If the Brothers in Arms franchise is sacred to you, you might want to just ignore the next entry, Furious 4. After a long string of tactical, sober World War II first-person shooters, developer Gearbox Software decided to change things up quite a bit—so much, in fact, that many longtime fans are crying foul.
No, they didn’t go the Modern Warfare/Medal of Honor route and move the series into the present day. Instead, they’re offering a completely different take on the WWII shooter. Essentially, they’re throwing out the entire Brothers in Arms template, including the main character, Matt Baker, and replacing it all with a little Borderlands, a little Wolfenstein, and a whole lot of Quentin Tarantino.
Watching the trailer, it’s hard not to notice the obvious thefts from Inglourious Basterds , Tarantino’s over-the-top Nazi-killing flick. A band of four Allied soldiers have been sent on a mission to assassinate Hitler, and each seems like something straight out of a comic book: you have a lumberjack who wields a chainsaw, Doom-style; a mohawked American Indian stereotype who throws tomahawks and sets bear traps; an Irish medic; and a cowboy with a branding iron. Together, they embark on a bloody, disturbing romp through Nazi Germany, slaying everything in their path. Some elements of the story also seem drawn from the real-life “Filthy Thirteen,” a WWII Army unit that took dangerous missions behind enemy lines and wore mohawks and war paint.
It’s not just the basic contours of the story that are a little on the zany side. Much like Bulletstorm, Furious 4 will feature goofy-but-grisly first-person combat with skill-shots and other challenges. And as in Wolfenstein, the Nazis here have succeeded in creating advanced weaponry from their sick research. If you’re tired of standard war games and need a little absurdity to grab your attention, Gearbox is aiming for you. With a really bizarre killing tool of some sort.
Another title from Gearbox, Borderlands, will also make its influence known. Each character will have a different skill tree, and by obtaining XP you’ll earn the right to upgrade your chosen hero. This RPG mechanic served Borderlands well, but we hope that this game does a better job of keeping you from getting overleveled; in Borderlands, the challenge dropped off in the second half (not to mention the DLC) if you did all the side quests.
In addition, Brothers in Arms will have a tremendous emphasis on co-op, supporting up to four players at once. Slicing and dicing Nazis is probably more fun with friends, especially when those Nazis are wearing jetpacks. There will also be ten-player competitive multiplayer with six different modes.
To be sure, Gearbox made a bizarre and controversial decision here. The Brothers in Arms series has a lot of fans, and many of them won’t be thrilled with this dramatic departure from the franchise’s roots. Further, given how different Furious 4 is from the rest of the Brothers games, it’s a mystery why Gearbox didn’t just make it an entirely separate series rather than trying to shoehorn it in where it didn’t belong. But in the end, this looks like an exciting shooter with a unique style and a great blend of features. If Gearbox does a good job of executing everything they’ve planned, Furious 4 should be an enjoyable game, even if it doesn’t fit in with its Brothers in Arms.