Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood Review

If you played Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and did not like it, then you may as well stop reading this review – Earned in Blood is very similar to its predecessor, but is a good deal more challenging. Still with me? OK, good. First let me bring those who did not play Road to Hill 30 up to speed and then I’ll take a close look at what’s new in Earned in Blood.

Brothers in Arms is not your typical World War II shooter, and not just because it is based on the real-life war experiences of American GIs in Normandy. Rather than take the Rambo-esque, one man against the Nazi war machine approach typical of WWII shooters, Brothers in Arms opts for a more realistic take on the war. The gameplay follows the US Army doctrine of “find, fix, flank, and finish.” This means that you will need to move cautiously through fields and villages until you spot the enemy. Once you find the enemy, you need to order your squad to pin them down with suppressing fire as you maneuver your way to a flanking position – i.e. while they’re hunkered down dodging bullets you sneak up on them from the side or behind. You then gun them down before they know what hit them and this is where the “finish” comes in. In Road to Hill 30, most of the battles played out as a series of puzzles or training exercises. Each German position could be fired on from a secure location and there was always a path where you could sneak up on their flank and finish them off. Well things are not quite that straightforward in Earned in Blood…

The goal in Earned in Blood is still to suppress and flank the enemy, but this time out the enemy is less cooperative. They’re more apt to see you coming up on their flank and react, and even when they don’t see you they react to your presence a lot faster. If you come up on a whole group of German soldiers, odds are at least one of them will start shooting back at you before you can pick them all off. Furthermore, they’re not above making a hasty retreat if the odds don’t look good. At times you may find all of your work setting up suppression fire and maneuvering into position for naught as the enemy refuses to stick around for the payoff. There will even be times when they turn the tables are work to flank your squad. Lastly, a lot of your encounters with the enemy will not be set piece puzzles with ready made cover for suppressing fire and protected flanking lanes. There will be times when you’ll be forced into face-to-face shootouts with the enemy, and the survival rate of these types of encounter is not good. The problem with this, beyond the obvious need to do a fair amount of reloading, is that the maps are still pretty constrained even though the gameplay has been opened up a bit. Artificial constraints such as low walls or barbed wire fences cut down you options significantly and far too often funnel you towards enemy kill zones. I really enjoyed the tactical aspect of Road to Hill 30 but in Earned in Blood I found many frustrating moments.

One of the strong points of Road to Hill 30 was the AI of your squad. Order them to a location and they were smart enough to find cover and respond to enemy fire on their own. This is still the case in Earned in Blood, but I noticed some occasional issues with their behavior that I didn’t see the first time out. Perhaps in opening up the options for the enemy it left room for confusion to creep into your squad. Some of the problems that I ran into included a squad that got lost and refused to regroup until I went back and collected them and a squad that took up a firing position from which they couldn’t get a line of fire to the enemy even though they would have had a clear shot a few feet to their left. Where in Road to Hill 30 I could always count on my squad, I played Earned in Blood with a nagging doubt stuck in my mind that forced me to constantly keep an eye on my squad instead of focusing my attention entirely on the enemy.