Review by sfcalimari

"Great concept, fun idea, but terrible frame rate and bad graphics compared to almost any other PS2 game"

Although Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood is at heart a first-person-shooter, it is quite different from any other fps game. You have a squad or two following you, and you can direct them to move to any location and also to fire on the enemy. Most of the time you end up ordering your team to stay at a protected location and fire on the enemy, which causes the enemy to cower in fear behind cover. Now you can circle around to the side or rear of the enemy and shoot them. There are probably other ways of taking out the enemy, but I almost always end up having my team suppress the enemy and then I run around myself to actually kill the enemy. If you try to order your team to make a head-on charge against the enemy, or if you try to charge in on your own, you WILL fail and you and/or your troops will die. It is a bit unrealistic how the enemy will seem to kill you with one shot without actually firing at you, but this danger does force you to play the game with suppression and squad tactics.

This squad-control aspect of the game is usually pretty satisfying, and when you pull it off well, really makes you feel like you've accomplished something. However, usually the game will frustrate you with its bad ally AI and terrible, jerky frame rate.

Yes, this is another game with bad ally AI. Maybe 60% of the time your teammates will do what you want them to, and operate very effectively, but often not so much. The different levels in the game have many barriers and short walls that you can position your troop behind, and they can fire here effectively from cover. However, often when you tell them to get behind the barrier, they will instead run in front of the barrier, so they are standing out in the open, and they will die very quickly. Or they will clearly have a clean sight line towards the enemy, but they will fail to fire at the enemy and will repeatedly yell "I can't hit them!" Duh, use your eyes.

You also sometimes get a tank to help you out, which you control similarly to your infantry units. The tanks are quite useful, but unfortunately often get owned due to their bad AI. Last night I tried ordering my tank to attack an enemy tank, but...ugh. First my tank got stuck behind another dead allied tank, and kept backing up and moving forward into the other tank over and over and over again...finally it got clear, then went forward towards the enemy tanks, and promptly began firing straight down into the ground over and over again while two enemy tanks sat up on a hill in front of it firing away. Brilliant. No wonder the US won the war.

Now as for the graphical issues. The graphics in the game are ok, rather dated and blurry and murky, but serviceable enough. Look at the ground around you and you will see a murky pixellated mess more typical of a ps1 game. The frame-rate on the other hand is simply terrible, and probably the worst I have ever seen in a ps2 game. Usually the game operates ok, although visibly jerky, but when you get close to an enemy, or an enemy tank is roving around, the game immediately drops to a frame rate worse than Pac-Man. It's pretty irritating to get jumped by two german guys and you can't do anything about it because your gun is jumping around like Space Invaders and your teammates are neglecting to help you out.

Quite frankly, this terrible frame rate is unforgivable, and really rather ridiculous. Xbox and pc gamers love to hate on the ps2's graphical powers, but consider how many great-looking, clean-running ps2 games there are. Call of Duty Finest Hour, God of War, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, the list goes on and on. The designers of BIA: EIB certainly could and should have polished the frame rate of their product.

Another rather sorry aspect of the game is the game's attempt to tell the story of your character and your team members. I have seen quite a few reviewers note how your buddies are portrayed realistically, you actually care about their fates, the game's plot is good, etc etc, but I disagree. The characters in the game are portrayed very badly, with terrible, wooden voice acting, and annoying, pointless, and interminable dialogue. At the beginning of many levels you have to twiddle your thumbs and wait for the end of an interminable voiceover of your character's discussions with his military therapist. I can never hear what the characters are mumbling about, and when I can, I wish I hadn't. You can skip through some of the dialogue by mashing the start button, but not all of it. It would have been much better to have just thrown you into the game's action without any non-optional jabbering, but as with pretty much any other game that attempts to be "atmospheric," EIB tries too hard to be a bad TV drama.

That said, despite the graphical and AI issues, the game still manages to be really rather fun and interesting to play because of its great concept and fresh approach to the WW2 fps genre. Like I said, completing a level gives you a fairly unique sense of accomplishment, although a lot of frustration and clenched teeth are probably going to get in the way of total enjoyment of the game. I am about 3/4 of the way through the game, and will most probably finish it, but I don't think I could bring myself to play it through again and deal with the game's frustrating problems again. The fact that apparently the xbox and pc versions of the game do not have these problems only adds insult to injury. PS2 owners don't deserve table scraps. The ps2's relatively limited graphical power might be blamed by many gamers and critics, but Ubisoft should have followed the example of other PS2 games that have good graphics and frame-rate, such as Call of Duty Finest Hour or their own game, XIII.

Here's hoping that Ubisoft gets with the program and makes sure that any sequels of BIA run properly. Gamers don't deserve anything less.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/27/06

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