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Submitted by Gwynne Dixon on September 26 2008 - 16:00

We go back on the road to war with our brothers in the 101st Airborne Division to find out how war has ravaged them since 2005...

If Medal of Honour: Frontline was the Saving Private Ryan of videogames and Call of Duty the Enemy at the Gates, then Brothers in Arms is surely TV's Band of Brothers. With two previous BiA games now to build upon, Hell's Highway's extensive (and at times over indulgent) cut-scenes have a distinctly episodic feel, extrapolating on the characters from previous games as well as the storylines that surround them. While the previous two games focused on World War II's Operation Overlord, Hell's Highway takes place during the latter Operation Market Garden and the invasion of the Netherlands by the Allies.

Similarly to Earned in Blood and Road to Hill 30, Hell's Highway puts the FPS emphasis on strategy. This now happens almost entirely through the FPS interface, with little if any strategic importance being placed upon the map (other than waypoints and objectives). It's a strange decision to downplay the level map's importance this time around, especially as its RTS elements worked so well in the previous games. As a result, there's no longer a separation between strategy and gunplay, leading to a game world that's cluttered with constant decision making responsibilities.

Commands are issued to your teams with the left trigger. This brings up a reticule that can be dragged around the environment, telling your squads to either take cover in a certain position or fire on it (the icon is context sensitive to different objects and soldiers). It works well enough as long as you want your teams to remain close, but directing them further away than 10 or 20 metres in the game world gets a bit fiddly, particularly as the reticule doesn't move over walls or through tight spaces particularly well. The same can be said of a similar reticule system for throwing grenades, creating problems when you want to lob one over cover or through a window for example.

As with the previous BiA games, there's only one route to sure-fire success, which is paradoxically taking two routes through a map. Flanking is the name of the game, using one of your teams to pin down enemies through the main channel of fire and then finding an alternate route around the side of this channel to take the pinned down Nazis by surprise. A few variations on this are thrown into the gameplay as things progress, such as 88 artillery guns that need to have charges placed on their rear ends, but it's the same principle at heart. It's all very well having the odd flanking moment in an FPS game, but basing most of the action on this tactic does become tiresome pretty quickly.

When you're not flanking, you'll spend most of your time pinned down in cover. This soon dissolves into a FPS game of whack-a-mole, ducking in and out of cover as your adversaries do the same and waiting until the opportune moment to nail a headshot. If the AI in Hell's Highway had been a little bit more dynamic then this cover system could have worked quite well, with Nazis constantly pressing your position so that fire fights don't turn into a stalemate. This is something that games like Gears of War do very well, with the Locust Horde always advancing on you and flanking where possible. Hell's Highway's enemy NPC's are pretty static though, remaining nested behind sandbags or walls in a pretty scripted manner until you manage to dig them out.

The AI's faults don't end here though, as pretty much all of the sections we encountered seemed to have degradingly noticeable scripting. A couple of the areas we passed through were just painfully obvious ambush set-pieces. The Nazis didn't notice us, even though we were standing up in the clear light of day a few feet from them, until we passed a certain point in the environment that triggered them to burst into action. The ambush moments were pretty useful for tallying up some kills before the monotonous whack-a-mole standoff began, but having them so obviously served up on a platter takes away from the reward of nailing them unfortunately.

So, it's repetitive a tedious, but this monotony falls into Groundhog Day proportions due to the game's health system. As with the previous games, the health mechanic is quite unforgiving (to ensure that gamers flank and use cover), but this also means you end up dying quite a lot. Even taking a couple of hits can send you to the edge of Hell's Highway's bleed-out health system, which leaves you twiddling your thumbs in cover while the red dissipates from your screen. As a result, completing some sections does require a few attempts on occasion, but when you're faced with such unchanging AI scripting on each attempt you'll soon become frustrated. Completing these areas becomes less a challenge of finding an intelligent solution, and more a case of simply finding the right cover points and knowing where the next squad of Nazis will come from.

Hell's Highway also throws the odd level into the game where its protagonist, Sergeant Matt Baker, is left by himself without the usual support of a couple of three man squads. Sometimes he'll be followed by just one soldier, but there are even occasions where Baker is left completely stranded. These just don't work at all with the previously mentioned cover and health systems. Gearbox has gone out of its way to put the emphasis on strategy and squad commands, so why the developer decided to take them away on some levels while leaving you with the same assortment of entrenched Nazis is beyond us.

The use of Epic's Unreal Engine 3 in Hell's Highway is average at times and worse at others. Character models come out as they should do with the UE3 technology, but the textures on some of the environment's buildings and objects can be pretty underwhelming. It's a mixed bag in this sense, although we did find the game's gore technology to be a little over the top for a World War II game. Occasionally, a well placed grenade or crack-shot would send the game into a zoomed in slow-mo of the resulting death/deaths. We saw limbs blasted off with a snapped bone protruding from the wound, or even a dead body with half of its head missing. There's a clear line of respect when you're dealing with real-world conflicts in a computer game, and Gearbox has definitely over-stepped it on this occasion.

As a World War II game, Hell's Highway offers the usual mediocre classical score for its backing music, which is bland and forgettable across the board (we've actually already forgotten it). However, the voice chatter system between Sergeant Baker and the rest of his troops is actually quite advanced. You'll issue commands to your squad in Hell's Highway more than the vast majority of other squad shooters, but considering this we didn't spot too much repetition in the chatter system's lines of dialogue and, at the very least, it didn't become grating.

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  • Graphics: 68%
     
  • Sound: 76%
     
  • Gameplay: 70%
     
  • Originality: 65%
     
  • Longevity: 62%
     
Overall Score: 6/10
We've been waiting two years longer than we expected for Hell's Highway and the wait has bought little reward. The gameplay hasn't advanced much since the original games from 2005 and the few changes that have been made are detrimental to the original formula. With two-dimensional AI, wearisome level scripting, and a distinct lack of variation throughout, Hell's Highway just can't cut the mustard in 2008.

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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 10th Oct 2008 23:42, Post No: 22

I agree with the comments about the gore, do you remember Soliders Of Fortune 2, that was a game where the gore just went too far and didnt help the game at all.

For me I was really let down by this game, was expecting so much but felt very dissapointed. And for the AI on loads of occasions you could be right next to the enmey soliders - visably to them and they wouldnt react, crazy!!!


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By: Anonymous

Added:Fri 10th Oct 2008 01:15, Post No: 21

This review really seems to be nitpicking things for no reason. Too much gore? Then don't play a bloody war game for gosh sakes. I actually think a lot of modern videogames are overly gory for gore's sake, but in this case they are just being authentic to history. Maybe if more people realized what war was really like, the world's politicians wouldn't keep starting them all the time.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 01st Oct 2008 14:50, Post No: 20

they should make another game with the vietnam war, that's kind off subject i guess


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By: Anonymous

Added:Wed 01st Oct 2008 11:41, Post No: 19

It's comming out on pc, and don't buy a 360 because I did and regret it. I bought the 360 because I was sick of upgrading my pc and after 1 year of 360 online play i discovered I was missing out on heaps on pc so bought a super dooper pc and never went back.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 30th Sep 2008 20:18, Post No: 18

I thinks the game is excellent, the AI is very good and the slow motion head shots and explosions are great at least 8 or 9 out of 10


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 30th Sep 2008 18:40, Post No: 17

This is a terrible review... you hardly mention any of the game's strong points, which massively outweigh any negatives. This is a triple A game with a few minor issues. As far as the gore system, while I agree that the action camera is a bit over the top (I turned it off, along with enemy icons, crosshair, and the red danger zone), do not call it disrespectful. The moments of gore are not that common anyway, and the whole point of this game is to be as authentic as possible.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Tue 30th Sep 2008 03:03, Post No: 16

Hmm, I never came across scripted enemies where I had to trigger AI life into them. Maybe if the review listed examples? I disagree with any bad point said in this review, it's an utterly amazing game for any shooter/squad war action fan. Must-have. "Baptism on Fire" is crazy!


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 29th Sep 2008 15:22, Post No: 15

will this game be coming out on pc cause' if it is i'm gonna buy it =]


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By: Anonymous

Added:Mon 29th Sep 2008 14:04, Post No: 14

I agree with the previous comment, this game deserves at least an eight overall. though the the plot may be confusing to newcomers to the series the game makes up for it by improving every other section of the game to make it, in my opinion, the best in the series.


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By: Anonymous

Added:Sun 28th Sep 2008 21:12, Post No: 13

Worst love review ever. I have this game and it is very good. Not a credible review at all


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