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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

Oct. 15, 2007

The second World War's been getting a bit of a raw deal recently. Medal of Honor: Airborne, though a sterling effort, couldn't quite slap us out of our apathy with all things 1940. So what hope is there that Sergeant Matt Baker and his brave boys from the 101st Airborne Division can turn things around?

See, BIA has always been that bit different from the other WWII FPS' that seemingly deluge every gaming system under the sun. With a marked emphasis on flanking, suppression fire and tactical presence they're as much of a cerebral challenge as a mere shoot-'em-up reaction test, and adept at tugging heartstrings too.

Okay, so there are no pioneering deviations from the standard BIA form here (disturbing combat flashbacks, complicated-looking tactical maps and those red and black suppression icons are all still present and correct) but it's the sheer horsepower of next-gen that really helped immerse us in the midst of Operation Market Garden. From the fully destructible environments to the eerily realistic character animations which result in Baker and co. adopting the kind of postures you'd expect to see in certain contexts - for example, quivering when a grenade explodes nearby or crouching tentatively when being pinned back by heavy gunfire - you can almost see their pupils dilate in fear. Then there are the little touches, like hundreds of paratroopers against the horizon, which really make you feel like you're embroiled in something truly epic.

Despite Gearbox's obsession with maps that are accurate to within 0.2mm (note: not necessarily true) and the whole super realism angle, Hell's Highway does offer the odd concession to Hollywood panache. Witness the cheesily monikered "Brotherhood Moments," as the camera goes John Woo and time slows to appreciate a particularly epic takedown or emotional incident. You know what? Cutting edge art direction applied to the crusty 1940s works better than you might expect...