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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway (PlayStation 3)

Reviewed by: hasone2 Bronze Good Trader Has Written 6 Reviews
Reviewed on: 20-Jun-2009


1. Single Player Review
2. Multiplayer Review
3. Story: What The Manual Says

This is a strange game, in a uniquely good way. A first person shooter and a third person shooter, a single player game with squads and an excellent multiplayer with squads to issue orders to. Never been done before and there are lots of game play options but not every one you may want in a current generation game, like god mode and unlimited grenades, or a single player weapon selection screen. I highly recommend it but with the a caution that you have to take the time to appreciate it for just how good it really is. Especially multiplayer but there is no ranking up weapons or unlocking abilities and no single player weapon unlocking.

Single Player Review

As Sgt. Baker, you can command at times up to three squads in this FPS with a 3rd person shooting style when you dig-in on cover. There are some what different ways of navigating your way on each mission. Not sandbox free world levels but not a restricted hallway crawling game either. Most missions and maps are big enough and laid out so that you can progress through them in a number of ways by mounting your attacks differently.

This gives the game replay ability and a free roaming structure of sorts. That being said, you do the same no matter which way you go - and that is stop, dig-in, shoot, carry on, and repeat. The real choice is do you take the debris filled, and sand bag encamped street route, or the back ally route with fences sort of situations.

Certain environmental elements can be blown up or you can shoot up the fence the enemy is behind and watch it deteriorate. The destructible elements you encounter are fences, boxes, carts, vehicles, tanks, artillery guns, barrels, brick walls, and sand bag strongholds. You can also dig-in on all of them. These destructible cover elements can be destroyed with a grenade, bazooka round, or if in a tank with its main gun. The Nazis fly through the air in slow-mo action cut scenes with bodies, legs, and bloody severed arms being popped up in the air like popcorn. Bazookas are not a weapon you use for 99% of the game though, your squad does, and you use it to kill a couple tanks later on.

This game has great replay value and great multiplayer maps even though at times with full rooms not quite up to today's standards concerning lag.

To replay a section of the game you select the campaign then the mission or sub-chapter. If you downloaded the demo from PSN that mission has two more levels before and after and make up an entire continuous campaign mission. To explain "Hell's Highway" further; one mission you fight up a street to a building, next mission is in the building, then the following mission is back on the street again. There is continuity and your not jumping from local to local constantly and you can re-play any submission without doing the entire campaign over to get to it.

You enter some buildings and houses on the way. Being Holland is the backdrop, there are windmills you can climb up in and shoot from in a level or two. There are several missions where you hallway crawl through buildings and houses mostly alone or with a squad mate. Variety? Check. The game even has tank missions and there is use of a German or American tank in the online play but only one tank at a time, no online tank battles. You can take three positions in the tank, driver, top mounted turret, and main gun. Two sub-chapters are sniper missions but you can not carry the rifle through the game. You can carry up to three weapons and can switch for weapons you pick up from the dead.

This is a slow, methodical game at times, which does not reward you for playing it as trigger happy run and gunner. It is at times a game of whack-a-mole. Enemy pops head up, you shoot it. You flank your enemy and move on positions and most of the kills are from a distance, ducking and then bracing from behind cover to take your shots. There is no melee attack, but sometimes you get a slow-mo of the head shot you just landed. There are 50 single player missions you will definitely not finish this game in an afternoon as you creep around behind cover and surface to fire, then duck and repeat. You will get killed in action often and need to use trial and error depending on your style of game play and preference for flanking. The difficulty setting has three options and you can even turn off the cross hairs.

You can jump over certain fences and sand bag cover. You can sprint but can't fire while sprinting, and the weapons prefer not to be fired from the hip. This is a WWII shooter and the weapons fire as such. When using the iron sights view, the world becomes unfocused as you look down the sights. The guns fire well, feel right with the recoil and rate of fire and muzzle climb associated with each situation, they sight well, and fire true, that is they don't spray bullets and tracers, they feel relatively realistic.

Every now and then you or a teammate or an enemy will get shot in the head, which makes a distinct sound and the helmet falls off, which is nice. In multiplayer you shoot off an enemies helmet sometimes and know that would of been a headshot in another game. Dirt will kick up on screen when you fire and when being fired at which adds to the realism.

You can pick up all the weapons in the game - even turret mounted machine guns. Resource management is not an issue as walking over a dead body replenishes similar gun ammo. There are no ammo boxes or grenade pickups. You start a chapter with grenades and that is all you have. The screen increasingly turns red when you are taking fire on your position, but you can also just be gunned down with a lucky shot. You can turn off the red "Threat Indicator" if you feel like it. There is no health bar. Ducking or hiding for a moment heals you.

Brothers in Arms games have a suppression icon over each enemy position. The icon, a clock like circle, changes depending on shots fired at that position. If fully suppressed the enemy will stay down and this allows you to flank the position or issue an order to one of your squads to do so.

DIG-IN FEATURE ::::::::::: A+
The dig-in system feature has you play in a 3rd person perspective. It gives a slightly low top down look and with an over the shoulder view when you surface to fire. You can zoom in one degree when you pop up or lean out and throw a grenade while dug-in or jump over the cover you are behind. I really like this new dig-in feature. The game would be just another shooter if it wasn't there, and thankfully it is.

GRAPHICS :::::::::::: A
The wardrobe looks realistic. The face, eyes and character animations are great. The helmet looks like it is bumpy and was covered in sand before being painted, a nice realistic touch. When a tank hits a wall it wobbles and half of a track disappears below the ground. Buildings, ground, sky it is all there.

While playing online characters at times lag, and you won't see a bazooka round fly at you, you just die from it sort of lag. The wall hopping animation looks good, characters have an oddly realistic look as they run all hunched over. Death occurs with a realistic rag doll style effect. The guns sound good and have tracer fire. Grenades are awesome and leave a hole in the ground. Bazooka fire, smoke trails and the shells moving across the map are great. Rain and water and fire look great.

AUDIO ::::::::: A+
The sound in this game is excellent. You can hear foot steps coming, you can hear water in your canteen slosh around, fire fights off in the distance, reloading clicks from the guns, the tank tracks rolling and the sound of the engine, the metal turret doors clank as they open and a player takes position in the gun turret. When a round is over the game features an American voice over or a German voice telling you you won or lost and other dialouges and if the last person dies in a hallway or a room the voice echos as if in such a place. You hear recon planes and air strike planes coming in low and going. Really there is nothing bad to say here about the audio, it's perfect!

You have a tactical map which gives a view of the world objectives. This map shines in multiplayer for squad leaders to issue orders. Call in recon on a section of the map or a bomb drop. Also useful for gaining your bearings in online play. Every round starts out with weapon selection and the tactical map screen.

You can push the L2 button and that squad will go to the circle you placed on the ground. Imagine being ducked behind a sand bag position and then you press L2, a circle appears, you move it to a position across the river and your squad moves out. Once there you L2 an enemy turret position they take it out, that is if they survived crossing the river in the first place. You really don't even need them, you can press your luck alone, so the developers didn't force their use on you to complete an objective just because they are in the game. That being said they suppress the enemy and if the enemy isn't suppressed and you move, you probably won't last very long in the game.

You play with the squads in different ways on each mission. Sometimes they are not even with you and other times you control up to three of them. A bazooka team, an assault team, and a fire team. Point and click orders will have the bazooka team blow up a sand bag position, neutralize machine guns, or destroy a sniper in a bell tower. They do not kill like a barrel shoot as in Call of Duty 4, and enemies do not spawn again and again. Some may move on you or even retreat from you, but they are mostly what was there when you got there or a couple reserves come in but no massive bum rush of new enemies into an area you just cleared..

I had some issue having my squad fire on an order I gave. Overall, the squad system is useful and easy to move about even if they do not instantly kill everybody; they produce pretty tracers and set a tone. When behind cover they never get in the way. When you are crouched dug-in and move down the line you are holding your squad soldiers step back and keep out of your way. Really excellent that they behave in that way.

STORY & CINEMATICS & Overall :::::::::::: A
As you play along through a mission the game features cinematic events that are sparse and can be viewed when prompted by pressing the square button. An example would be looking up and seeing a plane flying over.

Each chapter starts with a story and cinematic dialogue scenes which have a very good production value but do not explain the war much and is much more character driven and I really didn't follow much of it. They can be skipped shortly after starting. Several chapters of the game are actually only cut scenes. The in game world/slash set pieces set a good scene with planes flying past and paratroopers dropping in off in the distance. The game looks authentic, gritty, realistic and good and has an immersive tone and sets scenes of what it was like to fight and die on Hell's Highway. For more on story see the third section of this review "What The Manual Says" at the bottom.

Multiplayer Review :::::::::::: A+ to B

No respawns. The game features a very well balanced 20 person multiplayer with six maps and one game mode; capture the flag pole. Each map has two flag poles both flying flags of the defending team. Your job is to lower the enemy flag, capture it, and then raise your teams flag, who ever has it.

If as attackers you never lose, you continue to play as the attackers and have the flag to raise the next round. When the attacking team loses the defenders become the attackers until they fail to raise a flag or eliminate the other team.

It takes 30 seconds to lower a flag and 30 to raise a flag. If a flag carrier is killed the flag can lay on the ground for 60 seconds before the attacking team loses if no one picks it up. Flag carriers are randomly assigned and can drop the flag by pressing the d-pad directional button right.

The game will say when a flag has been lowered, not that it is being lowered, but it will say when a flag is being raised and when a flag has been dropped. Count downs begin accordingly.

FUN FACTOR :::::::: A+
Rounds don't last long between everyone dying and flags being raised, lowered or dropped and then defended against being picked up.

Overall the multiplayer is great and the squad command tools are new to me and I'd like to see more of it in the future. There are a few things that needed work, like firing behind a window and moving unnaturally, getting killed by making contact with the tank while it is moving and the lag issues and it gets bad when five or so players have bazookas. Overall there is a high production value, user friendly menus, user friendly controls and fun FPS game play with a new 3rd person dig-in twist on excellent maps.

THE MAPS :::::::::: A+
The multiplayer map layouts are the best. It is clear that a lot of time was spent perfecting the "game play design" of the maps. Positions can be countered and defended and neutralized with proper teamwork and strategy, and even then it makes for frantic fire fights where the victory can go either way depending. The designers didn't just say lets put a sniping window here to snipe the court yard, they said lets put a position here and have that position visible to multiple other place on the map and vise versa. I may be playing that up a bit, but the maps are among the best multiplayer design I have seen. Easy way to say it is there is no drag and drop fluff or useless objects in the environment, everything has a purpose at some point. The objectives to win are taking over choke points and defending areas effectively.

(for not being able to turn off bazookas otherwise A)
A player hosts a single map. No map stacking or medleys. When a games rounds or time limit is reached the map is over and the host then chooses the next map and any play options. Max time limit or number of rounds to win, 10 rounds, seven rounds, et cetera... friendly fire, round time four minutes, five minutes.

Of the six multiplayer maps, five use a tank which is only available to the attacking side per round.

Each side has one Squad Leader who can order a single aerial recon plane which will display enemy positions on a portion of the tactical map. Squad Leaders can also order a single air strike bomb drop which is good for taking out tanks and reducing cover elements in an area.

Squad Leaders can also put down markers on the map as squad movement orders. Either with the L2 button method of point and click or via the tactical map. The three man teams of Able, Baker or Charlie Teams have color coded marker icons that can be seen from the tactical map, the HUD for compass direction and also as point icons on the actual map in front of players field of view displaying how far away you are from the arrow beacon as you move through the map closer to it.

To see where a dropped flag is, you use the compass for navigation to it or open the tactical map, unless your leader places an arrow at it. You can turn off any graphical appendage on the screen and run completely clean even turn off the cross hairs.

Once in a game players have preference choices of either a squad leader, a specialist, a rifleman, or a tank operator which isn't always available depending. The tank holds one squad of three players that can get out at any time or be blown up with a C4 satchel or a couple bazooka rounds. The tank is a death trap and is almost always on fire at the end of rounds. It is difficult to drive especially in tight spaces but overall is a great tool to have and has a deadly armament and creates another obstacle the other team must counter.

At any time players can access the preference menu and choose a different helmet or hat or uniform style. Squad leaders carry one of three rifleman weapons, something like a 30 round Thompson, BAR or M1 Garand with about 10 rounds. Specialists carry sniper rifles, bazookas or heavy machine guns that can be mounted on cover elements and become deadly accurate turrets.

The game auto-balances how many squads are specialists and riflemen. If you choose to be a squad leader you can only be a rifleman. You can choose to only be a rifleman and you will only carry those weapons, but you may also end up being a rifleman if you choose specialist. Makes it fun to have variety.

If you don't like bazookas you will hate this multiplayer. Many players choose the bazooka and it is pretty deadly. The sniper rifle has a good scope and feel to it but it takes several shots to down an enemy. The secondary handguns that are carried by all are horrible and hold only 8 rounds and do very little damage. The bazooka will kill you two feet away from the other player with it and not harm him (sometimes)

There is a circle health meter with a body silhouette that starts out green at 100% and turns red and decreases as you take damage. The silhouette will also tell if you are standing or crouched, but you know.

There is a lobby but there are no dedicated map servers so players create games and host them and if they abort the entire room gets kicked. When you log on you can select what map you want to join from a menu listing that details off to the side what the game options being played are for that map, even how many rounds each side has won. You can further narrow things down by what map and options to search for and only those games will display in the game lobby menu. Very user/player preference friendly interface. Weapon limitations could of been added to game creation.

If your teammates spot an enemy position it will show up on the tactical map. This is something the recon option also does to show icons where they are and there movement for a couple seconds.

Story: What The Manual Says

Operation Market-Garden was a bid to destroy Nazi Germany before Christmas 1944.

The plan was ambitious - it was the largest airborne invasion in the history of the world. They planned to capture a corridor through Holland to punch through the German lines. Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne and other divisions dropped from the sky in mid September to seize and hold the corridor by surprise. The surprise attack was a bust. Hitler's best units were in the area and immediately counter-attacked and crushed the corridor. To the allied paratroopers who fought there and lost brothers in arms, the corridor became known as Hell's Highway.

It was the last great Nazi victory. It was Hell for Sgt. Baker and his squad.

As Sgt. Baker, you are the squad leader of a Recon unit of the 101st Airborne.