by Chris "Lefty" Brown
Just when you thought it was safe to climb out of your foxhole comes yet another World War II video game. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway continues Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms series after a long delay. The storyline from the other two Brothers in Arms games advances with Staff Sergeant Matt Baker as the lead protagonist. This time out the player commands a few squads in the multiple skirmishes to attempt to open a strategic highway straight to Berlin in a plan dubbed Operation Market Garden. These squads are an important and valuable key to the gameplay in Hell’s Highway as the player must use them to flank enemy positions to achieve objectives. Much like the other Brother in Arms video games, Hell’s Highway places an importance on the accuracy of the authentic military operations and a compelling fictional storyline contained within.
Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway is a game that takes a little getting used to, but once these chestnuts are opened the game rewards the players with exciting game play. The immediate hurdle is getting used to the awkward controller layout. For some unknown reason, Gearbox decided to not follow other standardized layout schematics. In BiA: HH, the player uses the right thumbstick to use the gun scopes. Using the B button commands your squads, which is pretty easy to use, but I found it also prone to accidentally send your squads out from cover to be Nazi gun fodder. The buttons do work well, but using the cover system takes a little bit of practice to learn how to disengage from cover.
Leading your squads into battle is a lot of fun. Occasionally when your team blows stuff up or you unload with a few headshots, the game will launch into special slow-motion animations which are mildly rewarding no matter how many times you get them. I really did enjoy being able to flank the enemy and the unload into them with a good mix of WWII weapons. However there are three different occasions during the game in which the game changes it up and the player must command a tank up against the German enemy. This change feels a little tacked on, and oftentimes felt like it was unnecessary.
Another obstacle standing in the way of really digging into the game is the inability to skip past the game’s cut scenes which can last for several minutes. While Gearbox prides itself on the Brothers in Arms story. However, the achievements encourage multiple campaign play-through and having to sit through these scenes can be an awful drag. Also for those unfamiliar with the Brothers in Arms series, the storyline can be very confusing, trying to make heads or tails of the multiple characters and their importance to the overarching story. By the end of the game, however, the pieces do fall into place so that players old and new can understand what is going on.
The graphics are pretty nice and very effective. While they don’t raise the bar, they service the gameplay quite amicably. The sound is rather amazing, especially when it places the direction of fire to help guide to the players to Nazis the player might have missed. I did find some occasion pop-ins of enemies the software had to load, and there was also a couple places in which some of the assets did not render, even in one of the animated scenes toward the end of the game. While they are momentarily distracting, they did not kill the fun experience just playing through the game.
Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway does have a multi-player component that is largely forgettable, and at times not play-worthy. There is one mode in which players must either capture or defend two flags on a map. The match can have up to 16 players, but even at half that, I’ve found the matches to be very laggy with characters glitching during game play. Multi-player very much feels lack a half-hearted afterthought and not really rewarding at all.. BiA: HH is not a game for multi-player fanatics.
That being said, the single-player campaign was a lot of fun. Even for a well-tread action genre, this is Word War II game is one I could see myself coming back to play multiple times, if it weren’t for the inescapable cut scenes. Overall Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway is a well-recommended game from Ubisoft and Gearbox and is rated M for Mature.
Married Gamers Report Card: B+