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Last Updated: Friday, 8 April 2005, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Brothers in Arms refreshes genre
By Darren Waters
BBC News

Brothers in Arms
Brothers in Arms is 'based on a true story'
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is the latest in a long line of video games about World War II. But the cross-platform title brings freshness to the genre.

If you have played any of the myriad World War II titles released in the last few years, you probably think you know the drill.

A stab at authenticity, a schmaltzy and convoluted narrative, dodgy AI and linear action are the typical trademarks of the genre.

Brothers in Arms has plenty of the above flaws but manages to transcend the problems with refreshingly good game design and bags of atmosphere.

The game is centred around the events of eight days leading up to the climactic battle of Hill 30 on 13 June 1944 in France. You take the role of squad leader Sgt Matt Baker, a real-life member of the 101st paratrooper division who landed in France.

An actor delivers a monologue by Sgt Baker at the start and end of each chapter of the game.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 9
Enduring appeal: 8
Overall: 8
Format: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC

The action begins with the paratrooper landing in Normandy, and the game gives a decent impression of what it must have been like to jump out of a plane in such conditions.

The game mixes a number of styles successfully - from First Person Shooter, to squad based control and even a smattering of table top real time strategy.

You are introduced to many of the game's control elements - most notably suppression and flanking - during the opening chapter.

The core gameplay element involves laying down suppression fire on enemy soldiers so that you or your squad members can then flank and attack without fear.

The mix of solo and squad tactics means you can shift between grandstand heroics or considered team attacks as you progress.

It is a simple mechanism that works well but does rely on rather simplistic AI to achieve its aims - rarely does the enemy do anything unexpected.

The narrative, supposedly based on a true story, is functional at best and cliched at worst but the game works because of the atmosphere generated during the action.

Influenced by the Band of Brothers mini-series, the shouts and cries of your comrades, the sounds of bullets whizzing past (especially if you can use a surround sound system) and the structured complexity of the game draws you in.

The 17 missions include destroying anti-air guns, leading assaults on French towns with holed up Germans and dealing with tanks.

There are gripes - squad mates who die during one mission are remarkably resurrected for the next level and in-game cut scenes cannot be skipped - but these are minor.

Not since Call of Duty was first released on a PC has a World War II game been so gripping.

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