|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gearbox Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-20||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
April 1, 2008 - I walked into a somewhat out-of-the-way building in San Francisco not knowing what to expect. After a short elevator ride, I'm ushered, along with others, into a cozy theater complete with a huge HD projection screen and a phenomenal surround sound system. The room grew dark as the screen illuminated, revealing what I came to see. Although this may sound like a movie screening, it was actually the kickoff of a press event for the upcoming Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway.
The Brothers in Arms series has always put a major emphasis on its storyline and characters. Hell's Highway will be no exception, filled with interesting characters and a compelling story. While in the theater, we were treated to a new trailer and quite a few of the game's story based cutscenes. These cinematics looked amazing on the big screen and should elate fans of the previous Brothers in Arms titles.
Without giving anything away, the story will continue the story arc of the previous games and answer quite a few questions that have been eating away at fans for years. The dialogue between characters feels very natural and genuine while giving you insight into each character's individual personality. The subject matter, as always, will be quite serious in tone, but there is definitely a fair amount of comedy appropriately implemented to lighten the mood.
Although it is the third game in the series, the creators likened Hell's Highway to the Empire Strikes Back of the Brothers in Arms series. The game takes place during Operation Market-Garden, which was actually one of the Allies biggest missteps in World War II. This will create a good change of pace from most war games that usually only cover successful military operations. Aside from the storyline and setting, the game also plays extremely well.
After the video presentations, we were finally able to play through a couple levels of a near-finished build of the Xbox 360 version of the game. Hell's Highway plays similarly to previous titles with a good mix of strategy, squad mechanics, and, of course, shooting. Your squad is controlled using the left trigger. The commands are context sensitive so if you pull the trigger and aim at the ground, your squad will move to that position. If you do the same and aim at an enemy, they will lay suppressing fire upon them.
Suppression will work basically the same for enemies as it will for the player. Enemies have a gray circle above their head; the more fire directed towards them the more the circle will fill in with red. Once fully red, the enemy will be completely suppressed. This means they will fire less frequently, and when they do, their shots are far less accurate. Similarly, when you are fired upon, your screen will begin to grow red as the potential danger of being shot grows. The redder your screen, the more danger you are actually in. When this happens, you will need to find cover quickly or risk being picked off by your German adversaries.
Cover will function differently this time around. Instead of all cover being impervious to damage, as in the past, it will instead react realistically. Hiding behind an overturned table will only buy you a few seconds before it is completely shredded by enemy fire. Covering behind a pile of sandbags will afford safety from most gunfire, but a grenade or rocket could still send the cover flying. The destructible cover makes this game feel a lot more realistic and immersive than in any of the previous titles in the series. You'll no longer just be able to crouch behind a damage immune haystack and plan out your attacks at your leisure. This change forces players to constantly think on their feet about what to do next.
Graphically this game is gorgeous. The cinematics look exceptional, with tons of detail in character's faces such as scars and eyeballs that change shape as lighting changes. While not quite as sharp as the cinematics, actual gameplay looks great as well. Richly detailed characters and environments are made even better by great effects such as fire, explosions, camera grime, realistic lighting, and the red that fills your screen when in danger. The game also includes a slow motion death camera that will spring into action when appropriate. If you lob a grenade into a group of three foes, you will likely be treated to a cinematic view of their corpses, often missing limbs, flailing realistically through the air. Headshots can also trigger these events if spectacular enough, having brain matter splattering beautifully on nearby walls, buildings, and grass.
Fans of the previous Brothers in Arms games will surely not be disappointed by Hell's Highway. All of the improvements that have been implemented should make this the best Brothers in Arms title yet, if not the best World War II shooter on the systems that it will be gracing. Unfortunately, Gearbox was unable to tell us anything about the multiplayer aspect of the game other than that it will exist. If their past outings are any basis for guessing, the online gameplay of Hell's Highway should be excellent as well. We'll just have to wait a couple of months to find out first hand.
CCC Freelance Writer