Monday, April 04, 2005

"Brothers in Arms" Review

This is my First complete Review in English (I've written quite a lot in Arabic) hope you like it, I didn't intend it to be this long but there was a lot to tell, Enjoy

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
The Latest WWII Game (is it any different?)

“Oh no… not another WWII game” this was my reaction when I first heard about this game, so I wasn’t expecting anything exceptional from this game, as I thought we have seen everything that can be done in a WWII game, but his game proved me wrong and it demonstrated how WWII theme has something new to offer, Kudos to Gearbox on this fine job, and this is my in-depth review of the game.


It’s almost the worst element in the game, not that it’s real bad just nothing spectacular or worth mentioning and it just pales in comparison to the amazing Graphics we’ve been spoiled by in games like Doom3 and Half-Life 2, and that proves that the game is a direct console port and the developers did not work enough on improving the Engine to benefit from the powerful PC Hardware, so you can expect that every model and mesh in the game is low-Polygon count and low-res Textures, particle effects are good and allows for realistic-looking explosions.

The Developers added to the graphics a bloom effect (like StarWars BattleFront) it’s one-thing-suits-all effect that its generally used in console games to blur out all the details in the game, it’s generally used as a cheap substitute for Anti-Aliasing, character animations are top-notch and their movements are so life-like that you can’t get bored from looking at your teammates watching their idle moves.

I must not forget to mention character models which despite of being low in Polygon count, the developers did excellent job on their faces that they look detailed with Amazing expressions on their faces like fear and caution.

Battle Effects such as explosion and getting pinned down by bullets are great and adds to the realism with blur and de-saturation.


This is where the game stands out, it was a relief to see that the game does not follow the steps of all WWII FPSs like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, which to this point follow the same rule “very-scripted-heavy-action”, instead this game relies on squad leading and tactical fighting.

You Play Sergeant Matt Baker a newly assigned Squad leader which has been dropped in Normandy in the night before D-Day, and the game missions take place in the next 8 days.

The missions are generally good and most of them is exact recreation of real missions that took place in that period from every building, hill and road to the mission objectives which they varies from assaulting enemy positions to defending conquered areas, Level design is interesting and clever and allows for different approaches in completing the mission.

You’re charged with leading one or two teams into the fray, and you use real tactical maneuvers throughout the game, Like suppression and flanking, but that doesn’t mean the game is hard and requires a lot of team management on the contrary you can issue all your orders with just a few buttons, the controls are cleverly simple so that you can get accustomed to them fairly quickly and then use them as an experienced leader.

All of the above could’ve been in vain if team mates AI was bad, but fortunately team AI is excellent and they can take care of themselves even without your orders, when they get fired upon either if they’re moving or standing still they quickly run for cover and start to fire back, also they cover each other when one of them needs to reload, and the AI is very aware of the surrounding environment so they cleverly find appropriate cover when needed, and sometimes you see them switch for another cover if they got hit or don’t have a clear view of the enemy.

Enemy AI is fairly good and manages not to spoil the experience, but it’s not great and could’ve been better, you rarely see the soldiers leave their cover or try to flank you instead they remain behind their cover shooting till you kill them.

Situational awareness System, allows you to monitor the Battlefield from bird-Eye view and you can zoom in any of your units or enemy units to examine its surroundings, it supposedly allows you to plan your attack and approach carefully, but in practice it’s not really necessary, I remember myself using it only dozen times in the whole game, but maybe some other player will find it useful.

The game tries to reflect the horror of the War, by getting you to experience the death of your friends and teammates throughout the course of the game, but it doesn’t work so well because the game does a poor job in introducing them and getting you to really know them, so you can’t feel emotionally attached to them from a only couple of minutes with them, I even didn’t know their names until after they died, they should’ve prolonged the scenes where your friends are talking and maybe introduce some bits about their former life, Men of Valor did a better job than this game and also did Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault.

I must not forget to mention the excellent checkpoint system in the game, the developers made a wise decision to ignore regular save system in PC version which would’ve spoiled the game, instead they used checkpoint system and they placed them according to the pace so they don’t seem too far or near, but as always there are some exceptions I noticed in a couple of places

Another thing worth mentioning, is that when you keep dieing in some Area for a long time (6-7 times maybe) you get an option to heal yourself and your squad and reload, this option helps greatly in certain areas where you or your squad are very low on health and can’t finish the mission.

The Weapons are great and they act as you expect them to do in real life, like the weapons recoil after you fire and the shaky aim that takes a few seconds in the crouching position so that you get a fairly steady aim.

But also the game has its share of problems; the most annoying one is the Effectiveness of the weapons and the damage done, one shot to the head is not enough to kill enemy soldiers most of the time, so you have to shoot them twice in the head or more in other parts of the body to take them down.

And the Enemy tanks have like Magical Awareness of you, no matter how I managed to sneak and hide so that I can reach the tank from behind, I find it waiting with its guns pointed at my direction or even worse it starts shooting before I appear from cover.


The Sound in this game is on-par with the gameplay, weapons sounds realistic also do explosions and the sound of whizzing bullets and all other Sound Effects, concerning music the Theme music is excellent and suitable, but the game chooses to forego music inside missions to keep the experience realistic as possible, but I would’ve preferred a bit of music in certain critical moments of the game to add to the feelings, like when losing a teammate or in a critical fight, something Call of Duty did.
Voice Acting is decent and convincing, but nothing exceptional.


The game is very short, I mean real short that you can finish it in one day if you got carried out in the action, but luckily it’s replayable thanks to the non-linear feel of missions, you can always go back and execute the missions using different approaches and it’s rewarding each time especially when playing in higher difficulty, also the game encourages you to replay the game as it has a lot of Extra content that you can’t unlock unless you finish missions in higher difficulties

I have to mention the Extra content which is great, and lots of it explains how the Developers designed the game and the missions using real photographs and reconnaissance photos in addition to documents and journals from that time.


Brothers in Arms is great game and can easily be put in the same league as Call of Duty, it’s certainly one of the best WWII games and IMO it’s the best game we’ve had so far this year (not that it’s been long enough), I strongly recommend this game to all WWII and First Person Shooters Fans.


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