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Sean Pettibone

Preview: Brothers In Arms (PS2, Xbox, PC)




By Michael Palisano

Set during World War II as the invasion of Normandy is underway, Ubisoft's Brothers In Arms looks to set new standards of authenticity and realism when its released. One key difference in this title from others on the market is that its based on true life stories from real soldiers who were on the ground. Commanding the 101st Airborne division as they invade Normandy, you'll use the same authentic tactics, maneuvers and strategy that the soldiers did. The other key element that separates Brothers In Arms from the pack is the interaction between soldiers and their backgrounds, which should lend the game an emotional component lacking in most other titles. This combination of tactical gameplay and deeper plotlines should give the game a unique place in the genre. Read our preview and find out why Brothers In Arms won't be another mindless shooter.

World War II themed military titles have grown in popularity over the past few years with the likes of Medal of Honor giving players a chance to experience the combat and events of that time. However, many have been critical of these types of games, because they lack the emotional resonance and authenticity that the real soldiers had to go through. Developers Gearbox and publishers Ubi Soft are looking to change this with the release of Brothers In Arms, a tactical combat title coming to the Xbox, PS2 and PC later this year. The major difference between this game and the many others in its genre comes with the fact that it's based on a true story. Brothers In Arms casts the player as Sergeant Matt Baker, leader of the Army's 101st Airborne Paratroopers. The other unique aspect of Brothers In Arms is the deep, tactical combat gameplay that gives you an unprecedented amount of control. You control the squad's actions and tactics throughout the game, using real world tactics and weaponry to defeat the Germans and liberate the French countryside from the Nazi occupation. Every aspect of the game will be authentic and realistic with an unvarnished approach that won't sanitize the experience. The sights, sounds, and feeling of being in combat will be incredibly realistic. This approach is unique in the genre and should make Brothers In Arms the most realistic World War II title on the market.

The battlefields and terrain of Normandy have been recreated in remarkable detail that's stunning to see in action. Actual locations of buildings, the types of buildings, enemy locations, trees, roads and, bridges will bring the battles to life in vivid form. Every location and battlefield in the area has been meticulously recreated using actual military records such as aerial reconnaissance photographs of the area and eyewitness accounts. In some cases, many areas in Normandy have remained largely unchanged since the war, allowing them to be photographed and recreated digitally for a great amount of detail and realism. An excellent graphics engine will allow an incredible amount of detail and realism that brings players right into the center of the action. This extends down to the soldiers' movements, tactics and maneuvers, all of which are based on how these actually occurred. Gearbox will further immerse you into combat by using a unique control system. Players of all abilities will be able to control and command their soldiers using with ease thanks to an intuitive control interface.

Brothers In Arms is set in the days and hours surrounding the D-Day invasion, and puts you right in the center of that epic struggle. You are sent in before the main invasion forces and, your paratroopers are going behind enemy lines to try and secure the areas before the allies arrive by sea. Brothers In Arms' missions and levels take place during the eight-day Invasion. These will duplicate the actual events and order in which they occured. This fidelity to the truth should go a long way in making the game feel even more realistic. This authenticity will also extend to the soldiers themselves, who will each have a unique personality, and relationships with one another that will evolve and change during the game. Each of the 20 soldiers in your unit will be affected by events, such as the death of a comrade or a close call, that will color their experience during the rest of the game. The interactions between the soldiers with each other and Sgt. Baker will also help to bring players a new understanding of the bonding and connections the soldiers of the 101st had with each other. This sets up a unique dynamic that brings Brothers In Arms a much more realistic feel than many of the other war games on the market. The single player mode is looking quite impressive, but Gearbox is also promising to include some multiplayer support with three man teams battling it out, plus other possibilities that haven't been revealed.

A sophisticated AI system allows both friendly and hostile forces to react to the situation in real-time using authentic tactics and maneuvers. The AI controlled soldiers will attack, retreat or flank enemies without being told to do so. This will affect the gameplay in a number of important ways. For example, in one of the areas of the game that we saw, your squad is trying to push the Germans out of their positions inside a farmhouse. As the squad moved into position, you can see their positions, and can pick them off one by one. Once you have killed enough of them, they'll retreat which allows you to take over some of their positions. Once inside the house, you can take command of a machine gun and mow down some of the fleeing soldiers. However, the Germans aren't quite so easy to defeat. Don't be fooled - you think you're safe for a moment, but suddenly, heavy armor comes roaring, headed towards your position giving you little choice but to retreat. You'll also have to keep an eye out for fire from above, because allied airstrikes won't always be able to tell the difference between hostile and friendly forces. This sophisticated approach lends each mission a tension and unpredictability that few other military titles can match. Brothers in Arms lets you control your squad's missions and give commands to individual soldiers as well. This gives each mission a large component of strategy, making it essential to know your surroundings and objectives before you move in recklessly with guns blazing. Other considerations may affect your command decisions. During each mission, you'll need to balance between risking your brothers' lives and completing the mission faster. It's a difficult choice, especially given the personal relationships you have with them. This adds a moral dimension to Brothers In Arms that other titles in the genre lack, making the backstory significantly more important than most other combat titles on the market.

Far from creating a dry simulation or a mindless action game, Gearbox and Ubisoft are instead trying to bring an authentic, emotional experience to players. Brothers In Arms realistic approach will transport players into the gritty reality of war, with a true-life cast of characters and events that should allow you to understand what actually happened. The authentic locations, weaponry and real-world combat tactics will give the game a believability that other titles lack. Brothers In Arms looks to be an ambitious and expansive title with intense battles, incredible realism and attention to detail. Its unique approach looks quite impressive in all many areas at this point. There's definitely a lot of promise in this title, and if the finished game winds up half as impressive as what we've seen to date, it looks like Brothers In Arms will be yet another outstanding combat title from Ubisoft.

Brothers In Arms will be available for the PS2, Xbox and PC later this year.

Publisher: Ubisoft    Developer: Gearsoft

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