Review by Galactus21

"History is written by the victors."

After the end of World War I, one would hope that the world would learn its lesson. Americans hoped that the end of the war would bring peace and prosperity, but instead they were hit with a severe depression. Labeled as the Great Depression, America endured twelve long years of high unemployment rate and starvation. The economy got jump started when the U.S went to war, which was started when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. However in Brothers in Arms, it focuses on the front lines of the war against Germany. Some historians believed that Hitler and Nazism were formed because of the ill treatment of Germany following World War I. During the Paris Peace Conference, countries were fighting over territorial and monetary gains rather then peace itself. The U.S was one of the top oil suppliers at this time and in order to slow down the advance of Japan they cut off the oil supply. As one can infer this paved the way for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Many historians have argued the official date of the start of World War II. While some believe that it should be the day that Japan attacked China, others believed it was when Germany invaded Poland and in response France and England declared war. A minority opinion is that World War II first started when Japan first occupied Manchuria, which ultimately paved the way for Japan's attack on China from the North. Now these are not some minor powers at war, we are talking about major nations fighting against one another. The only four term president ever, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt did not enter the war. In fact he told the prime ministers of Britain and France that if they went to war, the U.S would not have a helping hand in their policies. Now anyone that has ever taken a U.S history course will know this does not remain true. Germany overtook France in a mere six weeks, which was no small feat considering the fact that France was a major power. After the U.S declared war on Japan for their attack, the Germans declared war on the U.S. World War II had reached the U.S and it now has escaladed the situation even further. This is just a tad bit of history for those that never paid attention in history class, but anyways onto more relevant things such as the game itself.

You take on the roll of Sergeant Matt Baker, who leads a squad of soldier behind enemy lines. On many occasions the game will pit you against endless enemies. Outman and outgunned, it is your job to lead your squad to safety and complete your missions. The focal point in this game is to strategize and coordinate your squad. During war, soldiers tend to bond with one another, which makes Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 a very fitting name. In a life and death situation, one relies on their comrades and eventually develops a strong bond among each other. The game will span a course of eight days, which will eventually lead you to D-Day. This game is based on a true story and its characters really reflect that.

There have been many incarnations of the World War II theme. This is not a big surprise since World War II was arguably the biggest event in the twentieth century. While I have not played many World War II games, most of them that I have played, have failed to impress me. It is not the theme itself, but the manner in which it plays. No matter how intense the subject they base the game on, what is ultimately the defining point in the game is the mechanics. Well it is safe to say that Brothers in Arms more then delivers this. While Brothers in Arms is not without its problems, it does stand strong on its own merits. As the title states, “History is written by the victors” and that is what this game is essentially about. It focuses on the American side, which is understandable considering the feelings toward Nazism. However it would have been neat if we could play as the Germans and get their side of the story.

Through France we march

What I really liked was in the very beginning of the game it throws you right into the action. Immediately one can feel the intense situation that was World War II. Now I cannot speak from experience because I have never experienced a real life combat situation or do I pretend to know about the death defying moments that occur in war, but from my observation on documentaries, I can say that Brothers in Arms is quite authentic. When it throws you directly into the action, the game really shows the intensity and dangers of war because right off the bat you are facing a front line of German soldiers and you have grenades going off. The way I would describe the action of this game is similar to Full Spectrum Warrior, but in first person mode.

Brothers in Arms is mission base, which means there will be a set of objectives for each mission. The mission could be to defend a place, escort a tank across a town, or simply clear a town of Germans. As Matt Baker, one has the ability to command squads. One can command just one squad at a time or command more then one at once. Brothers in Arms is definitely not your typical shooter, there is definitely some strategy required. As it should be, considering that this game is based on a war. Not only do I encourage you to impose military tactics, it is also a wise choice to do so. This is because Brothers in Arms is by no means a run and gun shooter. What I mean by that is that one cannot expect to get far by just running around and shooting everything they see. If they were to do this they would not last very long. Enemies are quite good at mowing you down if you get out in the open. Always try and find cover and while taking cover will only shield you, it will also make it hard for you to shoot the enemy. This is where military tactics come in. In a large open area, one can see the battlefield and strategize and coordinate a plan in special mode.

Anyways one can give a set of commands to their troops. Most of these commands are quite basic, but they are the basis to your teamwork. You can tell them to take cover behind some bushes, you can order them to lay down covering fire, or you can have them perform a full assault on the enemy. One can also switch between teams and coordinate their teams that way. However one strategy that I found to work in most situations is the outflank maneuver. I would simply order my troops to lay down suppressing fire and find an alternate route to the back of the enemies. When shooting, a round circle appears over the enemy's heads and this is used to measure the success of the suppression.

The game does mirror realism with its authentic weapons and military tactics. What I liked especially was the ability to pick up German weapons and use them against the Germans. For the most part the level designs are rather big, but there are limits to its size. For instance one can find themselves blocked off by an invisible wall. Now going back to the outflank maneuver, when one goes behind an enemy one can find that they will have several free shots before the enemy notices them. Even then one has them in a vulnerable position, which makes it easier to neutralize them. Perhaps the biggest flaw of Brothers in Arms is the repetition of this outflank maneuver. I found this game to be intense, but for the most part I could not help but abuse this maneuver. It worked and I stuck with it.

When commanding tanks, one can expect to wield a powerful force. On most occasions when I had command of tanks, I would take my tank and march it close to an enemy's hideout and start having the tank lay down suppression fire. The enemies will be completely pinned down, making it easy for you and your squad to take them out. Not only that, I found that the tank did a good job of eliminating the enemies before we even got there. However be aware there are anti-tank weapons, but one can find a way to defuse them.

When ordering your troops around, it is best to always find cover for them. I would come across huge firefights and it would require me to stay behind something in order to stay alive. I started the game out by playing without a reticule, which added to the authenticity of the game. It certainly made it harder as I found myself missing a lot. This fps requires one to have patience and precision. Playing without the reticule will make it difficult to aim, but in the end your experience will be enhanced. I did try to play with the reticule, but I found it much easier. It took some of the fun out when I did use it because it made things easier, which sort of took away the intense firefights.

Well probably the most disappointing mode is the online multiplayer. I am judging this game mostly about the single player campaign. I judge games mostly on the value of the single player, unless the game was made specifically for multiplayer purpose. Well since online multiplayer is incorporated, I will also incorporate it with my review. First and foremost I played about an hour of it and simply got bored. It grew tiresome to a point where the objectives didn't seem fun to achieve. I simply ran around and killed everything I saw. This is partly my fault for not following the objectives, but I think it is also partly the developer's fault for not better engrossing a player into the experience. Ubisoft has usually published or made games with excellent multiplayer, so I was definitely disappointed about their multiplayer mode this time.

Still Booting

To keep it simple, load times are a pain. Every time a chapter loads it takes a good twenty to thirty seconds to load. Now Brothers in Arms is not by any means easy, which means many load times. One can imagine the horrors of the load times. I would go out and make myself a sandwich, then come back and the game would be still loading. Okay I am exaggerating a bit, but you can imagine what it feels like. Not to mention the fact that the game seems to have trouble keeping thirty frames per second. On many occasions the game begins to lag and the aiming can be knocked off a bit during these times.

Brothers in Arms look quite good. The fact that bodies explode and body parts come off adds to the experience of this game. However with that said, some of the textures can get down right awful. With the many bushes in this game, when one walks up close to a bush, one can see the horrendous textures of the leaves. This and the fact that the game has trouble maintaining a high frame rate really makes one wonder what happened. Especially considering the graphical capabilities of the Xbox, one would wonder if the developers slacked off a bit. On a bright note the character models look quite good and the amount of gore surely adds to the war experience. However the inability to maintain a high frame rate and the bothersome textures are really sore on the eyes.

Gunshots everywhere

One thing that is surprisingly sharp is the sound effects. One can hear the gunshots and how they mirror its real life counterparts. People who are sensitive might also want to turn the game down. There are going to be many occasions when F-bombs and a variety of colorful swear words will come out of their mouths. The voice acting is more then good, in fact it is excellent, Gearbox did a superb job at enlisting the people behind the voiced. What it did was add realism to a realistic game. One would become attach with the soldiers and feel for their cause. This was not the case for Full Spectrum Warrior, but in Brothers in Arms one would root for the survival of their men. Overall the voice-overs were excellent and the sound effects were superb.

For a first person shooter, Brothers in Arms is quite long. One downside is the game gets repetitive towards the end. This along with the abusive strategy really makes it a game of repetition. Now Brothers in Arms is still quite good and the authenticity alone will give you that wow factor, but with the vast amount of first person shooters in today's market, one would hope for more variety. For the things that Brothers in Arms does have the game incorporates it quite well. That along with the ability to go online will give this game some added value.

The presentation behind Brothers in Arms is very good. The material that is presented is quite authentic. The gunfire sound is quite impressive and mirrors realism to its fullest. The ability to command troops is an added value of realism. I felt that the game delivered what Full Spectrum Warrior could not. Full Spectrum Warrior provided the intense action, but we were never apart of the action. Brothers in Arms will pit you against the enemy and put you in the shoes of a soldier. While the graphics are sub par compared to other Xbox games, the graphics are still solid. Gearbox did a great job at providing content that will keep gamers satisfy.

In the end, we were brothers

Brothers in Arms delivered what it intended to deliver. It delivered an intense, authentic, and more then satisfying experience. There are some issues that shows up that are quite apparent. For one it seems that the game was a bit rushed and left unpolished. This can be seen when one first notices the horrendous textures. The load times are a pain and the game seems to have trouble maintaining a solid frame rate. However even with that said Brothers in Arms is still a game that is more then satisfying and it will please fans of the genre. The game is still good and anybody that is looking for a strategic first person shooter will find it in Brothers in Arms. The online multiplayer adds value to the game, but I personally did not like it. I felt that they should have gone with an interface similar to Rainbow Six 3. While the game is not without its faults, what it does have is more then satisfying and enough for fans of the genre to enjoy. With that said Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is definitely one of the better World War II games out there.

Pros
+ Intense firefights
+ A realistic battle simulator
+ Based on a true story
+ Strong character interactions
+ One of the better World War II games
+ Impressive sound effects
+ Strong voice acting
+ The implementation of military tactics
+ Leading troops into the heart of battle
+ A long and meaty single player campaign

Cons
- Horrendous textures
- Long load times
- The inability to lock the game down at a solid frame rate
- The over abusive outflank strategy
- The online multiplayer is a bit lacking

Graphics - 7/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Value - 8/10
Presentation - 8/10
Overall - 8.3/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/17/05, Updated 03/23/05


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