2008 Reviews

Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway

  • Review Date: 2011-12
  • Release Date: 2008-09
  • Developer: Gearbox Software
  • Rating: 6.5

Hell's Highway is the third edition in the Brothers In Arms franchise by Gearbox. While the first; Road to Hill 30, was average, the sequel; Earned in Blood, I hated.

And actually looking at my reviews of those two games, all the same problems still exist in Hell's Highway, but for some reason I just enjoyed it a lot more. The main reason is because it's a tad easier. No longer are you forced to use your teams for flanking in order to beat this game. Instead you can just have them follow you constantly while you slowly, and I mean SLOWLY shoot your way through the enemies.

Hell's Highway got rave reviews from the leading critics. Which isn't a huge surprise because it's different and critics like that. However, I don't mind if a shooter wants to remain old skool and not try to change things. If it's fun and looks good, I'm happy. How Hell's Highway (I'll refer to it as BIAHH) differs is in it's difficulty and gameplay, which is also it's main flaw - it's extremely repetitive.

I'll outline the combat in BIAHH:

1. Move forward and red dots appear, signalling enemies have entered the scene.

2. Find the nearest cover and duck behind it, making sure your team-mates are nowhere near you as they'll do nothing but get in your way and get you killed.

3. Poke your head up with ironsights enabled (taking up most of your screen).

4. Wait for the enemy to then poke his head up, taking your shot. Usually missing.

5. Repeat over and over again until everyone is dead so you can continue to the next scene.

There is the odd level where you go solo indoors and can move along a bit faster, which are actually my favourite parts of the game. They're just more fun.

Having to ironsight shoot enemies from a far is a real strain on the wrist and eyes because they're often just a tiny dot in the distance. This game feels like a duck hunt or arcade shooting game more than any other first person shooter I've played.

Let me get back to how useless the team-mates are. If they're set to follow you and you poke around a corner to find enemies, they'll often be standing right in your way as you get shot to pieces. I didn't once in the entire game see an enemy get shot that I didn't shoot myself. And more than once I placed a satchel charge on a tank or 88 gun, run away with the precious few seconds I have left only to turn around and see my ENTIRE TEAM just standing right beside the explosion - every single one of them being blown to pieces. Of course once you get to a checkpoint they've somehow returned from the dead. At least it's not at the end of the level like the previous games.

So the checkpoints are still here and not that close together, but I didn't die all that much in BIAHH so it wasn't as bad as the previous games. The regenerating health has been improved, so it's no longer an issue. But the inaccurate weapons return. Countless times I can clearly see I'm aiming straight at the enemies head, and somehow I miss or it takes a few shots at the exact same place before they die. The inaccurate weapons 'feature' is supposedly to increase realism, but it really just increases my frustration.

While I disliked the gameplay in the previous games, I also disliked the design. The levels were bland, flat and just looked ugly. Gearbox has picked up their game here. BIAHH actually looks very good, of course running Unreal Engine 3.0. This time there's a lot of variety. Sure your countryside towns are prevalent, but we also get creepy bombed hospitals under moonlight, a chaotic recently bombed city with fire everywhere. Okay, perhaps now that I look at the levels they are all still little towns and countryside, but with the different weather and times of day, Gearbox have given the locations enough variety to be interesting. The same could not be said for the previous games.

Now the final topic of today is the story. Critics seemed to love the story. I, on the otherhand, found it a confusing bore. You quite clearly need to have played the previous games very recently to know who everyone is and what's going on, as the stories intertwine. I couldn't remember a damn thing about the previous games apart from the main characters name. Despite this, whatever story was there wasn't really that interesting anyway. The lengthy cutscenes between each level/chapter (of which there are ten) feel more like just random conversations and interaction between the characters, setting up the next chapter. Supposedly some team-mates have died (don't ask me who they all look too much the same) and there's a lot of remorse and secrets. Good dialogue and action sequences but the story could have been told a little clearer. I did still enjoy all the cutscenes though, they might a nice breather between chapters.

Overall I enjoyed BIAHH much more than it's predecessors and more than I was expecting. The graphics are great, the cutscenes and story are decent, though not as good as has been made out. The only weak point is the repetitive combat, but it's been improved since last time out. Gearbox is currently working on two more BIA games and with the success of Hell's Highway I can now actually look forward to playing them.