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Brothers in Arms:HH ~ Despite the homo-erotic name, is actually awesome

So I should tell you I don't like war games, that is to say I don't like any of the poor WW2 games that have been vomited out by far too many developers; the last war game I played, and actually liked, was Allied Assault, and that was like 5 years ago. But hey, it's not like I haven't given them a chance. I've tried all the Call of Duties, the Medal of Honors, the Battlefields...I just don't enjoy them. They turn war in to one mans mission to kill and blow up everything, which is pretty much what 90% of FPS's do, and with more interesting themes.

While I don't doubt that there were true heroes that risked their lives, even lost them, to finish elaborate missions that saved thousands, I just do not care when I am thrown in to a war with a faceless character, get told to kill the jerries and am barraged with wave upon wave of funny talking swastika men while I throw C4 on artillery and swap my army issued pistol for a Luger.

It's all just a lot of the same with some small variations, and I just do not get in to them. I'm not saying they aren't good, just that they are not my thing, so keep your pants on. The point I'm trying to make is that for a war themed game to impress me as much as Hells Highway has, it takes a quite a bit of effort.

First thing you will notice in the game is how well it is directed; for example, the cut-scenes are reminiscent of Band of Brothers, in quality and style, right down to the up-close and shaky camera, dirty/blood spattered lenses, blurring and audio muffling. The great direction is only complemented by believable voice acting, impressive character modeling/animation and a story that actually makes you want to know more. I had never played a Brothers in Arms game before HH, but simply watching the introductory sequence made me want to play through the other games to find out what I missed; it's actually interesting, albeit a little cheesy.

The game is directed in an equally serious manner, with many graphic scenes that will disturb some players.

In one of your earlier missions you are tasked with reconing the area ahead and see a woman being dragged in to a barn by German troops. But by the time you fight through the Germans and make your way from the side of the barn to the door, you step to the entrance and are greeted by a body, hanging from the ceiling, swaying back and forth with only the creaking of the wooden beam to break the silence. It's an awesomely composed shot and makes me want plow through the game for more of those moments.

If you love a good story of war, ala BoB and Saving Private Ryan, you will thoroughly enjoy yourself while playing through this game, as the story only adds to the beautifully crafted gameplay.

The way that Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway differs from the majority of war-themed games is it's use of squads and cover, both being used in unison. You can hit the L1 button to hug literally ANY object large enough to stand/duck behind, from trees, destructible fences/crates, cars that come apart, fallen trees, anything! While hugging the wall your view changes from a 1st person perspective to 3rd person ala Rainbow Six and you can use any direction on your analogue stick to "pop" out from cover.

If your enemy is behind cover, he will also try to pop out and shoot you, you can counter this by firing on their position, causing a small reticule above their head to go from RED to GRAY. This signifies that the enemy is scared to pop their heads out for fear of being capped in the face, this means when they do fire on you, their shots are inaccurate and sporadic; this only lasts for a small amount of time though, until you start firing on them again. This gives you the chance to either flank them, or order your team to flank them while you provide support; you can also move your squad close enough that they will start lobbing grenades at the enemy. Everything is streamlined, well designed and nothing about the combat seems unfair at all; the few times that I have died, I felt that it was my fault for not coming up with a better strategy, not the games fault for providing an unfair death.

Using L2 will order your selected squad to move to a position you designate with a small crosshair on screen; to help, your view changes to a kind of 3/4 top-down view. Your team will move to the position you give them and will take cover/set up an MG/prep a Bazooka, depending on what teams you have at your disposal and who you have selected at the time. All of these options are easily managed with just 2 buttons and create an AMAZING amount of tactical advantages to gameplay.

The amount of tactical options you can use against your enemy are also leveled out by some really smart AI. They provide cover-fire for their friends, they flank, they dodge, they know the difference between destructable and indestructable cover and they will completely change their position depending directly on the situation at hand, nothing is based on scripted events. There has only been one situation in which an enemy has done something stupid, and that seemed to be a clipping issue more so than an AI problem, as the enemy just continously ran in in to the corner of a wall until I shot him; as far as actual bugs go, I have come across absolutely none so far, which is amazing for any game these days.

On top of amazing visuals, beautifully directed cinematics, intelligent AI, solid and intuitive gameplay and well rounded characters, you are given some of the most satisfyingly gory shots in gaming. Every now and then, probably once every 3-4 "encounters", you are treated to a slow motion, zoomed in view of your kill; headshots warrent a close up zoom, while a well placed grenade throw will zoom to an establishing shot and show everything being blown in to the sky, including legless torsos, debris and other body parts. It's all very satisfying and fun to watch, especially considering how little the effect is used.

I am playing on the level above easy and I am actually challenged by the enemy, not challenged as in being constantly killed or walled in to a certain part of the game, but literally CHALLENGED by the enemies actions; each encounter, every position and differing scenario, you need to think, react and give orders in the midst of a firefight, you need to watch your flank, move your squad up, create crossfire and many other tactics or you WILL be pinned down and will eventually be killed.

Brothers in Arms not only sets the bar for war themed games, but for action based FPS's in general. The sheer amount of design and polish in this game is a clear example of where FPS's should be headed, and with releases like Farcry2 and Mirrors Edge focusing more on interactive environments and the use of the players world as part of the story, I think we will only see more and more innovation in regards to FPS's.

If all that doesn't hook you, you can also blow up sheep!
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About Skribbleone of us since 8:17 PM on 01.10.2008

Games I'm playing:

- Left4Dead 2
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2
- Shattered Horizon
- World of Goo
- Metro 2033
- Just Cause 2
Mii code:[email protected]


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