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Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC) artwork

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC) review


"A lot of advertisements for games emphasize team-based combat. In countless games, you are supposed to be able to command an elite squad of soldiers who will execute your every command flawlessly and respond as adeptly as a human would. Typically, first-person shooters brag about this high level of team unity, but most of the time, they fail terribly at living up to their promise. The AI just isn’t smart enough, or the programming just wasn’t good enough, or the feature just wasn’t worth using. ..."



A lot of advertisements for games emphasize team-based combat. In countless games, you are supposed to be able to command an elite squad of soldiers who will execute your every command flawlessly and respond as adeptly as a human would. Typically, first-person shooters brag about this high level of team unity, but most of the time, they fail terribly at living up to their promise. The AI just isn’t smart enough, or the programming just wasn’t good enough, or the feature just wasn’t worth using. Even still, countless developers try their hands at creating realistic, squad-based action, even as their peers consistently fail. Eventually though, one of these games was bound to get it right, either through accident or just sheer competence. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 actually succeeded.

As you load Brothers in Arms, you might get the impression that this game is your standard World War II first-person shooter. It has all the typical components – powerful orchestrated score, the requisite “D-Day gone awry mission,” and that ear-splitting grenade squeal that’s become so popular all of the sudden. But past all these genre conventions lies a deep, tactical first-person shooter that will truly live up to it’s promise of changing the way you play World War II first-person shooters. You play as Sgt. Matt Baker. He’s your standard video game hero – put into command even though he didn’t feel ready for it and doubting his abilities at every step.

Brothers in Arms may seem standard at every step, but once you actually step into the boots of Baker, everything changes. The gameplay is unlike anything else in any other WWII shooter to date. Where games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor have consistently put the emphasis on a lone gunman that saves the world, Brothers in Arms teams you up with a single unit of men, men that actually fight and have personality. The game opens with a perilous sequence. You and your men are trapped in a ditch, with Nazi soldiers pouring in. There’s no where to run. You’re given no choice but to shoot. Suddenly, the man next to you gets shot in the face, looking over at you just before he falls to the ground. As you look on, you yourself fall to the ground. The last clear image you see is that of your fallen comrade, blood pouring out of his skull and into the muddy earth.

After that scene, compulsion to play sets in. You won’t want to put the game down. The next time we see Baker is before he even saw combat, as he was about to parachute down into Normandy the night before D-Day. Unsurprisingly, his plane is damaged by anti-aircraft artillery, he’s sucked out into the night sky, and when he hits the ground, he’s no where near his destination. Worse, his gear is lost and he’s unarmed and alone behind enemy lines. The situation is, once again, tense. You finally meet up with a member of your unit and are given a pistol, but it still seems inadequate. Once day breaks, you’re finally reequipped with real weapons and you’re put into control of a squad.

This is when Brothers in Arms becomes a better game. The game invokes challenge by requiring that the player not only be able to shoot a Nazi from behind cover, but also instruct your squad mates to perform certain tasks. With a simple click of the mouse, you can tell your comrades to suppress the enemy with constant fire, order them to rush the enemy, or tell them where to hide. By having your fellow heroes suppress your target, you can run to better cover or flank your enemy. Rushing your enemy can be excellent for gaining ground, as your enemies might give up their position, but it also makes your men more vulnerable to being shot. And ultimately, sometimes, knowing when to hold back just might be one of the best skills any commander can have.

Brothers in Arms ultimately becomes a game of cat and mouse. You’re the cat, and you’re constantly hunting for the mouse, only in this case, the mouse is armed with progressively better weapons and is always well entrenched. Though the entire gameplay formula can be summed up as such, the game remains compelling thanks to great pacing and realistic environments. Some battles might take you four or five minutes of exchanging fire until you finally manage to work your way to a better bit of cover that provides the vantage point you need to take out your foe. You’ll have to weave through blown up streets in the European countryside that don’t feel like video game levels, but feel more like a place where people once lived and worked. You’ll fight through cemeteries outside of churches and in barnyards surrounded by the remains of animals. Every step you take as you slowly creep through houses and backyards feels important and dangerous.

With the inclusion of an impressive graphics engine that really demonstrates the true grit of the action with surprisingly lifelike detail, and Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 reaches a different level. It goes from being a great game to being an incredibly entertaining one that you won’t want to put down thanks to its presentation and gameplay ideas. It is what every FPS fan really wants in a WWII shooter. Other games in this genre have stagnated and have failed to innovate. Brothers in Arms took those same-old situations that we’ve played countless times in countless WWII shooters and dared to change how they were played. The results could have been disastrous, but Brothers in Arms truly succeeded in delivering an excellent game.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by asherdeus (September 30, 2006)

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