Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30

22Most tactical games feature military settings, and you can usual tell them at a glace by their “colon†names. Take Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, for instance — it’s an excellent game with way too much name. Somber and serious, it’s set in World War II and offers loads tactical, claustrophobic action. Its single-player, crafted with skill by the fine people at Gearbox Software and with definite nods to the Medal of Honor franchise, is significantly more elaborate than most first-person shooters.

Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 adds a bit of a twist to the action, implementing a strong squad-based element. You have to command your soldiers from cover to cover, trying to flank and outwit enemy forces. You can run and gun as you would in any shooter, but catching a burst of machinegun fire is deadly in this game. Instead you must use the environment and clever maneuvering to outwit your foes.

The enemy soldiers in Brothers in Arms take cover and react to suppression fire (which is one of the tactical options available to players), but every level is designed to give you an obvious way to take out an entrenched enemy. There’s always one or two clear path to sneak up and strike a pack of Germans from the side while a few of your other buddies keep them busy with a rain of inaccurate lead. These solutions are only available in very specific instances, leading to the game’s puzzle-like feel.

And despite being a shooter set in World War II, the game feels somewhat lite on the action. Combat is usually limited to a few dozen soldiers at a time, their positions marked on your HUD as soon as you make contact. This slows down the battles to an approachable pace and rackets up the tension. Scripted events are sprinkled to highlight important story eccentric evens, and you are funneled through critical choke points, but the game at least gives you multiple solutions to victory.

6The difficulty is notched up a bit here, giving way to occasional frustration as you take a dirt nap halfway through a level. You can’t save, but reasonably positioned checkpoints will beam you back fairly close to your last conflict. If any of your squad-mates die, they miraculously come back in the next mission – odd, but not unforgivable. Turning them into anonymous GI Joes would have fixed this issue, but the truth is that giving them identifiable personalities and backstories adds a lot more to the story. Plus the title wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

Asides from such minor breaks from reality, Brothers in Arms is a fairly solid military sim. By implementing strategic depth to its squad-based gunfights, the game manages to ratchet up the sort of tension that few shooters have these days.

System Requirements: Pentium III 1 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 5 GB HDD, WinXP

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