Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 Review

Brothers in Arms aims to do for the World War II shooter what Saving Private Ryan did for the war movie and Band of Brothers for the TV miniseries, namely to present a more realistic look at the experiences of the American GI in World War II. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are not just adventure entertainment or vehicles to stir feelings of patriotism; they serve to provide a greater understanding of what the war was really like and how it was experienced by those who fought it. Lofty goals for a computer game no doubt, but does Brothers in Arms pull it off? In short, yes. For the long answer, read on…

Brothers in Arms casts you in the role of Sgt. Matt Baker, a paratrooper in the legendary 101st Airborne Division. It is the opening moments of Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Western Europe, and you are dropped behind enemy lines to pave the way for the amphibious assault that is soon to follow. Rather than start you off in the requisite boot camp training mode, Brothers in Arms starts you off right in the thick of battle and integrates its gameplay lessons as the first few missions progress. It works quite nicely and is certainly a lot more fun than a stale boot camp style level.

Your squad advances under fire.

When I said that the game starts you off in the thick of battle I wasn’t kidding. The game opens with your squad defending itself against a furious German assault. Before you let yourself breathe you’re flashing back to how you got in this mess in the first place and the game’s real missions begin. In what is one of the most memorable opening sequences to ever appear in a World War II shooter, you find yourself aboard a C-47 Skytrain getting your last minute briefing/pep talk before you drop into France. The view out of the plane is awe-inspiring – you’ll see the squadron of C-47s trying to maintain formation as they are buffeted by heavy flak from the ground and planes fall out of the sky in balls of flame. Soon you find yourself out the door and floating down to the dangerous country below. The game’s opening gives you a sense of what is in store for you throughout the game, especially in a couple of key areas. The first is that the game takes a realistic approach to combat – men yell, curse, scream, and die all around you in a cacophony of gunfire and explosions. This is the most realistic depiction of combat to appear in a game yet and it is definitely not for children or for the squeamish. The second thing that will strike you about the game early on is that it really puts the “person” into first person shooter. The screen will bounce and shake as your C-47 takes fire and then you’ll watch the world spin round as you tumble from the door. When in combat, close call explosions will daze you, leaving the screen hazy and the sound muted, and if you find yourself in hand to hand combat, the screen will reel in reaction to each blow from the enemy. This aspect of the game is not for the squeamish either, but for other reasons. Those prone to vertigo or motion sickness while playing games will find it tough to hold on to their cookies at times. For the rest of us, it really brings you into the action, making you feel more a part of events than a gamer behind the screen. If a shot from an enemy will knock you back a bit instead of just taking a notch off of a health bar, then you’re going to be extra careful to not get hit lest your enemy get his kill shot off before you can even bring your rifle up to aim and fire.