Review by TheBartThe

"Good, not great."

Allow me to start off by saying that I had been looking forward to this game since the day I found out about it. Finally, a WWII era shooter that explores the somewhat new world of tactical squad-based shooting. My first introduction to this genre was with Ghost Recon, but the AI was not up to par, thus you always had to be wary when leaving a squad off on it's own.

Then I heard about Full Spectrum Warrior a few years later. I watched every video I could find, read every article, counted the days until it was released. And found myself disappointed. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it seemed to lack in certain aspects...that and anyone who's familiar with the game will know that Flank-and-Fire can get very old, very quickly.

So out comes Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. My first reaction was "Oh look, another game trying to capitalize off Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, and every successful WWII FPS." After reading about the game in depth, however, it sparked my interest. You play as Sgt. Matt Baker in a squad-based shooter where you fire a weapon too, unlike Full Spectrum Warrior. Squads that actually respond to your commands, unlike Call of Duty. Realistic maps and geography taken from personal accounts and photos from 1944, battles based on actual After Action Reports. This game touted realism in nearly every aspect, and that was what I had been looking for in a WWII shooter for a long time. The more I read, the more interested I became, until it was decided; I was going to buy this as soon as it came out.

The game was finally released and I was there day one to pick it up. Hoping that my $50 was well spent, I went home, popped the game into my Xbox and began my journey to Hill 30.

My first reaction was that I had gotten everything I wanted and expected. The learning curve is pretty short, so you'll find yourself commanding first one team and eventually a second team without much difficulty. Being able to actually command the men with you finally eliminates the feeling of you being a one man army. Movement is much like every other FPS, you should find yourself giving orders and blasting Germans in no time.

Sound effects are very good (this game sounds terrific with surround sound). Weapons sound like they should, your squad-mates will shout at you to take cover if you expose yourself to enemy fire (and you will hear bullets whizz past your head), as well as curse at the enemy in a fire-fight. Something else I thought interesting was that there is no background music during missions, leaving you with the feeling of being there, hearing nothing but the gritty sounds of battle. That said, the sound has its low points, too. The voice acting was sub-par in my opinion. Much of the dialogue (with some exceptions) between characters either sounds grossly over-acted or devoid of emotion. There are also what seem to be some unnecessary pauses in the dialogue scenes, eliminating the feeling that characters are speaking directly to "you". Another shortfall in the dialogue is the lack of variation in the lines both your squad-mates and the Germans seem to have during battles. There are about three lines in German you'll hear again and again, making them stale rather quickly. Same goes for your squad, their entire dialogue directed at you seems to consist of "Flank him!", "Baker, get down!", and "Sarge, get down!", though they do have some rather interesting one-liners.

Now on to graphics. As this was a multi-platform release, the graphics really don't take advantage of the Xbox's power. They are still quite good, with a lot of little details that add to the experience, like seeing other characters eye's get red as the missions drag on from lack of sleep. The environments are beautiful, and Gearbox did a superb job of recreating 1944 Normandy. Bullet impacts look great; watching a machine gun tear up the ground near you as you run to cover can get pretty intense. Some textures are better than others, tree's especially don't look that spectacular. Character models are very good though, their movements realistic and their uniforms are detailed.

Game play is very good. Much like Full Spectrum Warrior you are forced to use your teams to flank the enemy. Unlike FSW, there is almost always more than one or two ways to go about it, and the maps are large enough to allow you to try different tactics. As this game incorporated the FPS element as well, you have the option of taking down the Germans yourself. There are no cross-hairs for you to aim on the fly with (you can change this in options, but the game was meant to be played without them), making it much more realistic. You can also use the iron sights on the guns, making you much more accurate. They incorporated some sway into the guns when you look down the sight as well, again adding to the realism. The only issue I've have with the guns (beside a sound glitch I will cover later) is the fact that kill shots don't appear to kill. I've hit enemies square in the chest, and just watched them duck and shout some of their limited lines, even head shots don't appear to kill sometimes. One other thing that seems out of place in a game that speaks so much of realism is the return of dead squad-mates. I understand that for the sake of the continuity of the story certain characters need to survive, but it's hard to feel bad about getting a whole team killed when you know they'll all be back for the next mission.

The AI in this game is some of the best I've seen. The missions are based off real missions taken from After Action Reports, so you will find yourself in a variety of tactical situations. When playing on easy difficulty you can get away with possibly running-and-gunning your way through some spots, but on harder difficulties you will be using your brain as well as your gun to get along. The enemy will react to your movements instead of standing in a bad position, and your men will react and fire as any man would in a combat environment, though they occasionally will do some unexpected things. Sometimes they seem to ignore cover, and I've had cases where one man couldn't decide whether he was going to charge an enemy position or take cover, so he compromised by standing and firing in the open.

There are a few glitches, but none of them are game-breakers. The most notable is probably a glitch with the sub-machine guns. Sometimes when you fire the sound of the gun firing continues until you die or hit a save point. You can continue playing as normal, but it does get very annoying.

Overall, this is a very good game, an enjoyable experience that will last about 20 hours, depending on your style of play and difficulty level. Due to the large maps and different difficulties, you can play through the single player campaign at least a few times without the game getting stale. I don't have Live so I can't comment on the multi-player aspect of the game, though it does have split-screen multi which I have yet to try. While it isn't the epic game I had hoped it would be, it may have laid some new groundwork for the squad-based shooter genre as a whole, and I look forward to a more polished sequel.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/25/05

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