Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 Review

Just when you think that the gaming industry can’t squeeze any more blood from a stone, another WWII game comes out.  With the many Wolfenstein, Medal of Honor, and Call of Duty clones, you might wonder why another developer might want to try to create another WWII game, not to mention a new franchise.  However, Gearbox and Ubisoft have created Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 to try to create a unique perspective to WWII.

BiA is based on the true story of the 101st Airborne Division.  You take the role of Matt Baker, a man who volunteered to be a paratrooper and who became the leader of a squad due to extraordinary circumstances.  You jump into the action on D-Day where these soldiers landed in German-occupied France to secure major objectives near Normandy.

The paratroopers of the 101st Division look excellent in BiA.  The faces of the soldiers are taken from the photos of the soldiers, and the result is incredibly real.  While the facial expressions aren’t near the complexity of Half-Life 2, they do move in unison.  The character models don’t have the highest polygon count, but they suffice.

The effects of war are visible in BiA.  Large craters are present from mortar shell explosions.  Walls are crumbled and broken from enemy fire.  The buildings are dirty from all the smoke.  The textures look great, with pockets and patches easily seen on the character models.  The grass looks good from a distance, but if you get too close it looks ugly.  Other textures look muddy, most likely because of the limitations of the PS2.

Unfortunately, BiA suffers from slowdown.  The slowdown occurs even during times while just walking around without any firefights going on or any other characters on-screen.  While I could expect some frame jumps from an aftershock from artillery fire, I don’t expect it during walking.  This really ruins the experience of the game.

Most of BiA won’t have music, but what is there really sets the tone for the game.  While it is somber in tone, it has the rhythmic snare drum, ominous bass drum, and trumpets expected from a war game.  Music will be played mostly during cutscenes and loading screens.

The voice acting in the game is excellent.  Each chapter starts out with your character giving a short dialogue about how he feels about what he is facing.  Your troops will yell at you and others about the situation.  However, the language in the game is quite strong, but that probably isn’t surprising.  You won’t want to play this game in front of the kids though.

The sound effects are equally well done.  Stepping in a field will sound different from a gravel road.  Each of the weapons has the right amount of punch to them.  Bombs explode in the background.  The sound effects really enhance the feeling of being in a war zone.

The controls for BiA are typical of other FPS games.  The left and right analog sticks control looking and movement.  Pushing on the left analog stick toggles between crouching and standing up, while pushing on the right analog stick toggles between zooming in and out of aiming.  Again, BiA suffers from the dead-zone problem that seems to plague PS2 shooters.  A game like this needs precise aiming, and it’s very difficult with the controller.

The R1 button fires and R2 switches weapons.  Triangle throws grenades, square reloads weapons, X jumps, and circle completes a melee attack.  The Select button moves to the situational awareness map.

The squad commands use the L1 button.  Aiming at a direction in conjunction in the analog stick will command the squad to move to a position, fire at and suppress the enemy, or rush the enemy.  Pressing up on the D-pad tells the squad to fall out, while down makes the squad fall in close.

The gameplay of BiA can be described in one word: intense.  From the moment the game starts, the feeling of being entrenched in the action overcomes you.  Enemy fire whizzes over your head and confusion abounds.  Everyone is yelling and shouting and you can’t see where the fire is coming from.

Eventually the scene changes to the airplane you were supposed to jump from, but the plane is hit.  Everyone on board jumps, but everyone is scattered.  You must find your unit and complete your mission.

The AI in the game is impressive.  Enemy forces will hide behind cover extremely well.  There are times when it’s incredibly difficult to see where the enemy is located at.  Using suppressive fire against the enemy so you can flank them is a must.  Even that isn’t enough though.  If you don’t flank around them carefully enough, they will see you and direct their attacks towards you.

BiA provides a tool that assists you in completing your mission.  That tool is the Situational Awareness map.  This map allows you to see the positions of your enemies and your squad.  This allows you to plan a tactical strategy.

Don’t expect the Situational Awareness map to make the game easy.  Precise aim is needed to hit the enemy.  Suppressive fire is crucial.  Enemies have a suppression indicator above them indicating if they are unsuppressed or suppressed.  This helps to figure out which enemies to attack and when.

Sometimes BiA requires a lot of trial and error to get through a chapter.  The enemies are hidden very well, and trying to figure out a plan to hit them can take several tries.  There are checkpoints throughout the chapters that assist you so that you don’t have to play the same parts over and over again.  If you replay from a checkpoint a certain number of times without success, the game will ask you if you want to be healed and rearmed.  This goes a long way to ending frustrations of an inadvertent checkpoint save.

If you lose one of your men in battle, they stay dead for the chapter, but they miraculously come back in the next chapter.  While this makes the game a bit easier, it does break the realism of the game.

BiA is about the right length.  It’s not too long that the gameplay gets monotonous, but it’s not too short that you feel cheated by paying for a $50 game.  Also, the game is very replayable in that several different tactics can be used to complete the mission.  The designers have given you plenty of ways to try.

BiA also has split-screen and online play.  In these games, you select an objective to complete.  You then command a squad to complete that objective while trying to prevent the other squad.  Unfortunately, there is no cooperative play or multi-player campaign which would have increased the longevity of the game.

Playing this game gave me a greater appreciation for those who fought in WWII.  It’s hard to imagine that anyone survived with all the firefights.  The story of these soldiers is amazing, and it is quite the tribute with the accuracy Gearbox has poured into the game.  It is an unforgettable experience.  If you can get the Xbox or PC version, I would highly recommend that version over the PS2 version.  If the PS2 version is your only option, then you won’t be disappointed.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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