Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway
Ubisoft – Xbox 360 / PC
In the Hell’s Highway intro, your man Sergeant Matt Baker poses the question “What is it that makes a great soldier- His brain or his heart-” The same question could be posed of “What makes a great first person shooter-” and unfortunately in the case of Brother’s In Arms: Hell’s Highway the summation would be that it has neither great brains nor great heart. For while there are some truly exceptional first-person war shooters out there, the Call of Duty series and the recent Battlefield: Bad Company being a couple that spring to mind, the most recent addition to the Brothers In Arms series is merely average – not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination, but not outstanding enough to justify your time and money over superior titles.
Take, for instance, the cut-scenes. Long cut-scenes are all well and good if they’re either a) properly funny/exciting or b) intended to set up plot and relationships and make us care about the characters. When they do neither, you’re left wondering what happened to the last ten minutes of your life and if maybe you shouldn’t go out for a jog instead. Yes, I know it’s based on true events from WW2, but if I wanted a poorly acted history lesson I’d watch Saving Private Ryan – when it comes to gaming I don’t want to find myself thinking of the friends and family left behind every time I cap a pixelated German. At least the graphics are pretty enough to sustain some interest, except for when they suffer occasional issues with texture-fill and frame-rate, making the viewing and playing experience clunky.
The control system is pretty much the same as every other first person shooter, with the one innovation in this title being the squad control system, which allows you to send your team off to strategic points to take out the enemy – mastering this system is pretty much the only way of mastering the game, as the landscapes are laid out with enemies positioned so you can’t just go vigilante and take everyone out yourself. Making the left trigger the ‘deploy team’ button was an odd decision, though – I kept sending my team out into the shitstorm of No Man’s Land by accident.
Another great element is the functionality of being able to drop in behind cover, but the control system for shooting from behind said cover is anything but – wielding the left control stick, you’re supposed to lean up and over the cover to shoot, but more often than not end up turning around in circles trying to make your avatar do what it’s supposed to. The ‘direct hit’ cut-scenes were great – a little video zooming in on the hapless Nazi getting his brains splattered everywhere when you score a head shot – but all up I found the control system and shooting action less satisfying than other comparable titles. One for fans of the series, I think.