Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
|Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30|
|Series||Brothers in Arms|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 2|
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and published by Ubisoft for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows and OS X. It is the first game in the Brothers in Arms series. The game takes place during World War II and focuses on tactics. It was ported to the Wii in 2008, as part of the Brothers in Arms: Double Time compilation.
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 was also used to recreate scenarios in a 2005 History Channel special, also titled Brothers in Arms.
In most levels of Brothers in Arms, the player is in command of one or two separate 1-3 man teams, with the exception of several sections in which the player is not in command of any unit. There are two types of teams, which are automatically provided before each mission:
- Fire team: Made up of soldiers with the M1 Garand and the Browning Automatic Rifle and used to fix the enemy with suppressive fire.
- Assault team: Made up of soldiers usually with the M1A1 Carbine and the Thompson submachine gun and is good for flanking the enemy while they are pinned down by the player's fire team.
Additionally, some levels provide the player with a tank in lieu of a team, providing players with heavy firepower and mobile cover. The player can also man the pintle-mounted M1919 Browning machine gun on the tank for additional suppression.
Brothers in Arms is notable for its intuitive command system. Teams and tanks can be ordered to move, lay suppressive fire, rally, find cover, and charge the enemy. The game stresses at multiple points the effectiveness of fire and maneuver tactics, known as the Four Fs actually used by the military during World War II, expressed in the game tutorial as "Find, Fix, Flank, Finish" describing the steps in suppressing and flanking an enemy.
The focus on team command is emphasized by providing the player with an inaccurate aim. Instead of having almost perfect accuracy with weapons in games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms models weapons with erratic accuracy, and enemy fire can interfere with a player's aim to simulate the effects of suppressive fire. The relative lack of accuracy is designed to simulate the difficulty in hitting targets in a combat situation as well as forcing the player to use team members to engage enemy units and provide better tactical opportunities.
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Brothers in Arms is based on the true story of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famed 101st Airborne Division who were dropped behind German lines on D-Day. The game is based on the historical Mission Albany, in which the player has to complete true-to-life missions of the 101st.
The game starts the player, Sergeant Matt Baker of the 502nd Infantry Regiment at the climax of the Battle of Bloody Gulch. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Paratroopers make a desperate stand as Leggett, the squads radioman makes a frantic request for tank support. Unable to raise support or reinforcements, the situation for the Paratroopers only gets worse when a Panzer IV fires directly at them, incapacitating Baker. An unhinged Leggett is seen firing his Colt 45 pistol at the tank, only for him to be instantly killed by another shot. Platoon Sergeant "Mac" is seen trying to resuscitate Baker before fading into unconsciousness.
The game then snaps back to the initial jump off, taking place hours before the Normandy Landings. Baker, along with the rest of the squad are preparing to disembark from the C-47, when the plane is hit by anti-aircraft fire. Baker is thrown from the plane, although losing his kit in the drop he manages to land safely. Managing to find Mac, the pair search for the others, eventually finding Leggett and Cole using the Thunder, Flash acknowledgement. Despite being way off course, the group led by Mac destroy several Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns using satchel explosives. By morning, more of the squad has managed to find one another, including Corporal Hartsock, who Mac delegates to Baker to clear an important road leading to Utah Beach. After fighting their way through several German soldiers, as well as a mortar team, Baker and Hartsock link up with Allen and Garnett, two other members of their squad. Using a Browning 30. Calibre Machine Gun, the four troops defend against a counterattack from the beach and succeed in securing the main road, therefore securing the landing at Utah.
With the beachhead secure, Baker is tasked to clear out a makeshift barracks used by the Germans with Hartsock assisting. Along the way they intervene in Allen and Garnett almost being killed by the barracks garrison (Allen and Garnett were attempting to destroy the structure with a Bazooka). With no hindrance to their advance, the 502nd are now able to press on to securing Foucarville, still being contested by the Germans and the Paratroopers. Alongside Hartsock, Allen and Garnett, Baker succeeds in engaging a larger force of German soldiers, and also manages to destroy several mortar positions and a tank before once again linking up with Mac. At the end of the mission, Mac confesses to Baker that he assumed he was too shy to handle being squad leader (a fact Baker still isn't comfortable in handling) but his doubts have been now made unfound because of his abilities to fight effectively.
The next mission has Baker and his team destroying poles erected in clear fields so that the Glider Infantry can land safely in the area. The task is complicated however because the Germans have plenty of reinforcements, and enough MG42 Machine Gun emplacements to defend the fields effectively. Nevertheless, Baker succeeds and the gliders land with ease. The 502nd are then tasked with clearing the town of Vierville on D-Day+1, with assistance from an M3 Stuart Tank whose Commander happens to be Baker's best friend, Sergeant George Risner. Baker's squad, as well as heavy fire support from George manage to clear the town, as well as repel an armoured counterattack before embarking on the tank to secure a vital crossroad near St. Come du Mont in the next mission. Although successful in breaking through the heavy German defenses, George's tank is ambushed by a Panzerfaust, rendering the tank immobile. George makes a heroic last stand to ensure Baker survives, although it costs him his life.
On D-Day+2, still dealing with the death of his best friend, Baker and the regrouped 502nd are prepared to liberate St. Come du Mont, but Mac instructs Baker to first clear out a German machine gun nest which has been making transit in the area risky for the troops. Baker and squad succeeds in doing so, the road to St. Come du Mont is opened. However, taking the town proves to be challenging as the Fallschirmjäger is defending, with armour support. Despite having the odds against them, the 502nd succeed in capturing the town. The next day, Baker's squad is ordered to secure a barn, with Sherman Tank support. The relatively easy task is completed, but not before Leggett can be heard shouting for Baker, who is surrounded by the dead bodies of Allen and Garnett. Distraught by the loss of life, Baker, Hartsock and Desola express their anger at Leggett, who is seen alone and inconsolable at what has occurred. Bakers team fights through the remaining stragglers from Vierville including Stug IV tanks to secure a bridge being used to transport German armour towards the beaches. With Sherman support, Baker wrestles control of the bridge from the heavily fortified Germans and destroys it as intended by Mac.
Carentan, the crossroad town linking Utah and Omaha beaches is the next designated target for the 502nd. On D-Day+4, Baker links up with Cole to secure a causeway leading to Carentan, engaging several German soldiers in the process. Stuka dive bombers make crossing one of the bridges incredibly risky, one bomb being able to knock Baker unconscious. Baker comes too the next day, only to find out that Private Desola was killed inches from him. Cole leads an attack on a heavily defended German farmhouse, using smoke barrages to conceal themselves from the numerous machine gun emplacements. The charge is successful, Mac going so far as to congratulate Baker for a fine execution of command under pressing circumstances. Two hours pass after the charge, and the men of the 502nd are weary and exhausted. Hopes to earn rest are soon dashed, as the farmhouse comes under attack by German forces. To make matters worse, a detachment of troops has been pinned down by the enemy advance, meaning defending the farmhouse for those that remain will be even harder whilst Baker is sent with Hartsock, Obrieski and Zanovich to the rescue of Lt. Combs. Returning with Combs, Baker and his team takes up defensive positions around the farmhouse as swarms of German infantry attack. The attack is heavy, but Baker and the rest of the 502nd manage to repel the attack.
The next day, D-Day+6, Baker and the 502nd push into Carentan, destroying German armour and making steady progress.
The sequel Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood is also based on the last missions of the 101st, such as link up with 82nd Airborne Division and capture of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (which historically did not involve the 101st A/B as a whole, but some members volunteered to assist the undermanned 82nd Division). The player takes the role of Matt Baker, a paratrooper (based on Harrison C. Summers and various other people) and leader of an airborne squad from Fox Company. The missions range from dropping into France on June 6 to the final defense of Hill 30 eight days later. Baker must lead his men through troubled times and make decisions that may result in the death of a paratrooper, which causes him much heartache.
Baker's squad consists of Corporal Joe "Red" Hartsock, Cpl. Sam Corrion, Private First Class Jack Courtland, Pfc. Stephan "Obi" Obrieski, Private Larry Allen, Pvt. Johnny Rivas, Pvt. Michael Desola, Pvt. David Muzza, Pfc. Thomas "Zano" Zanovich, Pvt. Michael Garnett and Pvt. Dale "Kid" McCreary. The Radioman is Pfc. Kevin Benjamin "Legs" Leggett. The squad is one of three under Platoon Sgt. Greg "Mac" Hassay. "Mac" served under Sgt. Baker's father, whom he had much respect for, in the First World War and has promised to himself to make Sgt. Baker into a good soldier.
Another character included is Sgt. Baker's best friend, tank commander Sgt. George Risner, with whom he spent his childhood. He commands a M5 Light Tank. George follows Sgt. Baker into a small French town outside Saint-Côme-du-Mont where his tank is hit by a panzerfaust. He soon dies while firing back at the Germans with Baker's M1911 pistol. Also included are real life personalities General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading a charge against a German position outside Carentan early on June 11, 1944. Another real-life character is Col. S.L.A. Marshall. Lt. Col. Patrick Cassidy is also featured in the series, he is the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 502nd PIR. Col. Howard R. Johnson (the commander of the 501st PIR) is also featured in the series.
Brothers in Arms uses a modified version of the Unreal Engine 2.0 with various effects such as motion blur, colored and lighting, anisotropic filtering, rag-doll physics, realistic ballistics, surround sound and dampening. The story behind Brothers in Arms was based on the missions that were conducted by the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the famed 101st Airborne Division, behind enemy lines during D-Day. Randy Pitchford, the developer of the game, described it as " the best game [he's] ever worked on." He and his development team tried to recreate the actual look of 1944 Normandy and its buildings, landmarks, streets and battlefields. They also researched about the real soldiers who fought there, the historical reconnaissance photographs, and operations and battles such as Operation XYZ, Utah Beach and Purple Heart Lane. Their research also included interviewing various veterans and shooting the actual weapons from the game's timeline.
Retired Colonel of the US Army John Antal was the consultant of the development team in creating the game's innovative tactical gameplay. He was tasked in making sure that the action and the commands were accurate and authentic as possible, and he taught the development team both in the classroom and the field about real-combat decision making and firefights. The development team also researched and analyzed other tactical and strategy shooters in order to create their own unique gameplay in Brothers in Arms. They designed the characters to behave like real trained soldiers that were fully capable of engaging the enemy, covering each other, and getting good firing positions to engage from. Pitchford also described the development of the game as "expensive and time consuming", and the process in making the game took several prototypes and attempts that cost them time, resources and ideas. These attempts were made in order to make the tactical combat as fun and engaging as possible, without making it look like other standard shooters in the market. Pitchford also had a problem in making the story due to the fact that World War II shooters were as "scripted as a Disneyland ride and not as interactive" in the current video game industry. So the development team made sure that the story was not as cliched and scripted as other World War II stories, and make the game as dynamic and plausible with players actually caring for their character's lives and the combat they're into. The game was released on March 15, 2005 for Xbox, PS2 and PC. Ubisoft Shanghai assisted in porting and releasing the game for the PS2. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 was Gearbox Software's first independently owned game, and Pitchford made sure to protect its license from other publishers who want to buy it. Pitchford also gave credit to Ubisoft in taking the risk, giving them freedom to develop the game as their own and helping them in its marketing.
Philip Morton of Thunderbolt gave the game a perfect 10/10 rating and called it as "exactly what the genre needed." He praised the gameplay that he described as "honed to near-perfection."
However, the game's repetitive gameplay have also garnered negative feedback from other critics. Maxim gave the PS2 and Xbox versions a score of 8/10 and stated that "Gamers with short attention spans will likely find all the squad management tedious, but we think it adds a much-needed dimension to a very stale genre."
Detroit Free Press gave the Xbox version 3 out of 4 stars, saying that it "could have been a four-star game, were it not for a couple of things that don't work well. You can press a button to give you an overhead view during missions. But instead of helping to advance the plot, the swirling, zooming view left me dizzy. And the enemy intelligence is set pretty low, meaning they don't pursue you with much cunning."
The Sydney Morning Herald on the other hand, which also gave the game 4 out of 5 stars, praised the AI which they described as intelligent, but also criticized the redundant gameplay saying that "most encounters are overcome using the same method: laying suppressing fire and flanking."
Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is considered by many to be one of the best World War II video games and tactical shooters today. Gaming sites and critics praised the innovation in gameplay that Brothers in Arms brought into the World War II video game genre, which was already becoming stale and unpopular at that time. During its release, GameSpot called it "one of the best World War II gaming experiences to date." Gamerant ranked it as #7 in its "9 Best World War II Video Games" list, stating that "whereas most World War II shooters tend to focus on mindless action, Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is all about smart strategy and tactics, and that it "also has a greater focus on character development than other games of its ilk, resulting in one of the more emotionally mature World War II video game narratives available for gamers to experience." Watchmojo also listed it as #6 in its "Top 10: World War II Video Games" list, stating that "other games had you command troops, this game had you lead them. Not only making the shots but calling them too made for a game that had incredible emotional depth.
As a historical game, Philip Morton of Thunderbolt praised the game for accurately and realistically capturing the time period than other games before it. He described that other games in the genre, such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, were nothing more than Hollywood versions of the War, and compared Brothers in Arms as the video game equivalent of Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers by also being an "authentic and emotional portrayal of war". Morton described it was "without a doubt the best World War II game ever made." Ben Griffin of PC Gamer also praised it for its real portrayal of war, describing it as "a great history lesson, effortlessly straddling the line between authentic and enjoyable."
This game, along with its sequel (Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood), was remade for the Nintendo Wii and sold in a package called Brothers in Arms: Double Time. It was first sold on September 23, 2008.
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