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Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood E3 2005 Hands-On

We return to the field with the next Brothers in Arms game at E3 2005.


We had a chance to sit down with Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford and military consultant Colonel John Antal for an advance look at the next Brothers in Arms game, Earned in Blood. The new game will attempt to improve on the original game in every conceivable way by including better squad tactics, smarter enemies, more weapons, and all-new battlefields.

In the new game, you'll play as the newly promoted Seargent Joe "Red" Hartsock, the leader of the fireteam under Seargent Matt Baker (the hero and protagonist of the original Brothers in Arms). We watched a brief cinematic sequence in which noted military historian Colonel S. L. A. Marshall interviewed Red at a debriefing just after the battle of Carantan from the original game. Unlike the original game, the new game will have cinematic cutscenes, which, according to Pitchford, will help Gearbox explore the intriguing writings of Marshall, who chronicled the exploits of this very squad during the war (and appears in the game as himself, looking exactly as he did some 60 years ago). This scene recounted the airdrop over the French countryside from the first game, only from Red's perspective--like in the first game, Baker was the first to make a parachute jump after it takes a hit, while the rest of the squad followed suit, save for one unlucky soldier who took a chunk of shrapnel in the chest and never made it off the plane.

We then watched a demonstration in a bombed-out French village crawling with entrenched German soldiers. While the original game focused on field combat in open areas with sparse cover, the sequel will apparently focus on house-to-house urban combat. We watched as a team of troops was guided through the city, carefully pinning down enemy fireteams by suppressing them with direct fire while sending teammates out on the flanks to close in for the kill. As Pitchford explained, it's simply good soldiering to try to make things "as unfair as possible for the enemy, who has no choice but to die." The smartest use of tactics will result in the enemy "trapped on the horns of a dilemma," in Col. Antal's words--such as pinning enemies down with suppressive fire and also tossing a live grenade into their position.

However, the new game's smarter squads will apparently take advantage of poor tactics as well. We watched as Pitchford made contact with two separate German squads and pinned only one down. Within moments, the second squad had actually displaced itself (that is, it picked up and got on the move) and attempted to circle back and flank our own troops. This is apparently why the new game will encourage you to become familiar with engaging your enemy in different ways, such as joining a battle already in progress or creeping up on enemies while hidden and ambushing them. We watched a botched attempt to ambush a crew of enemy soldiers manning an "88" cannon (a powerful antivehicle, antipersonnel turret gun) by climbing into an abandoned building, only to have nearby soldiers detect us and raise the alarm. We had a moment to hear our teammates shouting for us to get out of the house before a shell from the gun tore through the house and nearly missed us, knocking us clean off our feet (and knocking our weapon across the room) and leaving a ringing in our ears.

We then had a chance to try out a brief multiplayer field mission of our own that took place in a series of country foothills dug in with trenches. Earned in Blood will actually have all-new multiplayer co-op modes that will work online (over the Internet on PCs, over the PS2 broadband adaptor, and even over Xbox Live)--and the new game will feature co-op for the Allies as well as for the Germans. This mode will take place on a series of individual maps and may include multiple objectives on the same map (Pitchford suggested that skilled players may find themselves completing as many as 50 to 80 consecutive objectives in one game). This level required us to carefully leapfrog Red's squad with Baker's squad from cover to cover, inching our way through the trenches uphill to take out nests of German soldiers. Co-op seems to have a good feel to it and should be a welcome addition for fans of the original game. Then again, there doesn't seem to be much in Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood that fans of the original game won't like. The new game is scheduled to ship this October.

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