Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway - Xbox 360 review

The Brothers In Arms series was the perfect accompaniment to the WWII based Call of Duty titles. While the latter was straight action, BIA handed you total control of the chaps on the battlefield.

So as well as worrying about your own behind, you had a whole group of men to think about too. But instead of being overly confusing and hectic, the innovative control method meant you were laying down covering fire and flanking enemies with devilish ease.

The series now makes its much delayed appearance on the current batch of powerful consoles. And most would be happy merely with a new lick of paint. It’s been a long 3 years since Brothers In Arms made its last appearance on the PS2/Xbox, and little much has changed.

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. You wouldn’t criticise Christiano Ronaldo for not adding a new trick when he’s scoring 30 goals a season. Again it’s all about finding cover, laying down suppressive fire, and ultimately flanking and taking out the enemies in your way. And all that remains really good fun. It might sound like it could get a little repetitive, but when a tactic works, why would you want to go and change it.

Thankfully a few additions have been tossed in to spice things up. The addition of bazooka teams and the now deformable landscape adds a whole new touch of strategy. Now if an enemy is camped behind a flimsy wooden fence or batch of sandbags, toss a grenade their way and their cover will be blown to bits, leaving them exposed to a hail of gunfire.

It might not sound much, but that is an incredible new feature. Previously you’d be restricted as to how to flush out an enemy, but not you can simply machine gun that fence and force them to exposure. There are a few jarring moments – even bazooka fire won’t make a dent in the few bits of metal cover dotted around – but ultimately this new feature is a major plus for Hell’s Highway.

The other big new feature isn’t quite so hot. If you snipe an enemy, blow a head off, or toss a grenade into a batch of Germans, the Action Camera starts. This zooms the action up close, allowing you to watch heads blow apart, limbs fly off, and enemies fly into the scenery.

The problems with this are two-fold. The first is it’s incredibly jarring. When you’re smack bang in the middle of a hectic battle, the last thing you want is a zoomed in slow motion moment to cause you to lose your bearings.

Plus, for a series that’s based on real life events, it seems a little much. It’s not the most violent game out there, and we’re not calling for censorship at all, but for an alleged "realistic" title, it seems a nudge too close to bad taste. But you can switch this feature on and off in the options menu, so you can easily judge for yourself.

Hell’s Highway controls just like all the other BIA titles. Your controller is set out just like any modern FPS, but the left trigger is your squad command button. Hold this down and point it at a spot of cover, and your chosen squad will head there and dig in. Aim it at an enemy or deformable cover, and the icon will change and your chosen action will be done. Ridiculously easy, and it means you can get stuck right into battle like a veteran even if this is your first taste of the series.

It’s not all team combat however. While flanking with Sergeant Baker (the soldier you control) yourself is just like playing any FPS, there are instances where you’re left on your own. These short sections really show that Hell’s Highway couldn’t cope without the squad-based gameplay. Compared to Call of Duty 4, these sections are frustrating and dull. And considering the first section is one of these, you’d think they might be a little more fun packed.

If you’ve not played any of the previous games you might find the story hugely confusing. Though there’s a short catch-up at the start, unless you know the recurring characters during cutscenes, you’ll be left confused. It doesn’t help that the story is fairly dull, and the script is incredibly unremarkable. A big bleh from us.

Even graphically things aren’t totally top notch. While fairly impressive thanks to the deformable cover, it’s odd to see that the graphics don’t look half as good as the early developer videos. Plus, you’ll notice a lot of textures loading up much too slowly, particular during cutscenes.

Verdict

Online it all depends on who you play with. Get a good squad together and you’ll have a riot. Covering for each other, laying down fire for your compatriots to flank, its fantastic stuff. But get in a game where everyone is only looking out for themselves and it becomes a poor Call of Duty 4 rip off.

It might do its damnedest to try and turn you off, but the flaws ultimately can’t hide what’s a fantastic game. It’s not quite as good as it could have been with a little extra polish, but Hell’s Highway is one that could just push the new Call of Duty all the way.