By Eric T. Baker
One of the signs of how many games devoted to the first person portrayal of the in the trenches, down the rifle sight experience of combat in World War II there have been is that Ubisoft is now releasing Brother’s in Arms Hell’s Highway, a big-budget, multiplatform (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) game that recreates the Allies’ defeat by the Germans in Operation Market Garden. As a general marketing tenet, game companies like to make games where the player ultimately wins; famously, only General Montgomery could characterize Market Garden as victory.
The game is both first-person and squad-based in that you control your character and up to three squads of AI guided soldiers. Like other squad-based games, you direct the squads by pulling up the tactical map and marking where you want them to go. You can also send move and attack commands while in the first-person view. The tactical map can be improved by moving your character to one of the lookout points on each scenario. It is technically possible to simply run and gun the enemy in many situations, but the intent of the game is that one squad is used to pin the enemy (the mark over their heads changes when they are pinned) while the others flank and kill them.
As in other Brothers games, there is a real effort to put you into the time and place of the battle. Actual veterans of the campaign were interviewed and historical records were consulted at length. At the same time, the designers want a game that will hold the attention of teenagers, so the “cinematic” aspects of the game that tell the story of the unit while you are fighting through the levels includes some Matrix-y scenes of heads exploding and bodies being torn apart as well as scenes of befriending civilians who later meet grim ends at the German’s hands.
This installment of Brothers has been a long time coming and the art work looks like it was begun for less powerful systems than the ones it is now on. The trade-off is that the extra time has given to the game play and the AI and the cinematic elements have a polish and smoothness that many current gen games lack. We seem to still be generations from AI characters that will fight as well as human ones, but your squad mates in this game are as likely to go where they are meant to go and fight who they are meant to fight as any in this genre. The designers of this game wanted to make you a part of this heart- breaking campaign and with only a few glitches, they succeeded.
Making History the Calm and the Storm Gold Edition from Muzzy Lane Software for the PC is a turn-based strategy game set in the World War II era. By design, however, it is not tied to any particular historical path or event of the war. This is a game that has units representing Bulgarian cavalry and Turkish infantry, just in case you should want to play the era from the point of view of either of those nations. It’s not easy to play China so skillfully that it ends up building jet fighters and overrunning India, but it is certainly possible.
Despite being on a computer, the feel of Making History is that of a board game. You micromanages cities and territories for resources, production, military units, and diplomatic relations. Various starting scenarios come with the game and there is a built- in editor that allows you to make your own, or you can join the game’s community and download ones created by other players. This title is a long way from the multimillion dollar budget of Brothers, but it does a good and interesting job with what it has.