Review

Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway Review (PS3)

It's very difficult sometime to keep on open mind when faced with yet another shooter based around World War 2. I want to like them, I really do, but there are just so damn many of them that come out year on year. So when Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway turned up on my doorstep I was a mite disappointed when I discovered it was another WW2 affair and not some kind of heavy metal remake of the 80s Dire Straits classic. Still, not one to bear a grudge I hastily put it in my PS3, waited for the install, waited some more - it took its time - and got down to business. And I initially I was impressed.

The opening sequence showed that Gearbox really is trying to tell a story with a rousing soundtrack and some more than adequate CGI cutscenes helping the plot unravel. However, the most important part of telling a story isn't the graphics or the music, it's the dialogue and the voice acting, and unfortunately both of them are lacking here.





This automatically puts Hell's Highway at a disadvantage as its USP is the fact that there's a story unfolding here, one that will separate it from the pack and not just be another round of shoot-the-Jerries-and-don't-die-yourself. Which unfortunately after a few hours of play, that's exactly what it becomes as you start to skip the story parts as you simply don't have that rapport with the character(s) you're controlling or fighting alongside. Which is a shame as if this wasn't WW2 shooter no.1343, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway wouldn't actually be a bad game at all.

The tutorial is very well devised and extremely simple to follow. Gearbox has created certain opening scenarios that ease you into things so that you gain familiarity with the controls bit by bit rather than everything being dumped on you at once. You don't just get told what button presses do what, you are also given mini-missions to do to help you learn by doing, which is always the best way, so kudos to the development team for that.





The game is all about where you place your troops (obviously, as it's a squad shooter) and this naturally requires complete accuracy and understanding between you the player and what you envisage in your head as you're controlling your squad, and what actually happens on screen when you let go of the buttons. Which again doesn't exactly play out in reality here. Sometimes the squad stands on the wrong side of the wall you point them to, especially when ordering them to do so from a flanked position. Also, sometimes they simply take cover and don't actually open fire. Basically, it doesn't always work as you'd like it to and thus you're at an immediate disadvantage. However, on the easier levels, the AI is so basic that the enemy just stands in the middle of the battlefield so you can take most of them out yourself if you use cover well.

After you have annihilated a bunch of Germans the game checkpoints and you move on. Unfortunately however, sometimes you end up much further up the area map than the game has counted on, so as soon as you checkpoint and the next wave of ze Germans appears, you suddenly find yourself completely hemmed in, unable to move anywhere. Not good. However, if you do die you start further back, your military mates are revived and you can play the next mission as the game intended.

My biggest gripe though is the atmosphere. You just don't really feel like you're in a war zone fighting in arms with your brothers against the Olde Enemy surrounded by flack and fire. Yes there is shouting and yelling across the battlefield, but the gun sound is so pithy and "put-put" that they disconnect the player from the experience. In a shooter, it's all about the firing of a weapon, and that weapon must feel satisfactory in your hand or there's no point.





So it all boils down to that Brother in Arms: Hell's Highway could have been so much more than it was. I doubt anyone is at fault its' just in a crowded genre you really need something fresh and new to get yourself noticed and although Gearbox has tried its best in terms of offering a deep, involving story and ramped up the production value, the very fact that good script-writers and voice actors are very thin on the ground make it an uphill task from the outset.

However, if we look beyond the politics I must say that as a stand-alone squad shooter it's a solid game if slightly unremarkable. If World War 2 is your thing then sure, go for it. However, you might want to wait and see how COD5 fairs and make your choice then: yet another World War 2 game to look forward too. Or not.

Top Gaming moment: Slow motion headshot from long range

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Comments

By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Oct 10, 2008
Wowerine
Good review Mike. WW2 it is...
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 10, 2008
Praetorian
Just got this, i recommand this to everyone who realy likes good FPS's awsome game.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Oct 10, 2008
lichlord
this looks good :)
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 10, 2008
Praetorian
The more and more i get inside this game it better it gets, just an awsome game people...Bit brutal and the wounds are to realistic i would rate it 18+ gota go funn awaits me lol...
By Stew (SI Member) on Oct 11, 2008
Stew
I liked the demo, I might have to pick this up.
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 12, 2008
Praetorian
Do that you will have a lot of funn :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 12, 2008
herodotus
Okay Praeto, you arm-twister. I've pre-ordered Red Alert 3 and Far Cry 2 (with cash for Fallout 3 and CoD5)...now I'm going to have to get this. Might just wait for the November Sales, if you can leave me be:D
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 13, 2008
Praetorian
Sroy hero i cant, im having a very realistic ww2 experience its hard not to talk to someone lol...GET THE GAME lol :)
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Oct 13, 2008
Wowerine
Preatorian, you really got in to this. Hope you wont need rehab after all of this...
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 13, 2008
Praetorian
Maby i will lol, after good games usualy i want need one its at the same time a rehab hehe...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Oct 15, 2008
herodotus
Rehab is for quitters (besides they wouldn't allow gaming). Bought my copy of BIA: HH today and if its' rubbish, I'm coming to see you Praeto (with my 8 foot mate).
By Praetorian (SI Core) on Oct 20, 2008
Praetorian
(gulp) Well i hope youll like it then...:P I know you will
By sharpe_ (SI Veteran Newbie) on Nov 14, 2008
sharpe_
Love the slo-mo head shots, just amazing...
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
nobuargaoda
Hey, compared with the CoD world at war. Which one is the best?
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Dec 07, 2008
herodotus
CoD:World at War by a mile. BiA:HH will be on budget by June next year, asi it really is aimed at a small section of the shooter gamers. I have it, but I'm not overly impressed, and strongly recommend CoD.
By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on Dec 07, 2008
nobuargaoda
We have same opinion about CoD, herodotus. It's better than BIA:HH. And i love killing japs with bayonet and flamethrower. Cool!