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Thread: Brothers in Arms (xbox) reviews:

  1. #1
    cpt_azad's Avatar Colonel
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    source (teamxbox): http://reviews.teamxbox.com/xbox/900...to-Hill-30/p1/

    PAGE 1
    War is hell. We’ve heard this adage with just about every war-themed film or documentary release, but the truth is most of us will never experience the ravages first-hand, God willing. For many of us, these horrible conflicts are nothing more than stories we read; movies we watch. But in fact war is drama we don’t need to fabricate because it has been all too real; just ask those that have taken part.

    Perhaps no other war in history touched so many lives than the events of World War II. It was a time that ushered in many changes across the world, especially for the art of war. While tanks, machine guns, and other technological weapons of destruction had been used during the first World War, they didn’t show their true destructive power until the second worldwide conflict. This is one of the reasons that more than fifty-two million people lost their lives during both the European and Pacific Theaters of World War II. The invasion of Normandy alone saw nearly 30,000 US troops killed and 106,000 wounded or missing. War is hell…indeed.


    So why would we want to relive the trying times of WWII in a videogame? The answer might be different for every gamer. Some folks are history buffs, other people simply like to shoot things. As for me…I like to think of it as a tribute to those men and women that died so that I can enjoy the life I have today. The problem is the majority of WWII-themed games have been more arcade like than an actual representation of how things actually were during that time. To that end I can honestly say that Ubisoft’s latest release, Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is a TRUE tribute and the best WWII game to date.



    Gameplay

    Brothers in Arms is based on the real-life happenings of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army during an eight day period of the Normandy invasion of 1944; particularly those revolving around squad leader, Sgt. Matt Baker. While preparing for their drop during D-Day, an artillery shell hits the plane, requiring the 101st to evacuate immediately. This causes the Baker and his paratroopers to be scattered all across the French countryside. Now he must not only attempt to reunite with his squad, but assist the Allied forces in eliminating the German military threat. It should be noted that the soldiers found in the game are fictional representations of the real “Screaming Eagles”.

    This game feels special right from the very beginning. There is a sense of storytelling that no other war-themed game has managed to achieve. When coupled with the incredible accuracy of the events, locations, tactics, and weapons, Brothers in Arms raises the bar for WWII games from here on out. If you don’t get chills from the opening scene, then check your pulse. The virtual photo album of the 101st with the gripping score playing in the background had me feeling as if I was sitting down to watch a 3 hour war epic rather than play a videogame.

    This realism of Brothers in Arms means that this is not a game for the kiddies. The dialogue and the very graphic depictions of war are something that only mature gamers should experience. Ubisoft and Gearbox Software didn’t pull any punches in Brothers in Arms and it is a better game for it.

    The single-player campaign is spread across 20 missions that follow the eight day span from June 6 – June 14, 1944. The first few missions serve for little else than an in-game tutorial to the controls and command system, but the action picks up fairly quickly afterward. There is no co-op mode for Brothers in Arms, but honestly, it would have detracted from the overall impact of the campaign. This is something that you wouldn’t want to experience in split-screen, and it would have also taken away from the strong story. The campaign does use an auto-save feature that allows you to continue progress from the last save point. Chapters can also be accessed and replayed after they’ve been completed. The game has three available difficulty levels from the get-go (easy, normal, and difficult), with an “authentic” mode becoming accessible after beating the entire single-player campaign. Authentic mode uses no save points and a few on-screen indicators are also disabled (though these can also be manually turned off in the options menu in any mode).

    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:38 AM.

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  2. Games   -   #2
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    PAGE 2
    Gameplay Controls:

    The control scheme for Brothers in Arms doesn’t stray too much from the standard FPS layout, but its big difference is the method in which commands are issued. Rather than use a reticle-based system like we’ve seen in games like Rainbow Six 3 and Star Wars Republic Commando, Brothers in Arms uses a hybrid style that slightly resembles that of Full Spectrum Warrior. By pulling and holding the left trigger a “command ring” is displayed that can be moved throughout the environment. With the left triggers still being held, you can move the command ring with the left thumbstick to a point in which you’d like your squad to move. After releasing the trigger, the command is issued. The command ring does snap to certain environmental objects, like walls, but isn’t as complex as Full Spectrum Warrior with different formations for corners, etc. The suppressing indicator is also similar to that of Full Spectrum Warrior in that it displays the current suppression level of enemy units; red designates a threat, grey means an enemy is pinned down.


    The command ring is used for additional commands, such as ordering suppressing fire or rushing an enemy’s position. These too are easily executed with the use of the left and right triggers (right trigger is used to rush) and the left stick. The ring will automatically change to a targeting reticle to accommodate these commands.

    Eventually Baker will be put in charge of up to two different teams simultaneously and most command them accordingly. This is a game that you’ll rely heavily on flanking maneuvers and the like. One team is better suited to suppress (fire team) while the other lighter squad (assault team) is designed to flank. There are even missions in which you’ll have the opportunity to command a tank unit. The White buttons is used to toggle between teams with commands being issued as previously stated. The D-pad can be used to order a team to fall in or take cover. While holding the White button performs the same orders, I found the use of the D-pad much easier to navigate in the heat of battle.



    Being that Brothers in Arms is the first tactical WWII based FPS on the market, it uses an extremely handy Situational Awareness mode (the Back button) that allows you to evaluate the current situation more closely. To recreate how soldiers study aerial photos and maps, Situational Awareness mode provides a birds-eye view of your current location, including the position of your troops and the enemy (as long as you visually made contact prior). While in this mode, the game is paused, and you can study the terrain and look for flanking positions or possible ambush areas. This might sound like an unfair advantage, but with the number of Germans you’ll face, it definitely helps when deciding whether to send your boys over the next ridge. The fact that you physically have to see an enemy before they are displayed in this mode means that surprise attacks are still very much a possibility.

    Here’s an overview of the default control scheme:


    Left thumbstick – move/strafe and crouch (when clicked)
    Right thumbstick – turn/aim and zoom weapon (when clicked)
    D-pad – team fall in/fall out (up/down), select Fire Team (left), select Assault Team (right)
    Left trigger – command teams/tank
    Right trigger – fire weapon
    A button – jump
    B button – melee attack
    X button – reload/pick up weapon/use
    Y button – switch weapon
    Black button – throw grenade
    White button – switch selected team
    Back button – Situational Awareness Mode


    Though I’ve never actually fired ANY of the weapons found in Brothers in Arms, the controls feel so realistic it’s scary. It’s amazing how you’ll grow so fond of the M1 Garand rifle and its range of 1,300 feet. Targeting changes dramatically from one gun to the next and the zoom feature adds to the authentic feel. This is one game where kills don’t feel cheap and there is a definite sense of accomplishment when taking down a squad of Krauts. Being that the reload and pick up functions are mapped to the same button, you will find a few frustrating moments when you’ll accidentally reload instead of grabbing a needed weapon. Grenade tossing is a lot more difficult (and probably more realistic) than other FPS and takes some practice. I still despise the use of the Black button for nearly any action, but it actually isn’t too bad in this game.

    ....
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:38 AM.

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  3. Games   -   #3
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    PAGE 3
    Multiplayer Game Modes:

    Rather than package the standard deathmatch or CTF multiplayer modes, Gearbox decided to go a completely different route for Brothers in Arms. Multiplayer modes are objective based with 2-4 players battling it out for battlefield supremacy. Up to two players can play on one Xbox in split-screen mode (each player commanding two teams), while up to four players can play via System Link or Xbox Live. When playing with four players each person will command a separate team with two acting as the Allied soldiers while another two serve as the Germans.


    There are 10 maps initially available with more tentatively planned as downloadable content. Each map is designed for a specific mission objective. These objectives range from delivering orders, destroying anti-aircraft guns, destroying a bridge and more. This means that you cannot change the objective for a chosen map. Most objectives have several tiers. For example, in order to destroy the enemy bridge, you must first locate the explosives and then plant and detonate them. For the most part, the Allied forces are faced with completing the mission while the Germans must do anything in their power to stop them. There is a time limit involved as well.

    With a maximum of four players this means that AI bots are used within each team. It feels and acts the exact same way as the single-player campaign, except that you are playing competitively against another player-controlled commander or commanders. If you bite it, reinforcements can be called in (although each team has a limited number) or you can take over a previously computer controlled soldier. The maps vary in size due to the mission, but are right on par with those found in the single-player campaign. Most of them act as somewhat of accompanying missions to the same period that Baker and crew experience during the campaign.



    Deathmatch junkies will definitely have some gripes to the multiplayer mode found here, but honestly it is a fresh change from all the typical ones we see in almost every FPS. There is no doubt that this isn’t going to please everyone, especially due to the use of AI bots for the teams. Regardless, our experiences not only proved to be fun, but the AI was extremely competent on most occasions.

    Overall Gameplay Impressions:

    There is certainly no shortage of WWII shooters on the market, but none have come even close to capturing the feel that Brothers in Arms portrays. Yes, most of my thoughts are based on what I assume being a soldier during that time would be like. That being said, the eight day journey that you’ll experience might not be as flashy as a Call of Duty: Finest Hour or Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, but it is far more realistic and satisfying. There are a lot less scripted events and the AI uses real flanking maneuvers and battlefield tactics rather than mindlessly charging at you like drones. The command system is easy to learn and effective in use. I absolutely love the feel of the controls, especially related to the difference of each weapon; the M1 Carbine and the M1918 Browning feel completely different, as they should. The missions are varied enough to not feel like the same ol’, same ol’ each time out. The tanks tend to be a little too powerful at times, but they are hulking masses of steel after all.

    There is plenty to keep you busy after completing the 20 mission single-player campaign. Not only is the Authentic mode waitin’ for ya, but so is a host of unlockables that include real war documents, photographs, cheats, and behind-the-scenes items. Expect around 10-15 hours on the normal difficulty level the first time through.

    I really enjoyed the multiplayer mode and its objective based format. Yes, is a max of 4 human players and AI bots are used for squad mates, but so what. I’ve played enough CTF and Assault matches to make me puke and this mode is a nice change of pace. The real test will be to see how these modes hold up after a few months of play. Let’s hope that Gearbox delivers on their promise of additional downloadable maps.

    Still, Brothers in Arms is not a perfect game. With a heavy emphasis on the story, your squad mates won’t perish until the plot deems necessary. Rather, soldiers are “incapacitated” and then healed at the start of the following mission. This notion makes you a bit more reckless when issuing orders because you know fallen mates will be revived later on. Eventually your men will fall, but this takes away slightly from the realism factor. There are also issues related to framerate and tip you off as to when enemies will be spawned. While the AI is very strong overall, they still make a few boneheaded errors in judgment at times, even with specific orders. The auto-save causes the typical stutter, but it isn’t too much of a problem. In any case, these minor gripes are nothing in comparison to the overall experience. If you are a WWII history buff and/or a FPS gamer then get ready to drop $50 pronto.

    ....
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:40 AM.

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    PAGE 4

    Graphics

    Texas-based developer, Gearbox Software, was determined to make Brothers in Arms the most realistic WWII game to date. In order to achieve this, the team painstakingly studied aerial reconnaissance imagery, photos, documents and journals from the period. It’s amazing to see exactly how accurate the environments are when comparing photos and in-game stills side-by-side. Buildings, crossroads, farmland, you name it; you’ll experience it as the 101st did back in 1944. The environments did need to be tailored to fit the game’s objectives, but there more room to move than in most FPS games. The game has a rough, nearly sepia tone-like look to it that matches its focus. The weapon zoom view has to be one of best in any FPS due to the depth of field focus that is used.


    Soldier models are extremely detailed and can even be categorized as eerily realistic. Their eyes will follow your movements and they just have a very organic appearance. Animations are fluid as well, aside from the few anomalies that you’ll experience. There’s nothing like seeing the Sgt. Hassay gliding along the ground like a Star Wars landspeeder. The framerate can be an issue at times, primarily during enemy spawn areas and auto-save points. It will also drop during big-time explosions, but don’t worry about a cheap kill as a result.


    Audio

    Audio production can make or break a game, but thankfully it is the cherry on top for Brothers in Arms. The voice acting is very good overall, with a few occasional over-dramatic moments. The dialogue is edgy with plenty of slang and obscenities to keep with the realistic presentation. The in-game cut-scenes is where you’ll find the best of the best, with lines getting a bit more repetitive while in the field.



    The sound effects have an attention to detail matches every other aspect of the game. Each gun and every weapon sound as they do in a real-world setting. Mortar shells rock hit with heart-pounding intensity and MG nests cast a deadly purr. Dolby 5.1 support helps with in-game tactics as you can easily distinguish enemy locations from their gunfire and chatter. The motion picture-like score completes the package with varying compositions that portray the in-game events.


    The Bottom Line

    With all of the talk of upcoming releases like Splinter Cell Chaos Theory and DOOM 3, it is little surprise that Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 slipped under the radar. That is, until today. Brothers in Arms is now the measuring stick for all war-themed FPS titles thanks to its amazing accuracy, fantastic storytelling, and dead-on presentation. Even with its flaws, there is no denying that this is an FPS that hardcore gamers have been waiting for. The genre has felt somewhat stale over the past year, but Gearbox proves that not all WWII games are created equal. The multiplayer mode is a refreshing change from the run-of-the-mill deathmatch and CTF modes we’ve become accustomed to, but still not for everyone. The single-player campaign is riveting from beginning to end. Ubisoft has yet another prized jewel to add to their collection.

    ....
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:40 AM.

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  5. Games   -   #5
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    Fantastic presentation, solid controls, and a story that rivals most motion pictures. The accuracy to the events and weapons provides an authentic feel that no other WWII game has managed. The multiplayer mode is a refreshing change from the typical deathmatches we see so often.

    Even with its framerate hiccups and few graphical anomalies, this is a beauty to play through. The soldier models are some of the most detailed to date and eerily lifelike.

    The motion picture-like score complements the gameplay to perfection. The voice-acting is believable thanks to the edgy script. Turn up the 5.1 system because this is how a war game should sound.

    The single-player campaign should take you anywhere from 10-15 hours depending on the difficulty. There is plenty of incentive to play through at tougher levels with tons of unlockables. The multiplayer modes further extend the replay value.

    While there have been many WWII FPS games before, none have managed to provide a more realistic representation than Brothers in Arms. The fresh multiplayer mode shows that FPS games aren’t just about deathmatches.


    end of teamxbox full review.

    Final Score:

    9.4 out of 10
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:25 AM.

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  6. Games   -   #6
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    source (IGN): http://xbox.ign.com/articles/592/592373p1.html

    PAGE 1

    Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
    Say hello to the best World War 2 shooter on the Xbox.

    March 1, 2005 - Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty... Until today these were the games that defined World War II action on the Xbox. Now you can throw them all away. Not only is Gearbox's Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 the best World War II shooter on the Xbox, it's also one of the best games of any genre for the system. Now that doesn't mean that it's perfect. It has some obvious flaws, for one thing, as well as some unique design decisions that are sure to frustrate certain types of action gamers.


    The Situation

    Just after midnight on D-Day, hours before the landing craft made their way to the shores of Normandy, paratroopers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne parachuted behind German lines to disrupt the defenses and forestall the inevitable counter-attacks that were sure to be launched once the Allied troops landed on the beaches. These paratroopers were effectively on their own until Allied forces could secure an exit off the beaches. Through a disastrous series of mis-drops, they found themselves far from their original target and far from the other members of their company.
    You play as Matt Baker, a sergeant in Fox Company of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. The game takes place over seven days, starting with the nighttime drop and ending with the action at Hill 30. Nearly all of the locations and events and characters you'll encounter in this game have been drawn from the actual experiences of the 502nd Regiment over those seven days. Consequently, you can expect early missions to involve linking up with other paratroopers and taking out German defenses. From there you'll move on to clearing out towns, blowing bridges, and keeping Jerry from overrunning your command posts.

    Though there are some definite concessions made for the sake of the game, Brothers in Arms is an undeniably authentic experience. From the small things like the offhand reference to the flooded fields that drowned many paratroopers, to the large things like the mission that involves removing obstructions that are preventing the gliders from landing, Brothers in Arms really puts the player there, from the early breakout at Exit 4 off Utah Beach all the way to the final showdown at Carentan. While the main character's story itself isn't all that engaging, the context of the battles is always very clear and meaningful.



    The Basics

    The basic shooter mechanics are solid but you'll probably need to adjust your mindset a bit since you're not the super soldier you are in most other games. Like in Rainbow Six, a couple of hits are sufficient to bring you down in Brothers in Arms. You can opt to play with a reticle or not. It makes the game more realistic to play with it off but it makes it a hell of a lot more convenient to switch it on. In either case, the zoom function makes use of a great iron sights effect where you stare down the barrel and literally have to line the target up in your sights.

    Though the action elements are exciting on their own, it's all stuff we've seen before. It's the squad-based tactics that really make Brothers in Arms so much fun to play. If you've played Full Spectrum Warrior you've got a good idea how this works already. You have two fire teams -- one armed for assault and one armed to provide covering fire. You'll need to maneuver them around the battlefield to suppress and outflank the enemy. Since you'll take part in these fights yourself, you can plan even more sophisticated attacks, catching the enemy in a three-way crossfire.

    The tutorial does a good job of explaining the tactics in detail. You'll find that the basic engagement pattern outlined in the tutorial works throughout the game. Just remember the four F's. First you Find the enemy, then you lay down a base of fire to Fix him in place. Once he's hunkered down behind cover, you maneuver another fire team around to Flank him. Use the angles from this new position to Finish him.

    Your assault team is armed with Thompsons, M1 Carbines, and plenty of grenades. This makes them ideal for rushing in and dealing with groups of enemies at close quarters. The base of fire team is equipped with the BAR and M1 Garands. These weapons are good at laying down lots of fire from a distance. In most missions you'll be equipped with both the M1 Garand and the Tommy gun, meaning you can fit in with either team as needed. If those weapons aren't your style, you're free to switch your weapons out for those you find in the field.

    Moving the squad around is very easy. You just pull the left trigger and the selected squad will move to the location you're aiming at. If you're aiming at an enemy, the squad will commence firing on that position. If you pull the right trigger while holding down the left trigger, you'll order your squad to advance on the enemy position and take them down. It's a really convenient system that lets you accurately direct the actions of both teams from a ground level perspective. You can also opt to have one or both teams stick with you if you like. This makes it a lot easier to get them around on the field but they'll sometimes run a bit too far ahead of you bringing them under enemy fire.
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:41 AM.

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  7. Games   -   #7
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    PAGE 2

    There are some limitations on what you can do with squad management. For one thing, you can only send people to places you can see. While this is almost never a problem, it can cause an occasional inconvenience when you want a fire team to head to the other side of a house. I also thought it was odd that you can't assign the members of your fire team to man fixed machine guns. Those 42s are damned effective but it limits your tactical options when you're the only one who knows where the trigger is.


    A tank will sometimes take the place of one of your fire teams. They're controlled in exactly the same way as your infantry teams. Though it's tempting to let them lead the way in most engagements, you'll need to scout ahead to make sure they're not going to come under fire from anti-tank guns or soldiers equipped with panzerfausts. It's too bad that you won't have the benefit of anti-tank guns when you're facing enemy tanks. You'll have to make do with bazookas. If you can manage to sneak around behind an enemy tank, you can climb on top and drop a grenade down the hatch. Fighting tanks in Brothers in Arms is a seriously deadly business though and you're likely to die several times before you finally start to get it right.
    Though you can tell roughly where your fire teams are and how hurt they are by looking at the compass in the lower left portion of the screen, you can find out much more information by checking the situational awareness view. This zoomed out view pauses the game and gives you a top down view of the action. You can scroll between objective markers, known enemy positions, your friendly teams, and yourself. This mode is great for giving you a clearer understanding of the fields of fire and potential flanking routes around suppressed enemies.

    Like Full Spectrum Warrior, this game makes use of suppression indicators over the heads of your enemies. A round red dot indicates the presence of one to three unsuppressed enemies. An expanding gray wedge indicates they're being suppressed by fire from your own team. The more gray you see, the more suppressed they are. But unlike Full Spectrum Warrior it's still possible for them to pop their head up and shoot back. Even better, you can still sometimes hit an enemy who's cowering behind cover. It's pretty damn hard to hit just the top two inches of someone's head but it can be done.



    If you think the suppression indicators are kind of a cheat (which, face it, they are), you can turn them off completely. Not only does this mean that you'll have to gauge whether or not an enemy position is likely to fire on you but it also means that you'll have to spot the enemy units to begin with. With the suppression indicators on, you'll almost always have a constant awareness of where the enemies are at all times. If you'd rather not rely on them, you can easily switch off these indicators.

    Your inevitable exposure to enemy fire is broadcast very clearly. Rather than relying on the more "gamey" convention of suppression meters, your risk of being hit by the enemy is communicated through a variety of methods that warn you to seek cover soon or risk being taken out entirely. In addition to seeing subtle tracer effects from enemy fire, the screen also occasionally blurs along the edge where the shots are coming from. You'll also sometimes see grass fly up in front of you or dirt clods splatter on the screen as bullets smash into the ground. It's a great way to let the player know their number is about to be up without relying on health meters or flashing fire indicators.

    Even with all these aids, you'll still find that you die a lot in Brothers in Arms. And when I say "a lot" I mean "a whole damn lot." This is something I think might discourage those who are used to the super-soldier style of play found in other World War II shooters. I respect that the difficulty level is in keeping with the overall authenticity of the game and I'll also allow that the extreme danger of the battlefield makes your successes all the more satisfying. Still, there were more than a few encounters where I (yes, even I) seemed to die an excessive number of times. The quality of the rest of the experience definitely drew me right back for another try but you should consider yourself warned: if you're the type of gamer who's easily frustrated by failure, Brothers in Arms will certainly test the limits of your patience and determination. It might also test your ability to punch a hole right in your television.

    Like Halo, the game automatically saves your progress periodically. Every mission has about three of these save spots, usually placed in a small bit of dead space between encounters or objectives. One potential aggravation with this sort of spacing is that the hardest encounter in each save area is usually right at the end so if you screw it up, you'll just have to play through the entire area again before you get to the really dangerous part. The game's dynamic and flexible enough that playing through the same stretch of encounters isn't really as obnoxious as it might be if it all played out the same. If you find yourself getting worked over again and again, the game will even be so nice as to give you the option to heal up all the members of your squad (including the dead ones) before letting you try it again.

    .....

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    PAGE 3

    While some might opt not to heal the squad to preserve the realism of the game, that realism is completely undercut by the fact that the soldiers in your fire team return fully healed at the beginning of each new mission anyway. Consequently, there's no real incentive to keep your team alive, particularly during the last few minutes of a mission. If there are just a few pockets of enemy resistance left in a level, you're not punished for sending both teams right into the teeth of the enemy while you circle around their flank. Losing a particular soldier starts to mean less and less once you realize that you'll be seeing their face again once the new mission starts. Though the scope of the game prohibits replacing veteran soldiers with green recruits, there could at least be a leadership rating that indicates how effectively you used your assets.


    You do gain medals for completing each mission but these merely unlock extra content from the game's production. You'll get access to a few historical items, like Lt. Col. Cole's Medal of Honor award and period pictures of some assets you'll find in the game. You'll also see members of the development team and hear some (very) short voiceovers by Gearbox's military advisor, Col. John Antal (ret.). You do get a video of the game's E3 presentation, with commentary by Randy Pitchford and John Antal. I wanted to see more extras like this. There's a ton of "making of" video on Gearbox's site after all. It would also have been cool to read more about the real life exploits of people like Staff Sergeant Summers and others whose actions inspired the game's missions.

    Graphics

    The visuals will definitely remind you of the Band of Brothers miniseries or Saving Private Ryan. There's a slightly coarse, dirty quality to the image that helps preserve the illusion here. In my opinion most World War II games look far too colorful and clean. You can see from the screenshots that that's just not the case with Brothers in Arms. Almost everything here has some kind of dust or dirt on it.

    That includes the soldiers. I have to say, the character models in Brothers in Arms are some of the best I've seen. It's not just the attention to detail in the uniforms either. Sure, the pockets and patches and buttons and whatnot definitely help to maintain the sense of reality but it's the faces that really sell it. Each soldier has a very distinct face and all of them carry a weary misery and fatal-seeming resolve in their expression. Their sunken eyes will follow you around as you move, giving them a real sense of life. While I like the expressions a lot, the awkward lip sync tends to kill the effect. Just try not to look at people when they're talking to you.



    The graphics also reinforce the strong sense of place. The visual environments here are very believable. The architecture for the towns is first rate. The variety of buildings (and the degree to which they've been blown apart) means that you won't feel like you're walking past the same set piece again and again Hanna-Barbera style. Things like telephone poles, parked trucks, stacked boxes and a host of other details help contribute to the sense of realism here. The vegetation model also enhances the immersion. Though they can get a bit pixeley in close ups, the individual leaves and blades of grass that cover the trees and ground combine to create a completely believable sense of foliage.

    The only bad thing I can say about the graphics is that the textures are a bit muddy. If you stare too long at the road or the side of a building, you'll begin to lose a bit of confidence in the world the game creates. Some of the firing positions are a little obvious but they're usually so well integrated into the environment that they seem less like in-game conveniences and more like natural parts of the world.

    Rather than relying on purely linear layouts for their levels, the Gearbox designers have given us towns that feel like towns, vast orchards with more than just two gates, city streets that branch off in multiple directions. Sure there are the arbitrary roadblocks here and there and no end of locked doors in the towns but there's such a sense of openness in the levels that you never really feel like the developers are forcing you down a path.

    While we're talking about the graphics, it seems like a good time to bring up the issue of violence. The game has definitely earned its M rating but the violence is almost never that graphic. You see puffs of blood when characters are shot of course. This enhances the realism of the game and provides much needed feedback during combat. It's handled very subtly so I don't think the quality of the effect will bother anyone. The quantity is another story. People are getting shot constantly throughout the game so, while you'll never see geysers of blood spewing out at once, you will see lots of those little puffs. While the game shies away from Soldier of Fortune gibbing, there is one scene where you see the incredibly mangled corpse of the victim of a Stuka attack.

    .....
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:42 AM.

    Jeff Loomis: He's so good, he doesn't need to be dead to have a tribute.

  9. Games   -   #9
    cpt_azad's Avatar Colonel
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    PAGE 4

    Sound

    The game's sound design is nothing short of fantastic and drives home the point that you hear a battle just as much as see it. Most times the environment around you stirs with the sounds of war. Bullets whizzing by your head and mortar rounds exploding in a nearby field all remind you that death is never more than a few feet away. The sound of your own gunfire is satisfyingly chunky and gives you a real sense of the power and character behind each weapon.


    The voice acting is pretty good throughout the campaign but the actual dialogue falters at points. Some of the lines are classic. At one point an officer instructs his men: "If you see something, shoot it; if it screams in German, shoot it again." I also like the early briefing where the troops are told to "go tell the Krauts 'hello'...the Airborne way." One soldier asks, "You mean shoot them?" to which the commander irritably replies, "Yes. Obviously."
    Baker's dialogue is the weakest of all unfortunately. At times he just seems to philosophical and reflective. I'd have bought the whole experience more if he had been more business-like and nonchalant rather than sounding like he was auditioning for The Thin Red Line. One final note about the language: there's quite a bit of foul language in the game, particularly at the beginning. Though it's not particularly out of place, it is something parents should be aware of if they're considering buying the game for a kid.

    The music is also great. It's really only present during the menus and loading screens but it's suitably moody and fairly subdued. You probably won't miss the music during the missions themselves. I think having underscoring for the game itself would tend to detract from the intense "you are there" style of presentation.

    As great as the sound is, I did encounter one frequent and frustrating bug. On a few levels, the sound of the Thompson firing just wouldn't stop. Having to endure the constant rat-a-tat-tat made finishing the rest of the mission a real pain.

    The only other bug that I found during the single player campaign came late in the game. During one mission the enemies simply didn't spawn. Reloading the game solved the problem.



    Multiplayer

    The final subject to tackle is multiplayer. Since the game just came out today, we haven't had the chance to put it through its paces like we have with some of our other favorite Live shooters. We have played a bit over Xbox Live here at the office however and have been impressed with the overall experience.

    Multiplayer is purely a mission-based affair here, so you won't find deathmatch or capture the flag options. Rather than offering the sequential objectives found in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Brothers in Arms usually reduces the point of a map to accomplishing a single objective. In pretty much every case, one team will have to obtain and then deliver an objective to a specific location. Sometime you're setting explosives on a bridge, other times you're deliver orders to a waiting vehicle. Either way the pattern is pretty much the same.

    The objective for the other side is usually just to stop the other team from delivering the goods. I would have liked to have seen some alternate objectives for the defending team as just sitting there shooting the order/bomb runners gets a little monotonous. If each side had its own objective, you'd be able to increase the drama and excitement a lot more. Say both teams are fighting over a bridge: the Germans have to place a smoke marker to bring in an air strike, the Allies have to get a radio to call in air cover to prevent the strike.

    Multiplayer is limited to two to four players but, since each player gets at least one squad to order around, the battles seem fairly large. When the character you're controlling dies, you can switch control to another member of the fire team. Once they're all dead, there are a limited number of reinforcements available for each side. If you can't accomplish your objective by then, you lose.

    I can definitely see the multiplayer portion of the game having a lot of appeal but, honestly, after the stellar single-player game, I was expecting a little more variety in the multiplayer modes. If the levels were a little bigger, you'd have more tactical options open to you and if the objectives were less one-dimensional, you could start to work on more sophisticated strategies.


    Closing Comments

    Like most of us here at IGN, I'm still a huge fan of Call of Duty and Battlefield 1942. While those games have their own unique strengths, Brothers in Arms takes some of the best features of each and adds an entirely new tactical dimension. Offering up engaging, squad-based battles and presenting it all in an authentic yet undeniably cinematic setting, Brothers in Arms is a game that, to borrow a phrase from General Patton, "grabs you by the nose and kicks you in the ass."

    There's no denying that the game is hard. It's so hard, in fact, that I literally almost broke my controller in frustration at one point. I believe I also said a bad word. But even when I was feeling hopelessly outclassed by the enemy, I still felt like there were always new approaches to take to circumvent and outwit the opposition. That's what kept drawing me back for more punishment. And when I did finally succeed, I felt it was because I had learned something, that I had discovered a weakness not in the game but in my enemy.

    The addition of Road to Hill 30 in the title indicates that the gang at Gearbox would love to establish Brothers in Arms as a running franchise. We'd love nothing more than to see more titles like this.

    I truly never thought I'd say this but the next time I see him I'm kissing Randy Pitchford on the mouth.

    .....
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:43 AM.

    Jeff Loomis: He's so good, he doesn't need to be dead to have a tribute.

  10. Games   -   #10
    cpt_azad's Avatar Colonel
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    9.5 Presentation
    Overall it's a very convincing and exciting production. The perfect blend of history and fun.
    9.0 Graphics
    The look of the game is undeniably authentic. Character models are the high point here but the environments and effects are also amazing.
    9.0 Sound
    Very immersive. The chaos of the battlefield never seemed so near. Voice work is good but the actual dialogue is hit or miss.
    9.5 Gameplay
    The action is intense and engaging. You'll find the tactical elements are simple to use and are well integrated into the overall shooter format.
    9.5 Lasting Appeal
    The missions vary a little each time you play them and that's enough reason to try the campaign more than once. Multiplayer is a blast.
    9.3 OVERALL
    (out of 10 / not an average)

    9.4 Reader Average

    end of IGN review.

    9.3 out of 10
    Last edited by cpt_azad; 03-03-2005 at 01:45 AM.

    Jeff Loomis: He's so good, he doesn't need to be dead to have a tribute.

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