Reviewed: November 6, 2008
Released: October 7, 2008
Another year brings more World War II first person shooters. Like most gamers I am tired of playing through this era, but it is hard to get upset or pass up playing a game that is as good as Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway. This game had been in development for what seemed like an eternity. Each year saw another delay, and when I saw it back in 2006 the developer said it would be out that fall. Thankfully Gearbox was able to make the most out of the additional development time and they have created a masterpiece.
Hellís Highway focuses on the brave soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. You play as Staff Sergeant Matt Baker as you lead your company through the real events of Operation Market Garden. This was the largest airborne operation of World War II and you will be fighting to open ďHellís HighwayĒ and put an end to the war.
You play the game from a first person perspective and control your men by using point-and-click squad commands. You can tell them where to position themselves and what to fire at. Essentially, you have full control over your squad and this adds a certain level of strategy to the game that is missing from other titles like Call of Duty. It is important that you use them to help you progress through the game because the checkpoint system is not nearly as forgiving as it is in Call of Duty. You will find yourself playing through a large part of each mission if you die.
Some neat aspects of Hellís Highway are that the boxes you find in game are fully destructible, but in a realistic way. They don't self-destruct after three simple shots; it takes a lot to break anything that is wood. Even certain structures are destructible. Like if there's a sniper in a tower and you order your bazooka team to shoot at it, the tower will collapse differently depending where it was hit. Most buildings are the same and you can blowout the sides of them like in Battlefield; Bad Company.
The most frequent line I found myself uttering over and over while playing was "No way, that's awesome!" I just can't say enough about how amazing the story is. It plays out so well that you'd swear it was something out of a movie. The voice acting and writing is as top notch as a grade ďAĒ film. That goes for the guns as well. The gun sounds are so realistic you feel like you are shooting them, they have a real punch each time you fire. And the explosions are simply amazing. During the game you will hear the most realistic sound as airplanes fly over and bullets bounce off your helmet as you crouch behind a wall.
Hellís Highway has an amazingly patriotic and uplifting score. The music always fits each situation perfectly and helps to draw you into the game. Great detail and attention were paid to making sure the sounds of World War II were spot on. The Gearbox sound department even went to a shooting range to record the sound effects for each weapon and vehicle in the game. It is really evident while playing because the sound effects are simply amazing. Excellent voice acting accompanied by a great script will engulf you in the story. You really get attached to the characters and their personalities. The last time I got this involved and attached to a gameís story and characters was Mass Effect.
The graphics will blow you away when you see the bullet shells smoke as they fly from your barrel after each shot. The bump mapping on every of the characters clothing and landscapes is gorgeous. Slow motion kills demonstrate how amazing the ragdolls are for each character. It also shows off how brutal killing really is. During one of the levels I ordered my troops to shoot a bazooka at a group of enemies. As I examined their bodies after the explosion I could see a severed torso and missing arms and legs. Another time I shot an enemy in the head, slicing it in half in slow motion as the helmet twirled in air and fell to the ground.
If I were to compare the level of detail I would put it up against Crysis. I realize that is a bold statement, but I honestly believe the graphics are that amazing. The amount of detail in every texture is noticeable and it features the best tall grass I have ever seen in a game. The game uses both Direct X9 and DirectX10. I played the game with Direct X10 graphics and the difference between the two is huge. Direct X9 simply can't compare to the level of detail Dx10 can support. The light glistening through broken glass and the setting sun reflecting off of puddles of water while inside an industrial building made me a true believer in this game's graphics engine.
The smoke is the best I have ever seen in a game. The way it moves and dissipates is amazingly real. The real-time shadows, smoke, dust, water, and dynamic lighting are of the highest quality. You will be impressed and satisfied with Hell's Highway from start to finish.
Players will more than likely find themselves customizing the controls shortly after starting the game because they feel awkward. After you figure out what feels comfortable you will be ready to enjoy this fantastic game. There are only a few downsides to Hellís Highway. First, you have no reason to replay the story mode that will take you approximately 10-12 hours to complete. There is no co-op mode and the multiplayer support is limited due to the lack of people playing it.
Other than that, Brotherís in Arms Hellís Highway is a beautiful and engrossing cinematic experience that is as much fun to watch, as it is to play. Games rarely are this enjoyable and I can't remember the last time I started up a game and couldn't stop playing it.