Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway

Hell’s Highway is the third game in the Brothers in Arms series, but  my first encounter with the series. It’s a WWII game that plays out as part first person shooter and part squad based tactical shooter, as it varies between you ordering around a couple of different squads and going commando as you clear out buildings etc.

My initial impressions of the game were not great, because although the game opens with some lovely looking cinematic cutscenes, the effect was somewhat ruined by them being incredibly jerky and jumpy. Luckily the game itself moves more smoothly than the opening scenes, and I have to say I didn’t see any repeat performance of this during cutscenes later in the game.

The whole feel of the game is very cinematic, with cutscenes weaving around between characters in long unbroken shots. However, despite the Lost-style “Previously on Brothers In Arms” opening, I understood very little of the storyline apart from that it was set during Operation Market Garden in 1944. There seemed to be a storyline concerning the pistol that your character, Matt Baker, carries, but without having played the other games I had no idea what it was about.

The inclusion of controllable squads makes this game differ from some other WWII first person shooters, and you can see that the developers really want you to make use of them to make it a bit more strategic. Unfortunately, this led to me being frustrated by the lack of strategies that could be applied. Want to go in on a full frontal assault? It never works. Why don’t you try flanking? – the tutorial suggests. This works. Every time. Now don’t get me wrong, flanking the enemy has for many years been a well proven battle tactic, but after you get to the tenth machine gun nest with  a side alleyway leading around behind/beside it, you start to get a bit bored of it.

If Hell’s Highway has taught me one thing about life, it’s that the next time a problem rears it’s ugly head, I should look for the obvious side-route, sneak round, and then punch the problem in the side of the head.

Luckily the game has several different sections, as mentioned before. Clearing a house on your own, driving a tank and sniping from the rooftops all appear at different points, breaking up the squad based sections a bit. Not that the squad based sections aren’t fun, but the variety really helps.

Like almost every squad based game I’ve ever played, just occasionally your squad will do ridiculous things. While I was struggling to get used to the controls, I occasionally (by accident) ordered them to go straight out into the open and to their certain deaths, and they blindly complied. I like loyalty from my men, but that seemed ridiculous. At other times, though, I’d have say, my bazooka squad, standing next to me, and my character would order them to shoot something with a press of the left trigger. “Take out that cover!” my character shouts, and the man with the bazooka stands there blithely ignoring me. This gets annoying when they’ve got a clear shot on a well-sandbagged machine gun emplacement but are apparently too busy being shot to help you out.

All this sounds rather negative, but I have to say, I enjoyed playing this game. The graphics aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, but they are decent enough to get the job done well, and there are some nice effects like smoke and cartridges popping out of your gun as you fire. Surprisingly for a WWII title there are a lot of colourful scenes, being set in Holland it’s not all trench-foot brown. There’s also a nifty “action camera” that shows your great sniping shots and explosions in slow motion. Taking a headshot is rather gruesome, with a scarily realistic blood splatter as your enemies helmet flies off of what used to be his head. Flying limbs can occasionally be seen emerging from larger explosions too, so this isn’t one for the faint of heart.

So what is it like when you take it online? Despite only having one online multiplayer mode, a sort of capture the flag meets deathmatch squad mode, this game scores points for the multiplayer just for being the first game I’ve reviewed for Ready Up! where I actually managed to win a few matches. Seriously though, I can’t see this becoming the next Call of Duty 4 for multiplayer, as the lack of options just mean you’ll get bored of it quickly. You may be able to have 20 people in a game, but I suspect you’ll struggle to find that many.







2 responses to “Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway”

  1. Michael avatar

    I watched someone playing this (and it was the first in the series for me too) and the introduction made very little sense. Actually, none. There’s a kid with a gun, then some war stuff, kid… I kinda lost interest then.

  2. Laura avatar

    Now I’ve accepted that I can’t charge in guns blazing and have started to use my squads properly I’m enjoying it.

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