Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 Review
The PlayStation 2 version of Brothers in Arms attempts to bring together the best aspects of squad-based shooters and the freedom of a more action-oriented game.
- Lengthy, varied campaign
- Squad commands and first-person control result in a best-of-both-worlds gameplay combo
- Fresh multiplayer design.
- Some issues in pathing, cover AI for teammates
- Command interface feels limited at times
- Game doesn't seem to be balanced properly.
We'll admit it. When we first heard about Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, a small voice inside our heads said cynically, "Just what the world needs...another World War II-based first-person shooter." Sure, it has some squad command mechanics, but it wasn't lost on us that those design aspects were rather similar to another military game, Full Spectrum Warrior. Brothers in Arms differs in that it puts a gun in your hands and actually lets you pull the trigger. The game is paced more deliberately than other popular WWII shooters, such as Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, but it still offers a great deal of intensity and realism in its battles. The multiplayer aspect maintains the squad command mechanics of the single-player game and gives it a fresh and unique feel. Despite all these factors going for it, the PlayStation 2 version of Brothers in Arms doesn't quite measure up to the PC and Xbox versions. The game feels noticeably unpolished across the board, with muddier graphics, tinny sound effects, and, most egregiously, problems with the game balance.
Brothers in Arms puts you in the role of Sgt. Matt Baker, a real-life member of the 101st Airborne Division. The game's 17-chapter campaign stretches over a week's time. You'll start out the night before D-Day, when you and the rest of the division parachute behind enemy lines into France, fighting your way into and capturing the town of Carentan. Each chapter and all the settings are based closely on actual missions carried out by Baker's platoon. As you beat each mission, you'll unlock extras, such as photographs and reconnaissance photos, which show you how closely the game's levels match what Baker's platoon fought through in the critical first days of the invasion.
The game's presentation attempts to be cinematic, borrowing cues from popular World War II fare such as Band of Brothers. Every chapter begins with a simple screen and title in stark white letters, narrated somberly by Baker's character. You'll also watch some in-engine cutscenes before and after missions that not only summarize the previous mission in the context of the war, but also get you personally acquainted with the rest of your squadmates. These presentational aspects set the mood of the game well, but unfortunately can't be skipped. There is one thing that breaks the mood of the game, and that's when squadmates who die in the course of your gameplay all of a sudden appear fully healthy in the next mission. It's also worth noting that some of the dialogue has been stripped out of the PS2 version of the game, so certain scenes and conversations feel disjointed. Sloppy audio splicing exacerbates the problem.
The quiet, introspective thoughts that Baker and his squadmates share between missions are a stark contrast to the intense, chaotic battles you'll fight. The game's campaign offers an interesting mix of mission types. Some will have you assaulting small towns crawling with German infantry, machine gun nests, and snipers. You'll also explore hedgerows filled with hidden mortar teams and German 88mm guns, which are a menace to your tanks. Another chapter has you clearing obstacles off of heavily defended farms in order to make a path for gliders to land. You'll need to deal with enemy tanks on a couple of missions, and while you will often have access to a bazooka or your own armor under your command in these cases, it's often easier to sneak up behind the enemy tank, climb onto it, and drop a grenade into the hatch to take it out. You'll also be treated to shooting gallery-style missions later on, where you're defending a position while armed with a sniper rifle. The campaign should last most players more than 10 hours on their first play-through.
Depending on the mission, you'll command either one or two squad elements, each of which can consist of a few infantrymen or a tank. Infantry are either designated as an assault team or a fireteam. The former is usually armed with submachine guns and is better at charging and eliminating enemies, while the latter carry rifles and are better at establishing a base of fire on an enemy position for suppression. Like in Full Spectrum Warrior, you'll see icons over enemy positions to signify their condition. Fully suppressed enemies aren't supposed to move or fire much, and when they do shoot, their accuracy is poor. Unsuppressed enemies are supposed to be much more accurate with their shots and may actually move, either to get a better attack position or to find more-useful cover. At least, that's how it works in the Xbox and PC versions of Brothers in Arms. In the PS2 version of the game, suppressed enemies get a bead on you too quickly when you try to flank them. They also don't seem to lose much accuracy when they fire back at you, and sometimes they'll even charge at you instead of cowering in place as in the PC and Xbox versions. Overall, it feels as though the PS2 version of Brothers in Arms wasn't properly balanced, and some situations become difficult to manage because the game's central design element doesn't operate as intended.
At any rate, the design conceit gives you some incentive to actually use established army doctrine to find, fix, flank, and finish the enemy. One or two of your elements hold an enemy down with a base of fire, while you can move yourself or use another element to flank around the side to take that enemy out. Players who are more hands-on will obviously want to take the finishing aspect into their own hands, while more strategic-minded players still have the option of sending in a squad element to do the dirty work. It's also worth noting that, unlike in Full Spectrum Warrior, enemies behind cover are not invincible to direct fire. If you're a good shot with a rifle, you can still pick off an enemy who pokes his head a little too far out from behind cover. In the PS2 version of the game, the effect of cover is actually a lot less pronounced than in the PC and Xbox versions, both for enemies and for your own troops. This turns out to be a double-edged sword of sorts. While it can be easier to take out enemies without using flanking maneuvers, you'll find that your own troops or your own character get hit with enemy fire when they should be protected. It's rather frustrating that your teammates often die from just two hits in the PS2 version of the game, unlike in the more forgiving Xbox and PC versions. Again, this calls the game balancing into question, as the missions in the PS2 version of the game are noticeably more frustrating.
To help you with the job of maneuvering, Brothers in Arms includes a mode called "situational awareness." It's basically a pause state that zooms out and gives you an overhead view of the map with limited rotation and zoom ability. From here you can examine your own position and the position of your squad elements relative to that of known enemy positions. This mode is extremely helpful, as it allows you to make more intelligent decisions about maneuvering and positioning. You can only see enemy contacts that you've already made, so you can't cheat to see what else might be lying in wait up ahead. However, it's still possible to use the situational awareness mode to confirm the number of enemies behind cover, so there is some advantage to always peeking at this screen every time you find a new contact.
- Player Reviews: 82
- Game Universe:
- Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (PC, XBOX, PS2, MAC),
- Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway (PS3, X360, PC),
- Brothers in Arms: Double Time (WII, MAC),
- Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 (X360, PS3, PC),
- Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood (PC, XBOX, PS2, MOBILE, MAC),
- Brothers in Arms: Complete Collection (PC),
- Brothers In Arms DS (DS),
- Brothers in Arms: D-Day (PSP)
- Offline Modes:
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Team Oriented
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
4 Players Online