Tuesday, September 21

Band of Brothers videogame

Retake German-occupied Carentan in the amazing WWII FPS, Brothers In Arms.

Last night, before turning in I decided to take a look at the free dvd included with the latest Official Xbox Magazine. I looked at the only feature on the disc I haven't seen yet- a demo video on Brothers In Arms. Now, I am the first person to say that I really am not a fan of first-person shooters, but the BIA demo simply blew me away.

If you are one of the many who watched and gaped at the gritty, realistic and gripping action in the World War II era HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers, you may like this game. It's a FPS set in Europe during the Normandy Landing, specifically in the City of Carentan. In the Band of Brothers series, Easy Company participated in the taking of this strategic town... but in Brothers In Arms, you don't have a whole batallion at your disposal. The game is a squad-based shooter, with you at the helm of two fire-teams; crack American GIs who are tasked with taking back Carentan from the Germans, one house at a time if need be.
Aside from controlling your own personal character, Major Baker, you will also be responsible for six other soldiers- the members of your two assault teams. If the prospect of having to control multiple characters in the thick of a firefight with Nazi stormtroopers sounds like a nightmare, take heart; your boys aren't stupid, and have enough A.I. and army tactics training to take care of themselves for the most part, seeking cover wherever it is available, shooting at enemy soldiers and giving each other covering fire. All it takes are simple commands for you to deploy your men into various positions.

I watched the video, often with open-mouthed amazement at the detail, the incredible sound effects, and the realistic action being portrayed onscreen. I watch as the programmers move their men to flank a group of well-dug in Germans, laboring to fight their way to a bombed-out house with a machine gun nest on the second floor. An improperly-covered street crossing results in a stinging death of one fire team member, but the GIs take out Nazis in vengeance. The team leader himself, controlled by the player, is finally able to get to the back of the house after taking out several more nazis in a cool firefight. But again, an ill-advised decision. Instead of taking an easy shot and killing the nazi machinegunner on the second floor from afar, the player sends in his two GI buddies to storm the house. Both team members are killed trying to get up the stairs. The player finally brings down the enemy but the cost is far too high.
Once in control of the machine gun, it seems all done deal as Krauts fall to the withering automatic fire. But suddenly, a German tank rolls in through the wall of a nearby farm, and more GIs begin to fall. The armored Panzer directs it's fire to atop the house and suddenly, abruptly, everything turns red...

DAMN. That was incredible. The graphics, the sound, the gameplay... It was like something out of Band of Brothers. And it was a GAME. But little wonder- the team, Gearbox Software, spent a lot of effort to capture the actual sights and sounds of World War II Carentan, down to the streets and houses and layouts of the many battle arenas. They even have a retired veteran on their staff! This game really seems to look, feel and sound authentic, and I am intrigued.

The last time I felt like this was during my first time playing the classic Medal of Honor for the old PSOne. I'll see about getting myself a copy of Brothers In Arms when the game ships this October. Some good ol' fashioned guy-action to go with the DOA girls on the Xbox. Heh.

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