Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Hell’s Highway starts with a summary of the squads efforts from earlier efforts, telling the tale of what happened in previous games. The summary is done akin to the opening of a TV show, with a “previously on” set of scenes shown before the game kicks off in earnest. For newcomers to the series, this intro will be nothing short of confusing as it does naught to inform you of the plot of the predecessors, due to the sporadic nature of the scenes shown. Series aficionados however will have another take on these scenes, and if they are anything like me they’ll notice a somewhat staler generic fell to the characters on show than they remember.
Regretfully, this sterile storytelling continues for the most part the game’s plot, which is disappointing as it means you’ll never find yourself starting to care for any of the characters. It should be noted that the story itself does have its high points, but due the low key acting and a collection of other factor you never care what any of the characters are talking about. You’ll also find some of the interaction between characters a bit boring, and find yourselves getting a tired as you sit through a long speech that is supposed to be rousing, but in truth is anything but.
Irrespective of the lack of some quality storytelling, the excellent gameplay that was on show in the earlier releases is still going strong. If you not familiar with the how the game plays, then the best way to explain it is a puzzler wrapped up in the guise of an FPS. Each locale in the game offers various areas where you can take cover behind to give yourself the best positing to take down enemies. You can also order about teammates in your squad to take cover behind object as well. It is then up to you and your teammates to move about and use the selection of cover to get into the best position to take out the enemies. In the best case scenario you can use a mix of suppressive fire and other orders to work your way behind the enemies to flank them, thus making them the easiest of easy targets. To aid you in this a selection of icons appear over the head of enemies to tell you what state they’re in.
Thankfully, Gearbox does quite the good job of keeping this simple mechanic interesting throughout the course of the game, as many of the environments in the game are sprawling, giving you multiple way to take down targets. Even better, once you get past the first level you will be given access to a bazooka team, which gives the option for a few more tactics. The destruction in the game is however a bit limited, but nevertheless, blowing apart a wood fence or a pile of sandbags and seeing the bad guys go flying is very satisfying.
Hell’s Highway is also not afraid to take a drastic shift mid-game, with one singular level being a tense filled fight though an almost vacant hospital, which offers a nice change of pace to what came before. This one area plays completely different to the rest of the game, with different music, a completely different atmosphere and no team mates to back you up. Aside from this level they are other times in the game when you get to board a tank, and blow the seven shades out of everything around you, and there is another level when you can man a sniper rifle from a high vantage point. Because of these level offering a break from the norm throughout the course of the game you never feel the the main gameplay element gets excessively tedious.
However, even after all these plus points in terms of gameplay there are still many technical difficulties which bring the game down. Texture pop-in is downright nasty in a few areas. Some bits of low-poly scenery are another problem in places, but for the most part the game offers a nice range of colours than the typical browns of most shooters. Another problem is the game’s AI, which messes up from time to time. This is problematic for both your teammates and the enemies, as sometimes they are unable to find sufficient cover and end up standing out in the open, ready to be easily picked of. One other niggle, which is more of a human problem than anything else, is the controls in the game are very unique in nature, which means if you’ve spent the last few years playing various CoD and MoH then you are going to looking down the scope when you want to run, issuing a squad command when you want to look down the scope, and throwing a few grenades in error. On the other hand, if you are used to playing Rainbow Six and GRAW then you should slip in control scheme with ease.
All in all, the best way to describe BiA: Hell’s Highway is that it’s a nice evolution of its predecessor rather than been a true revolution of the developers efforts from last gen. In places you’ll probably wish Gearbox could have done more to make the game a true must have, but for the most part it is quite interesting. Furthermore, because of game taking place during Operation Market Garden, in the later stages of World War II you at least have another setting to amuse yourself with this time round – which is a nice plus. At the very least you have to respect the game simply due to it being a perfectly playable World War II shooter in a market that is still absolutely saturated, that in itself is quite the accomplishment.