Review by DjSkittles

"A smaller and more compact war"

World War II has graced consoles and PCs so often that it's almost become a cliche. The formula for the level design is often familiar: throw tons of German tanks, soldiers and artillery at the player, and if they survive long enough, the cavalry arrives in the form of behemoth tanks or swift airplanes. Even the words “kraut” and “jerry” have become quite tiresome. What else is there that World War II has to offer in video game format? Brothers in Arms does nothing to fix this problem, but it still manages to pack some intense action in its little cartridge.

The handheld incarnation abandons the tactics of its big brothers and instead favors run and gun gameplay, interspersed with crouching. There's no semblance whatsoever of a storyline or characters, so the focus is on non-stop shooting. Germans come out of the woodwork to take you out, and the fellow soldiers that are fighting the good fight with you do little to help the war effort. The brunt of the battle lies in your hands. Nobody else really bothers disabling tanks, blowing up artillery and routing the enemy. The lackluster A.I. isn't really an issue since there are so many things that need to be killed, which prevents the difficulty from ever becoming too easy.

The touchpad serves the same function as the mouse does for PC games, and even though this is the first DS game I've played in-depth, everything felt responsive. Granted, generous auto-aiming helped, as did the on-screen symbols that point out exactly where some enemies are. Grenades were rather fun to use. By tapping the small grenade icon, a movable cursor comes up on the main screen making it easy to wipe out clusters of pesky A.I.-challenged foes. Getting inside a vehicle or planting a bomb to advance the mission is done by tapping the screen, which adds some amusing interaction to blowing up buildings.

The controls are intuitive, although it's the graphics that take some getting used. Of course, things are pretty blocky and full of pixels, but the sheer amount of stuff going on is impressive. Multiple tanks come in from all sides, and there are often more than a dozen soldiers on screen at once. Despite the tiny screen, there's an epic sense of scale. While piloting a tank, there's some great pre-scripted destruction. The speedy jeep, despite zipping over jumps and through Germans at remarkable speed, never suffers from slowdown. Even better, the three campaigns (Normandy, the desert Tunis and the snow-covered Ardennes) each look distinct.

With all this stuff happening on screen, there are even some moments that feel like the console counterparts. When I was on my own and forced to blow up a barricade, I knew it wouldn't be easy with all the machine gun nests zeroed in on me. I sprinted to the destination as bullets hit the ground beneath my feet. At this point, I was weaving and juking like a NFL running back. Finally, I planted the bomb, reached some cover, and sighed in relief as the explosion ripped through the defenses.

Unfortunately, most of Brothers in Arms DS isn't nearly as immersive as that moment. There's the occasional bug, one of which resulted in my jeep getting permanently stuck in some invisible ditch. Also, there's the incredibly short (4 hours max) length of the campaign, which is only slightly alleviated by wireless multiplayer and some basic un-lockable treats. As a member of the Brothers in Arms family, the DS version is definitely the oddball, but considering its home, it does just enough.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/04/07

Game Release: Brothers In Arms DS (US, 06/21/07)

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