past your head and they make different sounds depending on what they hit.
Germans will shout out orders in their language while your men shouts back
(oftentimes using heavy profanity). There’s also a great score that plays
during the many load times and the main menu that’s more than beautiful and
absent from the game itself to keep you focused on what’s being said out in the
field. The game feels very cinematic and not because we get to hear Baker
ponder over how he was never prepared to take command of a unit, rather it’s the
dialogue that’s wonderfully written that keeps the story moving.
Brothers in Arms does not
feel like a game but rather it feels like an experience that does not fail to
overwhelm gamers and effectively envelop them in the horrors of war. We’ve seen
great first-person shooters set in World War II (Medal of Honor: Frontline) and
really excellent team management and strategy games (Full Spectrum Warrior) but
very rarely do we find that action game that combines both so splendidly that we
get lost in its addictive action. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up
A first-person shooter that mixes
strategy and team management is always welcome in my book but when it’s done to
perfection like Brothers in Arms you’ll find it hard to want to put the
controller down. Every battle will have you coming up with strategies and
you’ll actually care about the men you lead. Great work.
The environments are authentic and
quite stunning indeed. Even the character models are fantastic, particularly
the facial expressions that perfectly convey weariness, fear and determination.
While there are a few graphical glitches, it doesn’t take away from the amazing
effects, rag doll physics and explosions and gunfire that surround you.
The music is cinematic, wonderfully
dramatic and just the right thing to play during the main menu and load
screens. It’s almost like you’re watching an epic like Saving Private Ryan or
Band of Brothers. Really, this is a gorgeous score. And if that weren’t enough
the voice acting is top notch and so is the dialogue. The sound effects are
quite amazing to the point that you’ll be turning up the volume.
Bordering on really hard,
Brothers in Arms is a challenging game thanks to the smart opponent AI that has
the enemy ducking for cover, laying on surprisingly intelligent cover and
suppressing fire. You can run and gun but believe me when I say that doing that
will result in a quick death. Careful planning and actual strategy is
definitely required. Now this is how we love our first-person shooters.
The story is emotional and powerful
due to the fact that it’s based on the real-life stories of these men that
defended freedom at all costs. The levels offer plenty of lengthy objectives
and there are loads of unlockable goodies that come in the form of historical
documents, photographs and deleted scenes. The multiplayer mode alone is worth
the price of admission.
I must be dead because I’m in
Multiplayer Heaven. Not only can you play with and against up to four friends
using a single Xbox console but you can also set up a System Link match or play
online. Either option you choose will place you deep in a multiplayer game with
actual mission objectives. Whether you play as US troops or Nazi soldiers you
are in for multiplayer at its most perfect.
There are first-person shooter war
games on the Xbox and then there’s Brothers in Arms . . . a shooter that’s both
powerfully moving and intensely exciting from start to finish. As a fan of the
genre, I seldom feel truly immersed in the World War II drama of games like
Medal of Honor but Brothers in Arms does an exceptional job of putting you in
history’s worst and finest hour. A Must Have for any gamer who has been waiting
for a great shooter.