Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood Review
developer: Gearbox Software
PIII 1000, 512MB RAM, 3.5GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 06, 05
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As a gamer, I am spent, tired, and jaded. Not so much of the video games themselves, as I am tired of the marketing shenanigans that companies will pull to sell their products to as many customers as humanly possible. In the pursuit of more cash, everything is sacrificed. And what do I mean by everything? I mean everything that has to do with any sort of ethics on any level. Still, I call myself a professional in this business (term to be taken loosely please (He means the food service industry -Mo)), and it is my job to notice these things; to look past the pompous press releases and look for the truth hidden between the lines. Take Ubisoft's "brilliantly" marketed "next volume" of Brothers in Arms, BiA Earned in Blood, for example.
You planning on playing some football?
Ready to roll, Sir!
Let's step back for a second, shall we? The game is not a stand-alone expansion pack... or maybe it is? And it is not a full-blown sequel, because even the Ubisoft marketing team would have troubles selling that idea to its customers. And it's apparently not the next episode, as that would imply that "Earned in Blood" is more of an expansion pack than it is a sequel. (The definition of a sequel being highly debatable here of course, but if you think about it, every gamer knows what a sequel in the gaming industry should entail. Well, a good sequel anyway.)
As I said, I am jaded and I am a little lost. I have a hard time swallowing the "next volume" tag so I'm just going to be traditional and call EiB a stand-alone expansion pack.
Because, essentially, that is what this game is. Out of all the improvements that could have been made to the original, I saw very few. Gameplay-wise, I will go out on a limb here and say that there are none. None that are noticeable anyway.
The game suffers from the exact same drawbacks that the original had. I swear to God, I could just cut and paste what I wrote in my review of the original and post it here. The levels still feel a little too restrictive, the scripted scenes will break again, and the German AI does tend to show flashes of blinding stupidity. For the last item, let me give you an illustrated example: I ordered my team to take cover behind a slated wood fence, and they did. But to my great surprise, one of the German soldiers, who was probably afraid I was going to flank him, ran out of his perfectly good cover, and took cover behind the same wood fence! On the opposite side of it! Talk about a "Cartoon Network" moment.
Anyway, those are the game's bad sides. The good sides also remain largely the same. The way that you issue orders and how the game develops in the later stages of the single-player campaign do provide for some rather fun moments, but overall, I'd say that the Brothers in Arms series in general suffers from one glaring drawback. Like Call of Duty, it relies too heavily on scripted sequences. However, seeing how there is a tactical element to this game which slows down the gameplay pace (and let's face it, BiA is less action-packed than Call of Duty), instead of being taken on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride through a series of scripted events, your ride goes a lot slower, exposing some of the obvious downsides of being exposed to too many scripted events. Now, if we juxtapose this fact to the marketing catchphrase used for this game, which is "Ultra-Authentic," you get the general idea of where Gearbox, or the marketing department rather, must have gone wrong.
OK, let me try this new gun on your kneecap.
Where the fuck are the Germans aiming?
In this "next volume's" defense, "Earned in Blood" does offer a slightly more fleshed out story with some rather cinematic sequences that attempt to make it more epic than its combat makes it appear. Gearbox was only partially successful in achieving this, but it does make the single-player campaign better than the first game. On the other hand, the visuals and the sound effects in particular, are not of the quality that we have witnessed in the Call of Duty 2 demo. The implementation of HDR lighting does make the game look better, especially during daytime missions. However, the way you step in and out of hard light is done in such a manner that it's almost like flicking a light switch on and off. Does somewhat offset the benefits of HDR lighting.
The original BiA was supposed to compete against the first CoD game and the expansion pack, but as things stand now, the "next volume" will have Call of Duty 2 as its direct competitor in the seriously overcrowded WWII shooter market.
Many people may not approve of this review. Many will accuse me of not doing my job, which is to focus more on the actual content and less on the issues I have with this industry and Ubisoft's marketing tactics in particular. Still, every now and then, I tend to get emotional about these things. I know, I know, it's bad for the business. Maybe I should take some pointers from the cutthroat marketing gurus that are dragging a once thriving and jubilant industry into the gutter.
The things you liked about the original, the story has been fleshed out a bit more;
The things you didn't like about the original and the fact that they haven't been corrected in all the many months that had passed since its release, shameless Ubisoft marketing.
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