Brothers In Arms: D-Day
The Second World War. Just when I thought developers would start using other conflicts as inspiration for an FPS, strategy game, sim or MMORPG, this UMD arrives in my mailbox. Is WW2 so popular because it was the perfect symbiosis of man and technique, worthy of each other and man still necessary on the steering wheel? Or because it had a truly classic Good versus Evil, righteous war of round khaki forms (the Sherman Tank) against square grey mass (the Tiger Tank)?
But this isn’t philosophy.net and the devs of Brothers in Arms wanted to take on a completely different theme with this game. Immersive gameplay through emotional commitment. (it’s my tagline, not that of Ubisoft) When gets noted in games like Brothers in Arms, Faces of War (II) and soon Army of Two is that there’s little innovation possible in graphics, gameplay and sound: devs need to start aiming at the emotions. With dramatic storylines, screaming and total chaos, they try to bind the player emotionally to his character and to his (NPC) team mates and you’re supposed to really feel bad when you lose a members of your party in enemy fire. A heavy sentence for a heavy feeling, why not?
Anyway, in BiA you replay the storyline of its predecessors, this time with the characters Baker and Hartsock. Landed in Normandy right before Operation Overlord starts it’s your mission to shoot down everything that speaks German. “And if it screams in German, shoot it again”. In an arena of ruins, pittoresque French villages and most of all plain and hills, this isn’t as simple as it may sound and that offers possibilities for tactical gameplay, again something that makes BiA different from other shooters like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor.
All sounds fun but the problem is that the PSP doesn’t really isn’t that great for first person shooters and certainly not tactical ones. Forget the basic controls setting and go for “advanced”. You’ll quickly get used to it and this config is just a bit easier for your fingers than the basic one. Still you’ll soon find out that there’s more going wrong in this game than just the controls.
Next to a ton of glitches like dialogues running through each other, German soldiers needing 5 BOOM!HEADSHOTS! before they go down, and an AI that sometimes freaks, the technical and gameplay aspects are all but to write home about. The game sometimes stuns you with some graphical pearls to afterwards show you a deserted level with choppy framerate. Also the tactical aspects are a bit less than hoped. Teammates that give cover fire while you silently “flank” the enemy, it sounds enormously cool and tactical but after about 56 times it isn’t anymore. Indeed, just about every situation that needs your brilliant tactical mind can be solved by a simple “pin the enemy down while I flank and kill him”.
With grey and red bolls above the heads of your targets it’s made clear whether they’re able to respond to your cover fire or not. Tip: “red means more shooting, grey means running fast”. You won’t really feel like a Patton or Von Ribbentrop. But what now? Despite all the graphical flaws, the sometimes bad AI and the glitches, the game is actually playable and can even be enjoyed at times. Especially the sniper missions are a joy and it’s always fun to order a tank to send a lonely German to heaven.
Also the multiplayer and “skirmishes” will keep the replay value of the game up for a while and when you get to digest the heavy storyline also the single player campaign isn’t too bad. The game knows a checkpoint save system so you’ll forgive getting killed by a low frame rate, a glitch or your own stupid fault.
The PSP and FPS, they’ll never become good friends. Despite this, Brothers in Arms is a decent attempt that even tries to add a tactical aspect. If you can look past the flaws and don’t find the graphics too important, you’ll have some hours of fun with this game. But the truth is that Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror and SOCOM US Navy Seals are still the only really good shooters on this handheld