I finally beat: Brothers in Arms – Hell's Highway


Opps, never got around to posting an initial impression article.  I’ve been pretty busy, and I also went through the game relatively quickly (for me) in about a week.

I was a big fan of the original Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. In a lot of ways it was one of the better games released last generation, and was revolutionary enough to revitalize WWII shooters. The first sequel, BiA: Earned in Blood, came out only 7 months later and was just another Ubisoft expansion pack. Too early for me to jump into.
He’ll’s Highway, the 3rd game in the series, has been through development hell and delays. Now that they’ve had more time to design, and I’ve had more time between games, what is my opinion of the new Brothers in Arms?

BiA did a lot of things right the first time around. Sadly, while the new sequel is a fun and competent shooter, it removes much of what BiA stand out from the other shooters and WWII games of last (and this) generation.

There were no crosshairs in the original BiA1; you had to click to zoom down your ironsights in order to aim.  This blurred your peripheral vision in-game and each gun had a unique aiming system.  In BiA:HH, you have crosshairs on your screen.  You still get ironsights when you click to zoom in, which greatly increases your accuracy, but only when you aren’t pressed against cover.

In BiA1, you never left the first person perspective.  As you snuck around an enemies flank, you could never be sure if you had been spotted through the grass and had enemies running at you that very moment.  As you peeked above cover you could never be entirely sure how safe it was, or what you would see barreling down at you.  It added a great deal of tension and immersion.  In BiA:HH, there is a cover mechanic similar to Gears of War or Rainbow Six.  You press against cover and it takes you into a 3rd person camera view.  You are forced into this cover mechanic more often than not, since just standing next to cover is often not good enough.  The game is balanced in such a way that enemies can often hit you if you are simply next to a low cover point (and they have slighlty higher ground, which is common).  However, sticking to it then makes you invulnerable to enemy fire.  The game is designed for you to always take cover.

This is,…ok,…

It’s not bad, but it pulls you out to a 3rd person view.  You can see the entire battlefield this way, whereas in the first game you had to use your command view (which didn’t pause, but slowed time).  Sadly, being in cover is 90% of the game, and it removes your Ironsights.  You can still zoom (which is still required for accuracy), but this merely zooms your view a bit, and does not give you a look down the barrel of the gun.  It turns it into a generic (though, still fun) shooter.

Minor grip: The command view in the original game was a top-down, RTS like view of your soldiers.  This time around it’s a “realistic” paper map.  This is incredibly lame.  It was a pretty neat effect to see slow motion bullets and the actual models of your team members (and their names).  Now you just have a Green Cross symbolizing your assault squads location on a paper map.  It’s still as useful for finding cover and flank points, but just not as graphically fun to look at.  I found myself ignoring it, even though there are clear Recon points marked on it that get you an achievement by going to them.

One thing I’d like to praise is the music.  The game has a great score that almost *never* plays during the game.  Cinematics, even, are often quiet or only subtly use music.  After listening to the title and trailers, I know I would have enjoyed for some of that score to play during key battles.

Overall, the game is still fun, but doesn’t stand on it’s own against the games it has begun to copy.  Rainbow Six and Gears do the cover mechanic better and control a bit better.  Your squad commands are fun and useful for flanking, but they are not as evolved as Rainbow Six’s; the game is viceral but not nearly as much as Gears.  The story is interesting, but probably only if you’ve played the first BiA.  Getting backstory on what is haunting Baker is not the same as experiencing it.

I enjoyed the game, but it would be hard to recommend to others, even fans of the original.  It’s not a bad game, but it’s certainly worse than the original BiA:RtH30.  I would be interested to see some people impressions of RtH30 today.  I may look at it through rose colored glasses, but I think it could stand up to various shooters today.  It introduced may of the mechanics now in common use (flanking, cover, squad orders, very low health that regenerates quickly).  Sadly, shooters generally age poorly.  In other words, I’m sure it looks like ass now.  But I wonder if, mechanic wise, it holds up.

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