"The Four B's: Buy this game. Break the seal. Begin the game. Fall in love with it."

Did you like my "four B's"? I hope you did. It was appropriate for such a great game, I had to command it.

Story: Virtually Non-Existent
Anyway, in Brothers in Arms, you begin the role as Sgt. Matt Baker after a little intro sequence. Now, I won't go into detail about the story because if you know history, and you know the "storylines" that WWII first person shooters have, you'll know more than enough for this game. Essentially, your battle is a long and tough one spread over 8 days of intense, and I use this word lightly here, fighting trying to get to the ultimate goal: Hill 30. In these days, you'll manage to fall out of an airplane after its wing gets blown, help the landing at Utah Beach, snipe Jerry's from a church tower, and many other tasks that would take too long to mention. The poetic Matt Baker is a quiet, reserved man and basically only speaks his mind before each mission on a black screen with the some info about where your mission is taking place, what day, and what time. Fortunately, you don't have to listen to this wannabe Robert Frost for too long, as his reflections usually try to add drama to the story, but it doesn't really fit. The story unfolds as you play, and though it's not incredibly deep, it's still interesting to see what objectives you have to accomplish and why. The ending, suffice to say, is a little left off. I won't say what happens, but it sort of just ends. Let's just say if you didn't like Halo 2's ending, be prepared to be Halo 2'd again. It doesn't hurt, though, as all the action leading up to that point more than made up for the storyline.

Gameplay/Controls: 9/10
I have to say, without a doubt, this is the best WWII first person shooter next to CoD/CoD: UO. The gameplay is your standard FPS, and has almost the same exact controls as Halo/Halo 2 (x reloads, y changes weapon, right thumbstick click zooms, left thumbstick click crouches, etc) It's different from other FPS in that it allows you to control two fireteams, and a few times, a tank or tanks. If you've played Full Spectrum Warrior before, think of it like that, except you can fire your gun which almost always changes the outcome of the battle in your favor, hit people behind cover, be hit your self behind cover, won't fail your mission if two of your men go down and/or one dies, and the AI in this game is actually smart. When I say the AI is smart, I mean it. Your squadmates know when and where to take cover most of the time. A few rare exceptions would be taking cover when there are already too many people taking cover there and the rare brain fart that they sometimes seem to have. They suppress, cover you, and kill enemies quite well, which is very helpful. They're intelligent, not like the idiot AI in say Ghost Recon 2. Don't think the intelligent AI is only for your advantage, however. The enemy AI is also very intelligent. They try to flank, try to prevent themselves from being flanked, and react to your battlefield maneuvers. This all makes for one of the most intense games ever made. Another great thing about this game is that you're never fighting alone, unless of course, you let all of your men "die". I put die in quotes because they will come back for the next mission as long as they weren't meant to die. I guess someone brought a defibrillator and a hospital on the battlefield.

After the first few missions of the game, you'll finally link up with your first man to control: Cpl. Joe Hartsock, better known as "Red". The game will give you a little tutorial each time you need to learn something new while you're on the battlefield, which is wonderful, because it doesn't detract from the gameplay at all. You will also need to make use of the four F's: Find the enemy. Fix him. Flank him. Finish him.

You eventually will wind up with two fireteams or tanks, sometimes just one fireteam, whichever may be the case. White switches between each fireteam/tank. Down on the d-pad or holding the white button makes your men or tank fall in line and follow you. Up on the d-pad makes them take cover in the best possible position most of the time. To move them, hold the L trigger, move the right thumbstick to their desired position, and release the L trigger. To have a team suppress an enemy or keep him busy, hold the L trigger, place it over the enemy/enemies, and release. To have your men make a straight forward risky charge towards the enemy, hold the L trigger, place it over the enemy/enemies and hit the R trigger. Press the back button and you also have the situational awareness view which displays enemies that you have found on screen as well as what your current objective is.

These commands are very streamlined and are simple as a pimple once you get them down. The reason I gave the control a 9, however is because it would have been nice to be able to lean, since everyone but you can lean. Going prone in a few levels of the game would have helped too, but these are minor gripes. The main reason I gave it a 9 is because of the tanks. The tank AI isn't too great. I really think the tank commanders are drunk, and if you are finding yourself frustrated, a lot of the time it will be because of the tanks. I dreaded every time I got a tank. It takes some time working with them to get them to work well, just be warned. Thankfully, there are only 3 or 4 missions that you use them in.

There is only one bug I have come across so far, and that would be the machine gun bug. It's essentially a bug where sometimes when you fire a machine gun or submachine gun, the sound locks and keeps repeating over and over. Really annoying, especially if you have a 5.1 DD system. Reloading a checkpoint will fix it, but sometimes, you don't want to do that.

And yes, this game is very bloody and gory, and yes, there is arm and leg dismemberment, you sickos.

Graphics: 9/10
Gorgeous ATD (attention to detail) for the environment. The levels are lit beautifully by some awesome of the best lighting I've seen on a console. Nothing like Splinter Cell, but still fantastic nonetheless. Everything has a wonderful ATD look to it. The character models are absolutely amazing. Only problem is when they talk, it doesn't look too great. Just look away when they talk. The grass, trees, lighting, and building are all great, but there are a couple of minor, insignificant problems. Whenever you get up close to a building, wall, mound of dirt, or what have you, you notice how grainy and blurry they become. But during a huge battle, you won't be running up to a wall saying "OMIgd t3h r onlie 1267 pixuls on dat brik!11" While fighting, you're not focused on studying the environment, you're focused on your enemy, and as long as you pay more attention to your enemy, you eyes won't fixate on blurry textures, so that way the environments always look great. I had to actually look at them up close to notice anything, since you can't even tell from a distance of about 5-10 feet.

I didn't have a problem with framerate much, if at all. A few occasional hiccups, but nothing that would ruin the gameplay by a long shot.

Sound: 10/10
The best sound effects I have heard a while. Each and every gun has its specific sound attached to it. This is the first WWII game (other than CoD) I have ever recognized the sound of an MG42 the second it's being fired. The sound makes some of the best use of 5.1 Dolby Digital I have heard on Xbox. While playing, I literally heard the bullets wizzing by my head and hitting the sound of wood, grass, dirt, metal, etc. The sound of your men screaming for you or others to duck, yelling at their fallen comrades, cursing loudly at the Germans, telling you when you're outnumbered, being flanked, and whether the Germans are suppressed or not. The sound of the Germans screaming for their fallen comrades and shouting back at you makes for some intense moments. The sound is what makes you feel immersed and like you're really there. I would recommend a 5.1 DD system for this game alone, the sound it that great. I would say it's the best part of this game.

Multiplayer: 8.5/10
Unfortunately, the lowest ranking feature of the game would have to be it's multiplayer, however it's still great fun...as long as you have a full game. You can play 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 1 vs 3, or 1 vs 2. It's all objective based matches, so if you're looking for DM, TDM, and CTF, look elsewhere. You can play split screen with two people, or play on system link or Xbox Live with 2 people on an Xbox, which is nice to have, so you don't need 4 Xboxes to play a 4 player system link game. There are 10 maps to choose from and you can either be the Americans or the Germans. You pick your fireteam (Assault or Suppression) and you move out. You get bots as squad members on your fireteam and you control them just like you would in single player. It's fun for a while, but you'll need a break from it every now and then. The fighting is intense as long as there are 4 people playing. Unfortunately, if you're not playing with your friends and/or you get stuck with someone who doesn't talk, be prepared for a very boring game like Full Spectrum Warrior and Kingdom Under Fire when no one talks. I suggest only playing with friends. It would have been nice to have at least 8 people, though. There is also no coop, which if it were in, it would have made a great addition.

All in all, I suggest buying this game for 50 bones as long as you'll invest a lot of time in the single player, because buying it for multiplayer alone is not worth it. The single player experience is definitely worth admission alone.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/04/05

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