Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: 3/15/2005
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The Good: Great graphics, smart AI, great squad controls, authentic feeling, lots of attention to detail, great extras
The Bad: Feels repetitive, not much variety, tank AI has pathfinding issues, requires a lot of patience and can be very difficult
World War II shooters were everywhere, but Ubisoft and Gearbox took a dangerous risk and released one so late in the game. 2005 was a year where WWII shooters were at their peak and when gamers hated them the most. Brothers in Arms proved to be a more authentic and smarter shooter and won fans of the genre over.
Gearbox painstakingly recreated Carentan and many parts of France where the 101st Airborne Division landed on D-Day. The game also uses squad tactics and realism unlike any other WWII shooter out there. You will notice when you play how well the guns feel when you shoot them, and how you can’t nail an enemy from 100 feet away with a Thompson. You have to flank the enemy or you die. It’s that simple and that difficult. Red circles will appear above enemy squads. You can issue commands to your squads to suppress them. Their circle will turn gray and then it is safe to move up and find cover around the area to flank them. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Your squadmates can die and so can you if you aren’t careful. You have to watch out for MG fire which will kill you in an instant, and sometimes even tanks.
This realism and authenticity can’t be done without good AI and BiA delivers and is even impressive today. The only issue I had with AI was with tanks. Sometimes they wouldn’t go around each other or go the other way to follow a command. The game also requires a lot of patience. Sometimes even trial and error. You can’t just rush every enemy like in Call of Duty and save the day. You can order squads to rush and attack while your other squad suppresses, then you can charge in with them to kill them all. You can also order squads set positions that you want so you have total control. It feels good and is a key part of the game. Without mastering this you won’t get very far.
You also can’t just use an M1 Garand and snipe an enemy’s head while he’s in cover. It just doesn’t work that way, you also can’t kill an MG unless you flank them. This isn’t Medal of Honor. This gave a great feeling of realism, but it was also very difficult. I died quite often because I chose a wrong tactic or I flanked the wrong way. Sometimes my impatience got in the way as well. I even found different weapons to help certain situations. When I finally got the Springfield sniper rifle it was a weapon from God. After all the inaccurate weapons that couldn’t hit crap this thing made life easier, but only for a few levels at the end.
When it comes to looks, BiA looks great even to this day. The lighting looks real, the grass flows, the models and textures are pretty high-res (for back then) you will be impressed. The game holds up and is still better than a lot of shooters today. My main concern is that the game feels the same throughout. I just went around killing everything and maybe planted a few charges. I could mount an MG sometimes, ride the back of a tank, but overall there wasn’t much variety in the game which I find the biggest issue.
What’s here is one of the most authentic shooters around and fans of the genre won’t be disappointed at all. The game looks great, has smart AI, and tells a sad story of Baker Company and the 101st Airborne.