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Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 Review

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 Box art
Developer:Gearbox Software
Genre:First Person Shooter
Official Site:http://www.brothersinarmsgame.com/
Release Date:March 18, 2005
Reviewer:Craig Dudley (Mani)
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Brothers in Arms is a game we've been very interested in here at gameSlave, we love World War 2 games. Well, we love anything with that hint of reality that makes it easy to relate to, guns that fire green blobs of goo just don't do it for us. So, a game set in WWII that promised to be the most realistic experience yet obviously got us excited. Add to that the much vaunted squad control system that would surely add an extra dimension to a slightly stale FPS genre and Gearbox couldn't go wrong? Our one worry was the simultaneous launch on consoles, in recent times this has had the nasty habit of producing PC versions that frankly stink, a worrying trend indeed.


Graphically Brother in Arms is a bit of a mixed bag, in general it does a fine job of portraying the environment, texture quality is pretty good for a console game but does fall short of what I currently expect on the PC. The same thing holds true for the player models, while they are pretty good, the German models in particular are a bit blocky, similarly the player skins and textures are perfectly acceptable but don't reach the same levels attained by Doom3 and Half-Life 2. Model movement is a little odd at times too, they tend to glide over the ground, still moving while their feet are supposedly touching the floor. It's quite like ice skating at times.

Still, I won't bitch about graphics, I just trying to make the point that while Brothers in Arms does generally look good, it's not going to blow you away. Anyway, it's gameplay that matters, right?

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The last point I'll make about how the game looks is perhaps it's most impressive feature, the weapons, it's clear how much time Gearbox have spent modelling them to their real life counter-parts, even looking down an iron sight has an impressive blur effect that does a great job of simulating looking through 2 eyes on a flat 2D screen, without doubt, the best and most realistic iron sight yet.

The same attention to detail is also apparent in most of the level design, accurately mapped out buildings, courtyards and farm yards really do give you a feeling of being in Normandy, having stayed there several times as a child I can certainly say that I recognised the general look of the area.


Sound is one area where I'll give Brothers in Arms it's due credit, all the effects really do sound realistic, environmental sounds are also excellent. I'm never one to go on about sound and today is no exception, suffice to say that the sound effects are great.

Voice acting can be a bit of a minefield, get it wrong and your game is going to sound like a cheesy B-Movie, fortunately Gearbox didn't. Most missions have some dialogue with your squad before the action starts, it's always in context, pretty much what you'd expect but it does add that little bit of depth to your team mates, the facial animation is of course key in this equation and Brother in Arms does a decent job here too, though not in the same league as Half-Life 2, it's still very, very good.

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Gameplay is always the largest section of our reviews, this one will be no exception as there is clearly a lot to talk about. Brothers in Arms is of course no ordinary first person shooter, while you can and indeed will need to shoot it's manoeuvring your squad to provider cover fire and then flanking your enemy that will gain victory. Tactics, tactics, tactics. It's what Brother in Arms is all about, suppress the enemy with fire, flank him, take him out. It's different and certainly realistic. The squad control system is therefore pretty central to your gaming experience, luckily it's pretty easy to use, you'll be sending your squad mates to their deaths, I mean, err, objectives in 5 minutes flat. It's also a fair amount of fun.

Tactical awareness mode tries to give you the same sort of understanding of your environment as the real soldiers would have had after pouring over maps for weeks on end, at any time you can zoom out into this mode and get a good idea of the terrain and possible areas of cover, most useful. However, it seems to me that each point of cover you need to use, and indeed the ones your enemy use are exactly the same, slight lowered and different coloured sections of hedgerow seem to be the order of the day here, this is of course an over simplification but it's fair to say that every time you see ones of these hedges, either your expected to use it or a German unit is taking cover behind it.

While the tactical element is fun to begin with, as soon as you realise you can't win without it, it loses its shine. Enemy soldiers simply can't be shot while they are behind 'cover', even if you can see half of their body sticking out, you simply have to flank them until you can see pretty much their whole body. I have to be honest, this simply drove me mad. Enemy AI is also a bit weak, on some occasions if they are suppressed by your squads fire, they won't even notice you standing next to them. Perhaps the most damming fact, is that they never, ever retreat. Again, I am perhaps expecting too much, this game was clearly developed for the console market where processing power is currently at a premium and as such the AI isn't that bad, I just wanted more. I just can't help but feel that if Brothers in Arms had been developed solely for the PC, the AI would have been much better.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again, the current generation of consoles are miles and miles behind a top spec PC, you'd expect that as a good graphics card does cost more than double the price of a console. This is why I'm so disappointed with Brothers in Arms, it's basically a console game ported onto the PC, you get to use higher resolutions on your PC of course and the odd enhanced graphical setting, improved lighting etc. But what we really wanted was better enemy AI, bullets that hit semi-hidden enemy properly and higher quality models. The ability to lean and go prone would also have been nice.

For a confirmed Call of Duty fan like myself, the multiplayer also seems like it was designed to be played on a console, it's fun for a few minutes at a time, ideal for a brief session with your mates before the console needs to be turned off so the women can watch their soap opera. The game is also a little bit short, but does pack in lots of history as an added bonus, mini 'making-of' movies, scans of historical documents etc, which all add to it's value.

I'm sure a specific PC version would have been a much better game, If I was Gearbox, I'd have delayed the PC version and added leaning, going prone and massively improved the AI not to mention allowing you to shoot visible axis soldiers that are apparently behind 'cover'. For me this game is a missed opportunity, it's so, so close to being a real step forward but really only ends up being just about ok.

Brothers in Arms does add a really cool squad dynamic and some much needed realism, this would be great but for the fact that it's built on top of an average first person shooter with a few quite serious issues. It's generally a throw away experience, perfect for the console market perhaps, but I expect more from a PC first person shooter, Far Cry and Half-life 2 are leagues ahead and both significantly longer.

Good stuff

  • Squad control system
  • Excellent iron sight
  • Good voice acting
  • High quality sound
  • Attention to detail

Not so good stuff

  • Enemy AI is not the best
  • Poor quality models
  • At times you can't hit axis soldiers that the game thinks are behind 'cover'
  • Not the longest game you'll ever play

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