"Sergeant Baker is a poet. You won't be able to hear it... but if you could, you would cry."
We're packed into a noisy room at publisher Ubisoft's recent press day, staring at a blank loading screen for Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway. The protagonist's supposedly poignant narration, as well as our desire to witness yet another World War II game, is quickly fading into the surrounding din. But when the action begins to unfold on screen, we suddenly believe the developer's claims. War can be beautiful.
For one thing, Sergeant Baker and his squad of reconnaissance soldiers aren't stuck in a generic muddy trench, or trudging up the same washed out beach we've seen depicted in countless WWII games before. In the battle we watched, they were fighting across gorgeous Dutch countryside, the vibrant flowers and quaint vegetable patches creating an ironically pretty backdrop for the bloody ravages of combat.
Equally eye-popping was the way in which that idyllic setting was torn apart. As Baker ran for cover along a farmer's wooden fence, the Germans' well aimed bullets reduced it to a cloud of sawdust and splinters. A fountain statue sitting in a rural estate's courtyard was equally destructible, crumbling off small pieces and eventually breaking clean in half. The attention to detail seemed truly immersive - shooting into that same fountain splashes shiny droplets of water onto the screen, while nearby explosions can spray chunks of dirt into the camera's lens.