Wednesday, April 21, 2004
I know what you're thinking. "Another World War 2 shooter. Whoop-de-doo." But don't let the convoluted war shooter genre turn your eyes from what could be the next big thing in the interactive war experience.
Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Battlefield 1942, Ghost Recon...the list goes on and on chalk full of various military/army scenarios. However, many of those can be easily passed of as Half Life with a WW2 skin. Many of those games start off copying a movie like Saving Private Ryan for the first couple levels and then lose any resemblance of the real war it was hinting at. But what made Ubisoft not let Gearbox out of the conference room with this game until they signed a publishing deal?
Brothers in Arms tells a true story from beginning to end with unparalleled accuracy. Gearbox has been at work for three and a half years not only designing the game, but researching. Whether it's visiting the National Historic Archive, reading war non-fiction, spending time in real training camps or even hiring a Colonel to be a highly-influential guide through game development, Gearbox has taken meticulous care to recreate this story. Plus, the city models are so accurate you could be a tour guide if you ever visit Normandy for the first time.
Gearbox truly believes truth is better than fiction.
So, you are Sgt. Matthew Baker of the third squad of the third platoon of the 502. You and your paratroopers have missed the drop point on your mission to secure the invasion of Normandy. Along the way you pick up troops under your command. Acting more like an RTS than a "tactical shooter," you can place your guys by moving a cursor where you need them to go. Whether a brute offensive move or a diversion, your troops don't aimlessly walk toward their destination; they are so very aware of the danger that they respond with breakthrough intelligence. These guys aren't cannon fodder. But don't worry; your enemies will be doing the same.
What struck me also as different was how polished it looked this early on. Not only were the animations and explosions realistic, but the game nailed that inexplicable mix of courage and anxiety. When an enemy was killed, you felt a sinking feeling overruled by the call of duty (pun intended).
The multiplayer mode is to die for. Gone are the tired deathmatch redundancies. In are objective based modes. Each multiplayer level represents a historical battle. From hold-the-house type scenarios to deliver this document scenarios, it really happened. But you will control three AI troops and be paired with one other human with his three AI troops. Your team of "eight" will face off with another team of "eight." You won't be able to tell which of your eight enemies are AI and which are human. Unlike Battlefield 1942, you can't go off and do your own thing. The multiplayer mode is designed so that you must work as a team or get owned immediately.
From what I saw at its unveiling, it looked and sounded marvelous. Not being a big fan of war shooters, I am almost guaranteeing this will be the bridge that gets the casual gamer into the wartime experience.