developer: Gearbox Software
Game mode: single / multiplayer
Multiplayer mode: local network / Internet, players: 1 - 20
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is the third reincarnation of a popular tactical FPS game series. Just like its predecessors, Hell's Highway takes players back to 1944 and throws them into the key battles of the World War II. Here you can see for yourself the scale of the tragedy of one of the most famous Allied operation – Operation Market Garden. The main heroes of the newest Brother in Arms game are Joe Hartsock and Matt Baker, the soldiers known from the previous games, however, only the latter is playable.
Operation Market Garden was supposed to lead to capturing and holding bridges over the Rhine river by the Allies, which would have greatly advanced progress of Allied forces and speeded up the conclusion of the war. Despite initial successes (like capturing the Waal bridge in a Dutch city of Nijmegen) the operation turned into a failure (the most important bridge, the one in Arnhem, was never captured) and the British 1st Airborne Division was surrounded and decimated in a German counteroffensive. Do not be worried though – at that time the Allies could not count on the support of skillful video gamers.
The heroes get assigned to a recon squad and sent off to a war front. You command up to 3 infantry squads, and depending on the current objective you receive support from specialized strike teams equipped with machineguns or unguided rocket launchers (popular M9 Bazookas). Obviously, such a wide variety of tactical options drastically changes the style of fighting. E.g. you may command a mortar team to hit the Nazis with Shrapnel shells or use machineguns for a continuous fire at enemy positions to limit their room for maneuver. Such powerful weapons can drastically transform the landscape – all hedgerows, walls, and fences can be destroyed with just a couple of bullets.
Naturally, the increased number of the subordinates forced the developers to expand game levels accordingly. The programmers were lucky, because the battlefields of Operation Market Garden in 1944 were closely watched and captured on photos by recon air forces, many of which remained to this day. Thanks to these pictures the developers could recreate the battlefields with almost one hundred per cent accuracy and make the maps bigger than in two other Brother in Arms games. This fact significantly increases tactical and operational freedom. The team of Gearbox Software also took care to optimize the game code, in effect, shortening loading times.
Another improvement is apparent in AI of both friendly and enemy soldiers. A brand new alert system was introduced, adjusting soldiers’ behavior to orders issued and the current situation on the battlefield. In the first, relaxed state, Baker’s men are relatively chilled, hold weapons on their shoulders, and converse with one another. In contrast, in the same state the Germans are busy clearing their weapons, checking their gear or eating. The next level of alertness (patrol) keeps soldiers in battle readiness – they carefully watch around for enemies, ready to open fire in case of any danger. Another state of AI is stealth – the infantry tries to stay out of enemy sight, avoiding detection. While in stealth, soldiers will open fire only in three cases: when shot at, on receiving orders to shoot, or if the players starts shooting. The fourth and last, combat state, keeps soldiers in full concentration and battle readiness. This system facilitates your control over soldiers and makes it more intuitive.
Much time and energy was devoted to cut-scenes. Another new system was used for this, called Brotherhood Moments, or Bromos. Its role is to expose the moments key to the story (emotions of characters, a way out of a dramatic situation, or elements of humor) using various cinematic techniques (e.g. slow motion, zoom in). All this aims to present war in a better and more realistic way, as well as retain strong emotions of soldiers constantly being put on the verge of death.
PC / Windows
Recommended: Core 2 Duo 2.6 GHz, 2 GB RAM, graphic card 256 MB (GeForce 7600 or better), 8 GB HDD, Windows XP SP3/Vista SP1
Microsoft Xbox 360
Uses: Xbox Live