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Friday | September 21, 2018
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Brothers In Arms – Hells Highway (PS3 & X360)

Brothers In Arms – Hells Highway (PS3 & X360)

Gearbox’s latest Brothers In Arms game draws from the experiences of the 502nd Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division from World War II. The storyline is sure to deviate from the usual run of the mill first person shooter, but can the game bring fresh gameplay elements to the table as well?

The storyline is focused on Operation Market Garden which was a plan by Field Marshal Montgomery to finish the war before Christmas of 1944. The idea was to capture a highway through Holland by punching across enemy lines into the heart of Germany. It was the largest airborne invasion in history and while the plan was sound in theory the allies walked into a zone which was soon to be inhabited by the strongest Germany soldiers and tank divisions. This was perhaps the last significant Nazi victory of the war. Hell’s Highway is set against this rather unusual background and tells the tale of Staff Sergeant Matt Baker and his group as they attempt to survive the tasks in front of them. At times it feels as if you are watching the TV show Band Of Brothers, the scale is that epic.

Matt Baker is a very three dimensional character and Gearbox deserve special mention for their excellent storytelling and depth of emotional content. You easily sympathise with Baker as the game progresses and it is clear that the war is starting to affect his personality, so much so that his state of mind is called into question by both himself and his colleagues.  It is not often you see a FPS game handled in such a delicate and realistic manner.

Hells Highway tells a powerful story right from the first hours of Operation Market Garden to the end when the allies were forced to retreat, the story is very moving and I would be surprised if it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye at some point. You don’t need to have played the previous titles in the series to understand the game as you are treated to a series of flashbacks and cinematics, however clearly if you have then you can see just how the people in the game have matured and changed over the years.

The operation was in hindsight flawed and the game does a great job of replaying the real life events via the in-game Recon Reports. These reports are almost like an overview of the specific missions and detail enemy positions as well as your own.

The gameplay is however nothing new, and anyone who has played the previous games in the series will immediately feel at home. Newbies might have a little bit of a learning curve as the game does not reward gung ho tactics and you will quickly end up in a body bag if you decide that your favourite tactic is to run out of cover and try to shoot everyone in sight. It does however reward methodical positioning and slow progression through the levels.

You control individual teams and your job is to instruct them to best utilise their specific skill sets. There are a total of three styles of team: The Fire team are great at suppressing enemies, assault teams are good for flanking attacks and the special weapons squads such as bazooka crews are perfect for eliminating hard to reach enemies or groups of units.

Using these squads is tantamount to your success in the game. Additionally there is new destructible cover in the latest title which means you need to be careful what you are hiding behind. Objects for instance such as barrels or wooden fences can be destroyed by machine gun fire or blown to pieces with a grenade. Equally so however, you can use this terrain to your advantage and flush out opposing players for satisfying kills.

Unfortunately all is not well in the land of Gearbox, the team AI is quite often surprisingly stupid, especially when it comes to ordering them to safe locations. Click behind a wall for example to order a group to cover and sometimes they will apparently decide that bounding like a lemming over the wall into direct line of enemy fire is a wiser decision. I noticed this in prior Brothers In Arms games, but for some reason it actually seems to have gotten worse rather than better in the latest title.

adly  these game play issues don’t end there. Sometimes when you run ahead and instruct your team mates to follow you, then end up teleporting ahead of you. This means sometimes they are open to enemy fire from exposed positions from areas you haven’t yet visited. Clearly the developers decided to use this bizarre teleportation system to combat the problem of units getting stuck in terrain locations and you running ahead alone, however the solution actually adds massive issues in itself.

The enemy AI for the most part does a decent job of destroying you, by flanking and using cover to its advantage. On a few occasions however I noticed enemy soldiers standing in the open like statues for no apparent reason. More play testing was clearly the answer to resolving these issues – not only does it look extremely stupid but it runs any appearance of realism.
Other seemingly random and bizarre glitches include gunfire misdirecting in 90 degree angles to the on screen character as well as shell firing in almost the opposite direction. It looks very shoddy and it baffles me how glaring problems like this were not caught in the development and testing phases. Even my four year old son noticed it!

Graphically the game is great in parts and terrible in others. There is some nice texture detail on both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions and the particle effects are great and add a lot of impact to the on screen action. Building rubble for example in some of the levels really adds an edge to the combat scenes. Occasionally the game presents a particularly noticeable kill in slow-mo and there are cool looking head shots and grenade explosions which render limbs from the soldiers. That said, these are somewhat counterbalanced by appalling grass and flower textures which make an appearance on a regular basis. Equally poor are the flame effects which look extremely dated when you have played games such as Crysis recently. There are also clipping problems and some frame rate issues from time to time. I also appreciate the grain filter the developers have applied to the surroundings, however I am not sure it actually adds anything apart from being annoying in some locations.

The multiplayer is an afterthought and doesn’t add any long term playability to the game. Sure you can have 20 players fighting in a combat environment but it just doesn’t really work as the only objective is to raise or lower flags at two locations in each map or take out the enemy squad. The visual detail also suffers which I can only surmise is to help keep the frame rate high with so many human characters on screen.

The audio side of the game is great with a musical score befitting  an AAA film, there are orchestral sections which dynamically enhance the mood. Equally impressive is the voice acting which adds a certain degree of poignancy to the story. It is not all positive however and while you are playing the game there are certain phrases which will grate on your patience, especially as they regularly repeat. Thankfully you can turn these off (which I only found out much later in the game!).

At the end of the day, Brothers In Arms: Hells Highway offers some great insights to the real life battles of Operation Market Garden and it does so with great respect, attention to detail and delicate story telling. Unfortunately it appears that much of the effort when into the presentation and cinematic storytelling, rather than focusing on fixing the glaring issues which run rampant throughout. The AI is terrible and there are some issues with the tactical controls. The visuals are also patchy and although the sound helps redeem these oversights, the overall package was clearly in need of several months more play testing.



The control mechanic works well, however your squads behave like automated robots from time to time which ruins the realism. Shoddy AI.


Impressive in some parts, particularly the particle effects. A lack of attention to detail, frame rate issues and clipping ruins it however.


Orchestral score is wonderful and the voice acting is top notch.

Three difficulty levels is about as far as it goes. Multiplayer is poor.
(not an average)

Extremely average, which is a shame as the potential for a great game was high.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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