Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood Review

Sequels are an odd thing. You sometimes can surpass the original, see The Empire Strikes Back, and at times the sequel is just about the same as the original. Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood for the PS2 is more of the latter and for those that played the first game can be the judge if that is a good thing or not. For those among you that haven't played the original I'll give you the lowdown if this is a game that you need to visit or pass it by.

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood is the sequel to Road to Hill 30 which was generally regarded as a standout WWII shooter in a crowded category. OK, that statement needs a little more refining...let's say it was a well reviewed game for the Xbox and PC, not so much on the PS2. Earned in Blood is much the same. I have been hearing good things about this game but after playing it I wondered why. The game I'm playing just is not worthy of all the good praise that I've heard. Well it turns that the warm reviews were for the Xbox version and not the is unfortunate but the innocent PS2 owners are getting the worst end of the deal here. Just to be sure that I wasn't just imagining things I rented the Xbox version and, yes, it is a much better game. Sorry.

Earned in Blood (EIB) is a little of a hybrid of a game, mostly first person shooter with some squad based tactics tossed in. Throughout the game you control Sgt. Joe “Red” Hartsock who was actually a non-playable character in the first game. Joe's storyline at times crosses paths with Matt Baker who was the main man in Road to Hill 30 which is kind of neat for those who played the first game. Quickly, the basic story follows the adventures of US soldiers behind enemy lines after the invasion of Normandy. More often than not you will be receiving your orders through cutscenes although there are a few mid-mission orders you'll be given on the battlefield. EIB tries to bring a more personal touch by getting you to know not only the main character but also his team members and does this through a very cinematic style that works more often than not.

As far as the graphics go, they do not seem to have changed much one way or the other. They are best described as average with nice animations but with the occasional sputter in the framerate. I expected to see more detail with this being a sequel, but it looks like the developers figured they were good enough and saw no reason to spend time tinkering with them. But it might also be the case that the PS2 just isn't quite up to the challenge in the same way as the Xbox and PC. The musical score, voice acting, and sound effects are all well done and add a great deal to the dramatic feel and grand scope of the game and are more impressive than the graphics.

I mentioned that EIB is a bit of a tactical squad game so if you like your shooters pure you may not like this added level of play. The speed of the game is slower than what you might see in a Call of Duty game, but this is fine considering the more tactical elements of the game. In a nutshell the strategy in most battles is to have your suppression team lay down enough gunfire to allow your assault team to flank and attack the enemy. There are Enemy Suppression icons that you need to pay attention to that indicate how well your cover fire is working. Once the icons show full suppression it's time to get your fire team in position. Helping you decide the best approach to flank and to give you a “birds-eye” view of the battle field is the Situational Awareness screen. Giving orders to your squad is easy through the D-pad as well as being able to switch between your fire and assault teams. Other controls are pretty standard to FPSs.