Brothers in Arms Earned in Blood ReviewCain Dornan
It takes true talent to be able to seamlessly integrate superb gameplay with truly atmospheric cinematics that enable the gamer to be immersed into the game’s world. It’s something that so many developers strive to achieve, yet only few manage to reach. In the war-centered shooter genre, it’s something that is essential; an aspect that will either make or break a game. As developer Gearbox demonstrated with their previous title, Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, they have the knack and know-how to create such a game, which has unsurprisingly been used in their latest gripping and captivating historical war game, Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood.
Earned in Blood follows the struggles of Joe “Red” Hartsock, a quiet-mannered corporal who has trekked alongside fellow US Airborne troopers who are tasked with fighting both prior and after the storming of Normandy. The game immerses you into a seamless world that provides one of the most accurate recreations of an event that occurred decades ago currently available. Which is, by all means, an impressive affair.
But what is most impressive about Earned in Blood is how the game’s story is presented. Rather than throwing in a collection of bullet-filled cinematics that offer virtually no depth or meaning, the development team have clearly taken the time to sit down and carefully plan each setting, each camera angle and every word that is said. The storyline is narrative by Hartsock himself during a debriefing with a commanding officer. Both before and during each mission, you are presented with a short conversation that informs you of the progress so far and the reason why you are about to be involved with the mission. The voice acting is simplyimpressive, offering emotional and strong language that manages to dig the game closer to your heart than what many other war-time shooters have managed in the past. It’s the type of dialogue and presentation that you would expect in a multi-million Hollywood blockbuster – it’s interesting to think that only a single development studio has managed to pull this all together.
Throughout the game you have control over a varying number of soldiers. These soldier numbers will vary according to the stage in which you are in, which can range from a small two-man team through to multiple teams of three, each specialising in specific areas of battle. One of your groups, for example, specialises in providing full-on attack charges, armed with machine guns that allows them to sprint from point to point mowing down any hostiles along the way. Another team, on the other hand, may be better suited towards providing covering fire, allowing you and your other teams to flank the enemy while your covering team pins them to a set position. There are also occasions when you are able to command more special groups, such as one specific mission that allows you to command a small armoured tank. Issuing orders is simple and efficient, requiring nothing more than hitting two buttons to have your soldiers obeying your commands. It works surprisingly well, allowing for the game’s true tactical side to come into play. Regardless of what difficulty you set it to, most situations require you to create a strategic plan of attack, where simply running at the enemy and blindly shooting in their direction often proving to be a useful manoeuvre.
The intelligence of both your soldiers and the enemy allows for the game’s strategic side to truly shine. It’s rare that you will see an enemy soldier sitting in the open shooting at you; rather, they will endeavour to utilize any available cover before initiating their attack on you. If you destroy their cover or get too close for comfort, they will retreat and source a better location. Likewise, your soldiers also attack and defend in an intelligent manner, never requiring you to hold their hand when they are involved in battles.
While the game is certainly impressive in its own right, the fact that the gameplay is virtually identical to that found in its predecessor, Road to Hill 30, may disappoint veterans of the series slightly. While there are a number of odd little improvements here and there, the gameplay overall is essentially the same. Furthermore, the game is often overly linear, restricting you to a limited path that occasionally offers a slight detour to allow for flanking of enemy units. This detour is never overly large, only allowing you to stray a short way from the central action area. While this may sound somewhat off-putting, it’s important to note that the gameplay is, in its whole, a solid experience. However you look at it, both veterans and new gamers alike will be able to enjoy what Gearbox has to offer with Earned in Blood.
Accompanying the cinematic experience found in the single player mode is the multiplayer offering that, despite it not feeling quite as polished as its single player counterpart, is still a solid experience. A vast variety of different modes and gameplay options are available, which range from playing through the single player campaign co-operatively to going against each other through defence-based missions. There is also an assortment of various other multiplayer offerings, such as Tour of Duty, which involves completing a collection of difficult missions with a single consecutive life and squad with no healing or second life on offer. The multiplayer mode supports gameplay on the single console, LAN or online, which rounds off to offer one of the most expansive multiplayer offerings currently found in a war-based console game.
While the game’s terrain can occasionally become slightly blurry and un-detailed, the character, vehicle and building detail is certainly impressive. Each soldier on your team offers their own unique appearance and personality, a pleasing refreshment from the majority of war shooters that offer nothing more than continuous character duplication. While the uniqueness of soldiers do not carry over to the enemy’s side, you’ll never really have a chance to get up-close and personal with the aggressive blighters to notice. The vast variety of different locations that you visit, which range from rugged farmland through to lush forests and crumbling war-torn cities offer a nice level of variation that evolves throughout the progress of the game.
To state it simply, the sound aspects of Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood is virtually flawless. The development team has gathered a nice collection of accurate sound effects that blend beautifully into the game’s appropriate soundtrack. Each individual weapon offers its own clearly unique sound, which one could confidently presume that it sounds like the real thing. The game’s voice acting is easily where the game shines, with absolutely stunning voice-over work that really aids in bringing the game’s immersive atmosphere to life. Hartsock’s voice-over work is commendable in particular, providing superb narration of the game’s events.
There’s not too much to complain about in Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood. Sure, it is yet another war-time shooter that is unlikely to regain the attention of gamers who are sick of the overload of titles in the same genre that have hit retailers during this generation, but what it does offer will certainly please any shooter enthusiasts who wishes to get as close to the real deal as possible. The game certainly isn't perfect, but it isn't too far off either.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.