The shield system is especially interesting too, as players need to quickly react to increasing ‘risk’ (be it upcoming explosions or gunfire) indicated by red colouring and blur effects. If you’re slow to make a move you’ll eventually take a bullet, and unless you’re extremely lucky you’ll probably die from the wound. The lock-to-cover system is presented under the moniker ‘Dig-In’. Activating it will press you against a wall, and you can fire around corners. It’s in need of modification, though, and you will often find your shooting arc reduced - you can’t hit some visible foes without first leaving cover.
You also gain control of up to three squads in the game, allowing you to set up advanced battle plans against multiple enemy forces. Clever management of allies is the key to success in this part of the game - leave them stranded and they’ll be gunned down, removing your covering fire and ending your chance of a sneak attack from the sides.
From a narrative standpoint, the game has some unconventional touches. Your introduction to Hell’s Highway doesn’t begin at the beginning but around two-thirds of the way in - in an evacuated hospital just inside Eindhoven. Your character goes a bit mental at the end and ends up shooting at imaginary soldiers, so it plants an interesting seed to be expanded upon later in the game. Gearbox are proud of the story they’ve crafted, and we’re certainly wondering where it leads to… especially since an earlier version of the game we saw had Baker having ‘visions’.
While it’s safe to say that most people have had their fill of gaming between ‘39 and ‘45, it would be ridiculous to dismiss a series as previously reliable as this simply because of its setting. But for all the tricks and ideas at play here, we not sure we’ve actually seen anything that’s particularly new - not to Brothers in Arms, and not to gaming as a whole. Cover systems appear in almost any shooter you’d care to mention nowadays, the flanking attacks are regurgitations of the same tactics used in the last BIA games, and impassable borders return to steer you through some disappointingly restrictive levels. Unless the later missions bring some originality to the table we’re not convinced that Hell’s Highway will be a route worth taking.
Jan 30, 2008