Brothers in Arms

Finally finished Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 – interesting and nicely balanced length and difficulty. The quick interface for giving your squad commands works well: point at a target and click the right mouse button, and the context determines the command given. The biggest problem is that the click is modal — you have two teams to command, and which team gets the order depends on which team you have selected in the lower left corner of the screen. Unfortunately I can’t see a better way to do the command targeting without adding another button to the mouse. It would be nice if the current selection was a little bigger than the tiny icon in the corner.

It’d also be nice if the team were smart enough to know not to run in front of the german machine gun nest, but I guess the problem is that sometimes you do want the team to draw fire away…

The command system is almost too simple, since there are only two verbs: “go” and “shoot”. Still, when the bullets are flying it’s easy to give the wrong command. The game gives you lots of interesting puzzles to apply your commands to. Early battles are tutorials, with handy fences and walls for you to hide your flanking maneuvers. Each fight becomes a simple chess game: fire team to that fence, fire to supress, move assault team to flank, fire to finish enemy position, move up to next obstacle, repeat. Later battles are a lot more open and free-form, where your tactics and eye for positioning become the deciding factor. Flanks aren’t as obvious. They also require the occasional headlong rush to solve. Interlocking fields of fire makes flanking impossible without taking casualties.

This isn’t as much a chess game as Full Spectrum Warrior. Especially in later battles, where the enemy AI tries to flank you while you are doing your thing.

The narrative is thin but realistic — the squad leader voice-over mumbles on about the friendships and the horrors of war. The missions all fit together nicely (i.e. take a town, then defend it against the counter-attack), but the characters in your squad remain cardboard cut-outs for the most part.

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