|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gearbox / Gameloft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 19, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Jostled from a swift descent, the sound of gunfire and explosions drawing nearer, a flurry of quick-spoken German and the creaking rumble of tank treads below signal immediate danger as an enemy patrol passes beneath your dangling feet. In a nearby field a downed American plane thunders past, erupting into flame and sliding into a building with concussive force.
Within seconds of cutting free from your parachute and joining an allied squad in traversing the battle-scarred landscape towards the closest village, it becomes evident that you're in for quite an experience. In reality, war is hell but in Brothers in Arms DS it's close to heaven on the DS.
From the get-go it's clear that Gameloft set out to develop a near console-level production with its handheld version of Gearbox's Brothers in Arms DS series on the DS. The game's 3-D graphics, visual effects, and high-level of detail are impressive, stretching the system's hardware capabilities beyond what players have become accustomed to on the DS. Some concessions had to be made, however, due to the limited amount of space available on a single game cartridge. Important aspects of previous games have been stripped out completely - namely a transition from first-person to a third-person perspective and a de-emphasis on squad-based tactics. Also, BIA's three campaigns, consisting of 16 levels altogether, are brilliant but ultimately the game feels too short; players should be able to plow through its entirety in a matter of hours. Fortunately, it's easy to overlook these and several other imperfections once you get absorbed in the action.
What the game lacks in length it makes up for in intensity. The action is virtually non-stop. BIA adeptly captures the heart-pumping chaos of WWII: sprays of machine gun fire tear up the dirt as bullets rip past, unexpected explosions of artillery sends your allies flying through the air, buildings are torn asunder from blasts of rockets, and enemy soldiers swarm at you from all directions. This translates into an incredibly fast-paced and often frantic gameplay experience which is further enhanced by realistic sound effects and voice-overs from friend and foe alike. Allies will bark orders on mission objectives, offer encouragement or cry out in pain. And when you get close enough, the Germans offer their own jibes. There's little in the way of actual music, but the crisp audio effects make up for it.
The levels themselves look great and give the appearance of being vastly open even though they are basically linear in nature. For the most part, players follow a single squad of soldiers - which have fairly low A.I. - around buildings, through fields, and over obstacles while battling German forces in historic encounters including D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and Tunis in the North African desert. There's little time to waste in each mission as you move from one objective to the next. In some places, players will be able to pilot a 4x4 jeep or jump into the belly of a Sherman Tank which provides a nice break from hoofing it.
The game is played entirely with the d-pad and stylus in a way similar to its PC counterparts. By dragging the stylus along the touch screen, players can aim in any direction while firing is controlled by the left trigger. The stylus control speed is decent but will likely feel too sluggish for some players' tastes, especially when trying to turn around quickly to ward off a group of enemies from flanking your position. An option to adjust the control sensitivity would save players some frustration. Changing weapons is as easy as tapping an icon and selecting from a handy drop-down menu. Lobbing grenades is equally simple: you tap the grenade icon, drag the strength indicator to the desired throwing distance, and let go.
Aside from sniping or piloting a vehicle, the default camera view sits just behind your soldier, affording an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective which works well and allows you to use various obstacles for a tactical advantage against the enemy. Running up to barriers allows you to automatically crouch down and take cover in a firefight. When walking up to the side of a building you can place your back to the wall and adjust the camera to look around and take aim. Hitting the trigger will then send you whipping around the corner to take your shots before sidestepping back behind cover. Other simple controls delegated to the touch screen - such as being able to sidle up to an enemy tank, climb aboard, and drop a grenade inside before leaping off to safety as the vehicle erupts in a fireball - is much appreciated.
On the whole, Brothers in Arms DS succeeds on many levels, though the game's short length will likely leave you wanting more when all is said and done. Nevertheless, it serves as an excellent example of what can be done on the DS platform when a developer puts enough time and effort into a project. The game sets a solid benchmark that other developers would do well to emulate and seek to improve on. With superior graphics, enticing gameplay, realistic environments and fistfuls of action, BIA has a lot going for it. Not to mention, it's just plain fun.
CCC Freelance Writer
Impressive cutting edge graphics and sound effects.
16 action-packed missions over the course of three different WWII campaigns. Local multiplayer deathmatch further extends the fun.
Pilot jeeps and tanks to gun down and crush enemies in addition to utilizing a variety of weapons.
Detailed and somewhat destructible environment