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July 23, 2007
E3 2007 - Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

By Jason Van Horn

There is no game genre field more crowded than that of the first person shooter WWII Nazi killer. It seems every year we're always going back to Normandy for one last storming of the beach. Fans will often choose their favorite of the franchises out there, often sticking by Call of Duty for its intense action, or Medal of Honor for its longevity on the market. For my money, they don't get much better than Brothers in Arms, and luckily for me the first game among the next-gen systems is heading our way.

Much like the past games in the series, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is described as reference fantasy, blending together real life events with some fake as well to merge into one solid storytelling vehicle. For instance, in the new game, everyone you meet who is ranked lieutenant or higher are real people who existed at the time, and ones who were around while the Battle of Son was going on and that of Operation Market Garden. The story will once again center on Baker, the star of the first game, as he comes to terms with his new position, and as he learns you "risk what you love" - as it was told to us.

Gearbox started things off by saying how the 20 minutes of gameplay we were about to see was only 1/5 of a section of a level in the game, which means the levels of the game are greatly increased in size compared to those of the original. The levels were also created to be seamless and to have no loading screens at all. So once you get into that action, killing Nazis, and ordering troops around, you aren't going to need to take pauses (taking you out of the game's mind frame) in order to load up something else.

On the funny side of things, as soon as the game was loaded up, I was amazed at how good it looked, considering that it was an absolutely gorgeous world, featuring some really high-end textures when it came to things like the dirt of the road or the bricks of a building. Then, out of nowhere, Gearbox was surprised because the game wasn't even running at its full graphical strength. After only a couple minutes the game was loaded up with the proper high-def resolution, and the game suddenly looked even better than it had…which I didn't think could be possible.

Much of the gameplay features of past games were included and adapted for the new game, mainly being that of the assault and suppression teams, as well as the indicators that will indicate when an enemy squad is properly suppressed and when they aren't (circles that are bright red when not under fire, and become more white with suppression). Other than that, there was some new stuff to show, mainly that of the visible cover radar, which was implemented extremely well, and with some cool visual flare as well. When you are safely behind cover, the covered portion where you are at will be crystal clear, showing the full image of the happenings of the battle. However, if you stand up to shoot over that cover and find yourself in dangerous territory, everything in the danger zone will light up a bright red, while the safety of your cover will remain normal and clear, showing you that is the only current place that is safe for you. It acts much like the suppression cover feature of the enemy, though less invasive than having a huge circle looming over your head.

Another nice new feature added was the slow-mo moments, which come into play when more cinematic like moments of action happen out on the battlefield; it's important to note these moments develop from you, and aren't pre-planned. While playing the game, a grenade was lobbed spectacularly towards the enemy, landing nearby and blowing the Nazi into the air; as the Nazi went airborne, things slowed down to show the tumbling of the now dead body. Gearbox promised other such slow-mo moments like this, coming from things like a bazooka kill or a proper sniper shot.

Gearbox also showed off some of the in-game cutscenes, detailing important events of the story, showing our hero Baker conflicted by the past and current situations. Not wanting to forget their fans who helped solidify Brothers in Arms as a hit franchise, there are moments harkening back to the past two games, which will be a nice nod to the fan; one such moment has Baker finding a pair of glasses, and remembering a now dead soldier who once served with him in the first game.

Like many of the games shown at E3, multiplayer wasn't showed, but considering it was included in the second game as both cooperative and death match modes, it's easy to assume we'll see some online multiplayer in that form in one way or another when the game ships, which is hopefully this holiday season if Gearbox has their way. And if we have our way, they'll have it ready for then too, because we want to get back in the saddle again with this game, our favorite of the WWII first person shooters.


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