Review by NeoTS
"Die, Nazi Scum!"
Ever since Saving Private Ryan hit theaters all those years ago, there has been a relatively large demand for WWII media. This hit gaming as well, spawning the massively popular Medal of Honor. The latest offering is Brothers In Arms, another WWII game, but wholly different from it's shooting brethren. As much as I love the MoH series, I never much cared for the secret missions and spy stuff. I felt much more at home running through muddy fields outside Carentan or taking the beachheads at Normandy. In MoH, you're a one man army, and if I've learned anything about WWII, it was not fought by one man who had no allies. It was fought by normal, average guys. They don't have any ambition other than to make it home alive. And well, I can identify with an average guy rather than a super soldier.
If you're the least bit interested in World War II, I'm sure you've heard of the 101st Airborne Division. These guys parachuted into France well before any ships hit the beach. They were dropped into hostile territory, with no reinforcements of any kind coming. They had to secure several key sites, or the invasion would be repelled. These guys were the toughest of the tough. Matt Baker is one of the tougher ones. Baker is the squad leader of the 502nd. He has to command his men through some of the battles in the opening days of the war. D-Day + 8 is really only the beginning of the war, but for Baker and his men, it seemed like an eternity.
This is a squad-based shooter. I cannot stress this enough. In order to progress through the game, you will need to utilize your squads properly and effectively. Try charging a machine gun nest all by yourself and you'll be staring up at the sky before you even realize what's going on. Of course, you'll be able to fend for yourself when necessary. Though you can toggle a cross-hair on or off, I would recommend using the good ol' fashioned iron sights when shooting. It's a little harder, but it makes the experience all the more authentic when you're really looking down the barrel of your rifle. The controls are set up primarily like any other FPS is, except for the left trigger button. This is the button that you use to issue orders to your men. Your squad will primarily consist of three men, or a tank. And of course, you'll often have to control both. There are three types of squads: Fire, Assault and Tank. Fire teams are ideal for cover fire, assault teams are great for charging enemy positions, and the Tank, well can do pretty much everything. It's great for moving cover, and taking out other tanks of course.
Yes, in a game where you die in just a few hits, you'll have to fight some tanks. But fear not, this is where your team comes in, and your ability to react to the battlefield. First, you'll have to notice the Suppression icons. While they are a cheat of sorts, they are extremely helpful for beginning players trying to get a grip on the game. All the enemies will enter a battle with red circles over their heads. So, the first thing you do is lay down a base of fire. As your team fires, this red circle begins to decrease, and turn gray. Once it is fully gray, that means they are completely suppressed. This is your time to flank the enemy, which is what you'll spend most of the game doing. As for tanks, you could find a Panzerfaust and take a few shots at it. Or you could be a man, charge the sucker and drop a grenade down the hatch while your men distract it. Now that's tank fighting! The game-play of Brothers In Arms is really quite simple, but that's the genius of the game. It's simple, but it is always fun to try and outmaneuver the Germans while racing through a farmers field or pinned down by mortar shells. It's methodical, but at the same time, it's intense and will make your heard pound.
None of that would matter if you didn't really believe you were in France in June of 1944. From the very instant this game starts, you really feel that you're at war. You can practically feel war all around you, thanks to the terrific graphic engine. The path is never truly linear, so it gives you option to move around the environment with a certain amount of freedom. You'll fight through fields, farms, villages, through swamps and over bridges. And it all looks like Normandy. All of the cities and towns in BiA are real, and the developers wen to great lengths to try and recreate these areas. The result is a war-torn atmosphere that makes you feel like you're in Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. The character models are pretty cool, and their appearance seems to change as the days pass. If you get close enough to them, their eyes will actually follow you around. Creepy? Yes, but cool. Sound is critical in a game like this. Mortar shells will crash all around with a terrifying intensity that just begs you to lose your cool. You're in the middle of a fight, when in the distance, you hear the treads of a tank rolling along. Uh oh. The voices are great, which is a very good thing since there will be a lot of yelling in this game. There's no music during the levels, which I think was the right decision. It adds to the realism factor, and probably would have been drowned out by the constant gunfire anyway.
But Brothers In Arms isn't perfect. Sometimes the AI of our squad is just plain dumb. I can't begin to count the number of times I had to move a squad because they wouldn't fire on an enemy position because they were behind a wall. I shouldn't have to tell them to take two steps to the left. The game-play does resort to a sort of trial and error and at times, which can lead to frustration, but you'll have to use it as a learning tool. It is probably the best WWII game I've ever played, since I actually felt like I was part of the war rather than some guy killing Nazi's all by himself. It's a fun, fresh new take on WWII games that everyone should give a try. There are about 4 difficulty levels, and some unlockables, so there's definitely a reason to keep playing if you like to get your money's worth. Just try it, you really won't be disappointed.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/24/05
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