Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway Updated Hands-On

Gearbox showed off a new level from its World War II shooter at Ubidays in Paris.

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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway was on show at Ubidays again this year, and we're pleased to report that it's looking better than ever. Developer Gearbox chose to show a new level set in a particularly rainy Dutch town, and although some of the visual effects were overdone, it was probably the most complete game on show at the Ubidays event. We sat down to play the game, as well as speak to Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford to catch up on the latest developments.

 Brothers in Arms' rain effects were the most impressive part of the Black Friday mission shown at Ubidays.
Brothers in Arms' rain effects were the most impressive part of the Black Friday mission shown at Ubidays.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway will plot out 10 vital days in the lives of a small group of American soldiers. The level that we saw was called Black Friday, taking place in Holland in September 1942. A vital road through the town of Veghal has been compromised by enemy forces, and while it's a doomed mission, your job is to take back the town so that supplies can make it through the country. The level was characterised by the torrential rain that was pouring throughout the town--something that actually happened on the day in question. With lines of trucks burning away and filling the air with soot, it's a gloomy and overbearing environment, making the Black Friday title all the more appropriate.

While Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway was a little rough around the edges when we previously saw it, this build looked incredibly polished. Now entering the final stages of development, the game is running at a solid frame rate and boasts some excellent graphical flourishes, particularly when it comes to rain. While the effect is a little overdone, it's the most impressive demonstration of rain in a game since Project Gotham Racing 4. You can really see the water pouring over every surface, washing over brickwork and vehicles while weapons actually feel soggy when you're using them. Street lighting looks particularly good, as the rain disperses the light in a highly convincing manner.

The cover mechanics are key to Brothers in Arms, and as long as you're hugging a surface, you're usually safe from harm. Enemies employ the exact same tactics, however, and you'll either have to flank around them or use explosives to break through the cover or flush them out. You can do this yourself, tossing a grenade over the top of a wall, for example, or you can order one of your men to blast through sandbags with a rocket launcher. Working with your team is the key to success in Hell's Highway, and it's very difficult to kill even a solitary soldier without it.

Gearbox has been very vocal about its commitment to historical accuracy, and you'll be able to unlock historical facts about the levels that you're playing as you progress. In addition to this, the developers revealed that they'll be releasing two books alongside the game. One is a story that will fill in two days from the 10-day campaign, and the other is a factual account of the events on which the game is based. The former will be out on July 29 and the latter in September, and they're both written by Colonel Antel, the military advisor who works alongside the developers at Gearbox.

We saw the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game at Ubidays, and while both versions boasted the same visual effects, the PC version definitely had the edge when it came to the water. Nevertheless, the game is shaping up nicely, and we're looking forward to finally playing the finished game later this year. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is being released on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in August 2008.

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