A lot of people are tired of the World War II setting but I just can’t seem to get enough of it. After consuming the above average and quite fun Call of Duty: World at War I was still itching for some classic warfare and Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway was there to scratch my itch and it did a good job too.
The Brothers in Arms series has a long and storied history, none of which I know because Hell’s Highway is my first foray into the series lore. That said I was drawn into the characters. The game really has a strong focus on its storytelling and developer Gearbox does a great job at giving the characters a real solid feel. I felt for these guys. I felt the betrayal. I felt the sadness. And I felt the pain and loss. Despite the great storytelling that Hell’s Highway has, if it were not for the solid gameplay it would not work as a game.
At first glance Hell’s Highway is just a standard World War II first person shooter, ala Call of Duty or Medal of Honor but after a quick intro into the general control of the game it introduces the player to a simple yet game changing squad based tactical strategy element. In most missions you will be given a team of different squads that you can command on the battlefield. This strategic element goes against the norm of you playing Captain America, the man who single handedly destroyed Nazi Germany. It adds a lot to the gameplay and forces players to think a little differently about how to approach their enemies.
Cover fire and flanking are two strategies that gamers will have to quickly understand if they plan on making it very far in the campaign. Not using cover fire or finding a way to flank your enemy will generally result in you becoming just another battlefield corpse. I found it best to have my squads lay down covering fire while I advanced and to a positions where I could get clear head shots on the enemies.
While most of the game will require you to tactically advance on your opponents, the game does mix things up a bit with a few lone-wolf missions and vehicle sequences which, for the most part, are very well done. While Gearbox could have made the mistake of making you an invincible killing machine in these sequences they did not, wisely choosing to instead force players to play smartly, use cover and pick their shots. Only once did I think they were over-reaching their bounds and thankfully that level was fairly short.
There are some problems with the game though. The controls are slightly wonky on the 360 and while the tactical commands to work on the 360 controller it is quite obvious that this title would probably feel more comfortable being played with a mouse and keyboard. I also ran into a few instances where the triggering to advance the game wasn’t set off because I didn’t do something the way the computer had expected me too and so I was left to wander around the farmlands of the Netherlands with only a reset button to get the game to comply. However these are ultimately little problems that did little to detract from my overall experience with the game.
Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway is a very well crafted pseudo-squad based, strategic first person shooter that does far more right than it does wrong and if you can still draw some satisfaction out of a World War II shooter then you should definitely give it a shot.
4 out of 5