Find them, fix them, flank them and finish them: this novel approach to the squad based World War 2 shooter debuted early this year in Brothers in Arms: the Road to Hill 30. Now the formula returns for an encore in Brothers in Arms Earned in Blood, however, it is just not as good as it was the first time. This game represents a classic case of ďfull priced expansion packĒ syndrome. While the game does offer a very nice story and some strong characterization, the rest of the game suffers from being pushed out the door a bit too quickly. The fact that the game was released merely months after the original makes it a tough sell at 50 dollars when the game reeks of ďbeen there done that.Ē
|One area of Brothers in Arms where there isnít too much to complain about is the gameís story and characterization. Now, instead of focusing on Matthew Baker, the story shifts to the character known as ďRedĒ after the hue of his hair. It tells of what he was doing in the weeks after D-Day in battles around Carentan, Hill 30 and ending up at the fortress of Saint Saveur. Baker and others return though and the realism of the soldierís idle conversation and Redís narration make for two of the strongest points of this game. You really come to care about your soldiers more than as mere pawns on a chess board. Every time I lost a man, even knowing that I could revive them, I felt some pang of guilt as if Iíd done something seriously wrong which led to his death.|
"Every time I lost a man, even knowing that I could revive them, I felt some pang of guilt as if Iíd done something seriously wrong which led to his death."
The gameplay as I said returns the formula of the 4 Fs. Locate the enemy, suppress the enemy flank and kill the enemy. Basically this is a rinse and repeat tactic. While you can get kills with direct fire even occasionally to an enemy behind cover trying this is futile compared to playing exactly as the game wants things done. To avoid making this too challenging, the game provides you with access at all times to a limited view map of the surrounding area--with the positions of all the German troops that youíve found. As such, flanking the enemy is quite easy and the game works out a lot like a puzzle game. It presents a problem and expects you to solve it the way it wants you to. If you try to deviate from the way it wants you to do it, more often than not the game is going to punish you with bullets, and youíre going to take significant damage. Like the first game, you canít take more than a round or two of direct fire with no cover before you or your squad end up dead. The rinse and repeat nature of the combat gets a little tiresome and the clearly forced obstacle-course nature of the levels can get a bit tiresome. Especially since the game relies on a few checkpoints per level to let you save--thus meaning one mistake can mean a lot of repetition.
The game ups the difficulty a bit from the first game as the AI is a bit more aggressive and is less likely to wait around to be flanked. If it sees you, itíll make the attempt to run across a field to better cover, but this will present an opportunity to get them as they move. This also makes a game that was already a little on the frustrating and repetitive side at times even worse. Furthermore, the novelty of the command system has now completely worn off. Whereas in the first game I was really intrigued by how the system works and keeping track of everything that was going on, this seemed all very old hat. I just did exactly as I knew to do and hoped for the best. The only reason I really continued at the game was because I was interested in seeing the story.
The gameís graphics are just like they were in the first game. Where in that game the combination of light bloom with the 2nd generation unreal engine looked pretty it is six months later now and after finishing FEAR and Call of Duty 2 just before this game the graphics in Brothers in Arms now look pretty ďold hatĒ. Not really bad by any stretch of the imagination but nowhere near as good as they looked in the spring.
"The gameís graphics are just like they were in the first game."
Brothers in Arms still has a top rate musical score and the voice acting in the story is the best Iíve seen in a shooter. The sound effects are also quite good but the ambient sound doesnít seem as impressive as it did six months ago. Whereas the amount of screaming in the first title seemed impressively chaotic it seemed very much muted next to Call of Duty 2. Again itís not bad by any means--compared to many games itís quite good--but itís not half as good as it seemed earlier this year.
|The first game had a unique multiplayer in its squad versus squad implementation but it really wasnít my bag back then, and surprisingly itís still not my bag. The only major change I saw was the addition of a skirmish mode that lets you pit yourself in squad versus squad action with the AI controlling the other squad. Itís safe to say, that if you want more of the same youíll enjoy the multiplayer here, but if youíre looking for something drastically different itís just not going to happen. If you didnít play the first game, instead of Deathmatch or Capture the Flag, youíre placed in the role of a squad commander against another squad commander and you and your squad duke it out against their squad.|
I donít really think this game offers great value for the money. If it were a thirty dollar expansion pack it would have been lovely, but at fifty dollars for a new story and more of the exact same gameplay we got earlier this calendar year, itís just not a good deal. Like the first game, this is also a fairly short game clocking in just over 10 hours--possibly longer if you find yourself frustrated for more than 2 or 3 tries at the harder parts. Furthermore, I played this immediately following Call of Duty 2, which isnít comparable in gameplay style, but it does highlight some of this gameís deficiencies. If you were a hard core fan of the original and really dig tactical strategy then youíll probably like this, but for my money it just didnít do enough different from the original to spend a full fifty dollars. Itís not bad--itís just not as good as the first game which came out so recently that I really didnít need a sequel yet.
"If it were a thirty dollar expansion pack it would have been lovely...but...itís just not a good deal."
In and of itself this game isnít bad. But given that FEAR and Call of Duty 2 are out there and that Brothers in Arms came out this spring it just doesnít seem like itís worth the time and money to pick this up at full price. While it certainly is fairly competent in most areas it just doesnít have the magic the first game had, and isnít at the top of its class in terms of gameplay anymore. A little more time in the oven and some more tweaking would have made all the difference here.
AMD XP 2500+, Geforce 6600GT, 1GB PC 2700 Ram, N-Force Sound
- 4 Fís can still be fun
- Story much better than average war shooter
- Always challenging and engaging
- More of the same
- Short lived
- Too soon