Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway

I couldn’t have been more thrilled to reprise the role of Staff Sergeant Matt Baker of the 101st Airborne Division in Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway. After all, it’s been years since a truly great WWII shooter has graced the market. And while the genre has definitely been over-saturated, I’m always willing to make room for one more in my collection if it’s of the stature of the Brothers in Arms series.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

When I first learned of the story behind Hell’s Highway, I was more than intrigued. After-all, Operation Market Garden was anything but a glorious moment for the Allies. With most war games placing you in the position of the victorious hero, I knew the campaign was going to play out differently as defeat was inevitable.

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

This third installment in the Brothers in Arms series packs a fantastic story that follows Baker and his squad through some horrific moments. Through truly emotional cinematics, you watch as fallen squad-mates are mourned, civilians are slaughtered, and trust is broken. Hell’s Highway refers back to the original game in the series, Road to Hill 30 and reveals some of scenarios that were only touched on briefly. One being what really happened to Allen and Garnet when they were put under command of Leggett. Through the campaign Baker takes a beating, both emotionally and physically. By the end of it, his face is riddled with scares. What really got me was the closing cinematic where Baker sits down with an old comrade in what was the most sincere and touching moment I’ve witnessed in a game.

“Every Soldier Has Two Families. Those You Raise, and Those You Raise Hell With”

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway

Sure, we’ve played several games where squad-mates tag along, but rarely have they been useful or effective. The Brothers in Arms series has always stood out in this crowd. I love having the option to sit back and command my teams to execute suppression and flanking maneuvers without firing a shot myself. In the later missions, I found myself doing this more and more as situations were simply too chaotic to be in the middle of the action myself. Instead of hunkering behind a low wall and popping off shots, I would position my teams and have them suppress the enemies while I ran around and found weak spots in their defenses to pick them off.

Hell’s Highway brings a couple new teams to the battlefield. While each mission varies, you end up having a machine gun team and a bazooka team at your disposal. The MG team can lay down enough fire to keep several enemies at bay while you move in for the kill. The bazooka team is just a whole lot of fun! They can take down vehicles, blow sandbag emplacements to bits, and send German soldiers flying with limbs detached.

Glorious Bloody Moments

Speaking of which – this game is all kinds of gory. And in the best possible way! There are now these action moments where a perfect headshot or a well placed grenade will trigger a quick pan and zoom from the camera to show you the affect of your precision. I’ve seen several reviews complain about these, as they do take you out of the action for a few seconds. But I enjoyed each and every one of them. There’s an option to disable them entirely if you wish, but then you’ll miss out on a few associated Achievements by doing so.

To Be Continued…

I couldn’t have been more pleased to see these words on screen as the campaign came to a close. Not only have they confirmed there will be another sequel, but a hint is dropped during the last cinematic which points to the location – and it’s one I’m very happy about.

The Brothers in Arms series isn’t for everyone. It’s not a run-and-gun, throw grenades while firing and jumping backwards repeatedly type of game that you might be used to. And as such, it’s well worth a look.

Rating: 4/5

Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway

15 Responses to “Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway”

  1. Like yourself Matt I just completed the SP campaign last night and loved every gory moment of it. I have never played any of the BiA series and was mostly clueless as to the story unfolding in-front of me, which was a bit of a shame. Albeit I loved and took in each and everyone of the fantastic cut-scenes.

    The action moments I absolutely relished and while many complain about them I get an extra thrill out of getting that perfect headshot or explosive kill. I also loved the Team based element of the game and you are absolutely right in saying that they are more than useful compared to other similar titles.

    That said, the lack of story cohesion (for me, a BiA series newcomer), and the finale being a tank mission, these were my only pitfalls. Not to mention some odd and time consuming achievements. Solid 4/5 stars here.

    • I wondered how the story would come across to those that haven't played the previous games – in particular, Road to Hill 30. Hartsock (Red) has been around from the beginning and was actually the character you played in Earned in Blood.

      Agreed, some of the Achievements are lame. There's half a dozen 0 point Achievements for online play, which is just lame. Then the ones for playing time. Not a fan of those at all.

  2. I was really curious what you would write about BIA. I always thought your taste of games was kinda parallel of mine… but on this game we are so black-and-white-apart.

    I was looking forward to this game, but more of the whole atmosphere and background.

    (sidestep: I myself live in the Netherlands and really was wondering if they captured it right (a little, for what I've seen, the countryside doesn't look like it, the cities does)

    But ok. I got the game a couple of days ago… played it for max one hour and didn't liked it. I guess I'm the run-and-gun kinda gamer.

    I also really was struck by the uglyness of some of the cutscenes and surroundings. Some things are really nice, but the opening-scene (with the glider)… very very ugly!

    But what I really didn't liked was the gameplay. That same gameplay you are so enthousiastic about… I really did not enjoy. If the point is surpressing and flanking… why do I have to enter a farm myself and get shot… while my men are waiting outside?

    I refer to the first mission, first farm, right after the windmill.

    But ok. After one hour (I guess it was maybe even less) I decided this wasn't my kind of game. The atmosphere kinda touched the Band of Brothers feeling, but the gameplay took the whole experience down. A pitty.

    So I'll trade my copy of BIA for a copy of Bad Company, which will probably fit me better.

    But as always, I liked reading your review. If I didn't bought the game, I would have 😉

    • Shame to hear you didn't like it. An hour is hardly enough to get used to a new type of gameplay, though. By chance, did you read some online reviews before playing the game? I ask this, because you mentioned just about every detail that I noticed people nit-picking about.

      I also really was struck by the uglyness of some of the cutscenes and surroundings. Some things are really nice, but the opening-scene (with the glider)… very very ugly!

      That's my favourite one. I saw tons of people complaining about the foliage in forums as well. Honestly, that opening cinematic with the shot of the windmill and ugly-ass grass was the only time anything stuck out to me. Not sure what happened there, but yes, very ugly. On a related note, I saw lots of complaints about texture pop-in, primarily on the character models – never experienced that myself.

      The atmosphere kinda touched the Band of Brothers feeling, but the gameplay took the whole experience down.

      They've definitely picked up a lot from Band of Brothers – more so in the previous games, and I'm sure the next sequel as well.

      The gameplay is what makes it for me, though. I was just watching some footage of Call of Duty: World at War and it looks completely ridiculous – like it's in fast-forward or something. Dude just running around, taking half a dozen bullets at every turn, stabbing dudes frantically… utter bullshit. In the Brothers in Arms games, you have to slow it right down. Think about everything and plan your attacks before you enter the situation. If you don't, you end up leading your squad to certain death. It's pretty amazing when a game can make you feel bad for losing a squad-mate's life, and BIA does that for me.

      So I’ll trade my copy of BIA for a copy of Bad Company, which will probably fit me better.

      I've been meaning to get back to Bad Company. Still lots of Achievements to collect, and I haven't even played the recently added conquest mode. Definitely a great game, and yeah, probably one that you'll enjoy more.

      • Yeah. I read all the (p)reviews there are – that's half of the enjoyment for me. But most of the reviews were more positive than me. I guess the biggest thing was the gameplay (and also the sometimes graphics).

        But those minor graphical quality took me out of the game. And maybe I am a little too picky about how Holland is pictured. I totally don't recognize it 😉

        I do like the character-graphics, very nicely done.

        Yeah. I do believe that the gameplay of COD isn't quite as realistic as BIA. But I really enjoy playing it. Have played COD4 since November last year and never let go of it – still playing it.

        I just don't have the patience to plan and make my plan. Maybe I would have, if the graphics would be better… or if the gameplay would be a little less straight forward.

        I can totally imagine the emotional extra touch this game will provide… but not for me. I want to hop in, have fun and hop out 🙂

        So still waiting for BC, but have played the demo a couple of times and enjoyed it.

        So we'll meet again, but this time not in Holland, but in [wherever BC is situated] 😉

  3. I didn't want to read or comment on this until I had played the game. And while I've yet to complete it, I think I'm nearing the end (level 8 or thereabouts).

    This is my first Brothers in Arms game, and being a fan of WWII shooters and tactical squad based games, I didn't even feel the need to read reviews or check in with friends before buying it. For the most part I'm not disappointed, but I do have a few gripes. Nothing major, but I do feel it could have been better graphically, and I have experienced the texture pop-in issue you mentioned in the comments. I think some of the Achievements are stupid, too.

    Enough complaining! I've really enjoyed it so far and am looking forward to my next playthrough hunting for Killroys!

    Matt, it sounds like you really enjoy the slow tactical pace. Why aren't you a big fan of the Rainbow games? 🙁

    • I wondered where you were at – knowing full well that you were looking forward to this game and all.

      Glad to hear you've enjoyed it for the most part. By the time the credits roll, I think you'll be singing higher praise. 😉

      Why aren’t you a big fan of the Rainbow games?

      A couple reasons. I'm not a huge fan of realistic modern warfare. It just doesn't do it for me like WWII or futuristic sci-fi does. But mainly, the control scheme in those games (at least RSV) is atrocious. There's definitely more elegant controls for having your dude peek out from behind cover that don't involve 4 fingers and both thumbs.

      The one thing I forgot to commend Hell's Highway for was their diverse control schemes that were based on other popular games. I used the Tour of Duty scheme, which was based on COD4 – so there's no learning curve there.

  4. This game feels wonderful.

    It's not a typical type of gameplay, as far as targeting locations for your crew the entire time, but it's not hard to get a hang of quickly.

    This game is also not as quick as playing other games like Bad Company or Call of Duty, since there is more strategy involved. I'm not so familiar with this lineage of games, but this one felt good.

    With a constantly decreasing timeframe for which to play games, I think I'm tending to lean towards the the run and gun, like the new Call of Duty: World at War, which is quite impressive.

    I just played the demo of Tom Clancy's End War and i'm struck with the same problem: Probably a really fun game to 'get into' but I just don't have the time.

    Ever go to a music store (remember those times?) and sample a CD? So annoying. *skip track* next… *skip track* next… No real chance to enjoy and get used to a CD to make the value decision for purchasing.

    I crave instant action lately.

  5. I have been playing this game for the past week now. And it's awesome!

    I especially like it, because you are going to visit my city, Eindhoven, where you will be snipering from the top of the Philips Light Tower (now being renovated into a beautiful living space).

    I really like it, and screw those reviews which speak bad about the action moments.. I love it when their legs are blown off 😀

    • I've been playing the BIA series since it's origins on Xbox and fell in love with it instantly it definitely replaced COD for me at the time. I'm a huge WWII history buff so these games just had so much more substance. I still get stoked for all the COD games but as you said COD5 looks almost ridiculous especially the 'bonus' zombie level. And I would have to agree that WWII shooters have something over the modern renditions.

      As for BIA HH, I'm slightly disappointed with the game. The previous versions seemed so 'polished' and crisp and stood out among many other original Xbox titles and I feel someone dropped the ball on this one. Which would seem to be the case for a game that was delayed 2+ times and still came out with glitches. The gameplay is decent and the story is amazing but I found the textures and that crazy 'grain' filter to be annoying and took away from the experience. I'm stoked to see another is on the way so lets hope it comes out solid. All in all it's worth a buy if your a true WWII or Band of Brothers buff but I can understand why some would shy away.