The Brothers in Arms World War II shooter/action series continues with Hell’s Highway. This fantastic first person shooter (FPS)/action game features an eclectic group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, part of the largest paratrooper operation in World War II and the Nazis' last major victory in the war. D-Day veteran Sgt. Matt Baker and Sgt. Joe “Red” Hartsock lead the troops in Operation Market Garden, a real Allied offensive that didn’t exactly play out as planned. The developers focused on about ten main character story arcs in an involving story, though sometimes it’s hard to distinguish some soldiers by their facial features without a closer look, especially when they’re wearing their helmets. Developers even added some humor, interesting side stories (like Baker’s “cursed” pistol) and hidden history information in levels to give players more background into the actual events.
The squad-based gameplay satisfies especially when players watch their mates making intelligent, individual decisions that don’t ruin the mission. A great control scheme and immediate AI reactions enhance the decision making action. Leading this largely reconnaissance squad well takes a minimal learning curve and intuitive map reading. Most of the time players must “find, fix, flank and finish” the enemy with their squad. No need for much stealth here, but strategy is still important. Solo missions are sparse while developers add historic “Kilroy” (First one in, last one out) points, which are basically bragging rights where players make their mark in the environments they overtake from the enemy.
The well directed cut scenes include some harrowing slow motion close ups and events to galvanize a deep story so players have a more emotional, vested interest in the game. Players can choose between casual and veteran difficulty levels in the beginning, then pick authentic mode once completing this visceral game. In authentic mode, the heads up display (HUD) is gone and the enemy’s abilities are increased. Enemy AI also creates some definite moments in the beginning, but eventually improve. In one instance, you turn to see one go right by you, looking at you the whole way. Veterans may seek the authentic challenge quicker since effective squad commands and tactics can quickly overcome increasing amounts of enemies. Beginners can go at their own pace soaking in the environments and authentic weapons, including a M9 bazooka, BAR and Thompson, come with stable aiming capabilities.
Some weapon bunkers/stations let you shoot while others do not, so be careful with battlefield tactics. Good use of the map and general observations allow players to flank the enemy – a highly successful tactic while sneaking up behind the enemy as the squad diverts attention away from you is the icing on the cake. Blow apart cover…and the enemies too as developers ramp up the physics and gore departments for a more realistic experience.
Suppression (using the fire order) and recovery icons over the enemy can also help with battlefield observations. Players get realistic cover and scenarios as they disperse the squad the best way possible. Players also recover health in cover prompting players to master this essential action. Vaulting over obstacles and objects also becomes a major movement. Don’t worry about making a lot of noise. Enemies mainly trigger their attacks when players (more likely their squads) move through a certain range.
Players can battle with up to 20 other online including a 10 vs. 10 mode. HUD differences and coordinating with other players are the major adjustments in the multiplayer mode compared to the single player mode. Highly recommended FPS for the meaningful action and strategy elements, which challenge players to do more than just mindlessly rip through the enemy. PS3 gamers need about 2 GB of hard disk space for this quality title. Also available in limited edition.
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for intense violence, strong language and blood/gore. This game can also be found on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360.