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Brothers in Arms

The attack starts with a mortar round landing not ten metres away. Your commanding officer is finally roused to a decision. "Sergeant, gather your squad and clear that street. Now."

Randy Pitchford, Gearbox's President and Chief of Staff is demonstrating Brothers in Arms, their bayonet-stab at first-person WWII combat. It's a phenomenal prospect: rather than funnelling you, alone, through a series of scripted encounters, you're put in command of a platoon of paratroopers, dropped into Normandy at midnight, D-Day. You're responsible for directing them, using authentic US small-scale military tactics to manoeuvre and fire.

You have two fire-teams: one specialising in getting in close, flanking the enemy, the other laying down a base of fire. As General Patton put it, "Grab 'em by the nose and kick 'em in the ass." Your men work together independently of your instructions, covering each other's advance, firing from behind cover, even raising their rifles when a friendly crosses their path.

A small patrol of German soldiers is blocking the advance. Randy orders his fire squad to set up at one corner, peppering the enemy position from a distance. Now the clever bit. Rather than ordering a suicidal charge into automatic guns, Randy wheels left, attempting to outflank. His tactical decisions are aided by a 'situational awareness view'. This top-down map replicates the months of pouring over maps and models of Normandy that paratroopers undertook before D-Day. When they're ready, Randy motions for the rest of the squad to cross the road. Once they're in position, they inch out, peppering the Germans from a corner.

The sausage-eaters are left high and dry, their position covered from all angles and the bullets streaming in. "Look at them," cries Randy. "They're s[litting - ed] themselves!" Randy takes the opportunity to move to a firing position.

Two shots later and the brief engagement is over. The German defenders are face down and dead. The platoon moves on.

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