World War II may have ended 62 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop using Nazis as bad guys in Modern American entertainment. Because there hasn’t been a Nazi-killing simulator yet on the DS, Ubisoft has picked up the slack of videogame publishers everywhere and released Brothers in Arms DS - putting you in the shoes of Johnny ApplePie, a parachuter for an airborne regime who just wants to live long enough to see his sweetheart back home who misses him something fierce.
Actually, the hero’s name is probably something less propaganda-y, but we’d be bothered to remember had we not experienced this roughly three thousand times already. The truth is while BiA is a 14-mission trip through a war you probably remember more than your Grandpa by now, there are some solid gameplay ideas that suffer due a number of annoyances extending to unclear objectives and forced linearity.
As mentioned in our earlier preview, BiA controls like a 3rd person action game, with the over-the-shoulder fixed camera placement that’s all the rage these days. Control is simplified to the D-pad for movement, the touch screen for aiming and L for shooting. It works well, but because your right hand is freed for aiming, your left hand handles the weight of the DS and shooting - something that feels uncomfortable and clunky. While the DS is no PSP in terms of weight, it is something that can cramp your hand after extended play sessions.
The action is quick and brutal - meaning you’re always driven forward towards more action and less dilly-dallying. For example; after you complete a task like sniping an enemy or placing an explosive charge, a checkpoint shows up on the screen for you to rush toward to trigger the next scripted event, thusly keeping the pace constantly moving.
It works for the most part. Usually the next pre-scripted event occurs as you’re running towards the checkpoint, so that you’re perfectly in position to return fire. Other times, reaching the checkpoint is absolutely necessary. In one tank-controlled mission, you must destroy anti-tank guns and then high-tail it towards the railroad tracks and destroy the building nearby, so that the rubble keeps the train from leaving - but only in that order. You can blast away at the building all you want, but nothing will happen, until you reach the checkpoint and your reticule turns red. This is especially annoying considering you don’t need to be exact with your aiming while on foot.
Another hindrance in BiA is the unclear objectives. In many instances, you’ll rush from cover as a Panzer tank starts blasting artillery in your direction. The top screen reads, “Engage Enemy Armor,” but you’re out of grenades. You’re next retry refills your grenade count, but until then there’s nothing left to do but strafe the tank until you explode and reload for the umpteenth time. And why are there loading times? BiA was made for the DS - you know… the system that plays carts, not CDs, UMDs or any optical drive that requires loading. It’s a minor annoyance, but seriously, what the hell?