Have You Played… Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I almost never hear people mention the Brothers in Arms games anymore, and that’s a shame. While we all tired of World War 2 games and the Brothers in Arms series was never as popular as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty, they were each smartly designed games about first-person squad tactics. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway was the third and seemingly final entry.

Brothers In Arms games could be played by running and gunning between its myriad cinematic sequences, but they shined most if you stopped, took cover, and instead directed your squad of friendly soldiers to do part of the work for you. This is where they offered a sense of military tactics far greater than its rivals. You’d soon learn a rhythm to progress in the game: tell two men to lay down suppressing fire, tell another two men to flank from the east, and then wait for your moment to break between hedgerows in order to overwhelm the enemies holding a gun emplacement. It still felt like heroism, but of a dogged and methodical sort.

Not that Hell’s Highway was perfect, of course. The game aimed to deal with the superstition of men at war, though may have inadvertently confirmed the existence of ghosts. I am fairly sure the last line of the final cutscene is a grizzled, “Snow? I can handle snow,” as a setup for a Bastogne-set sequel that never happened. There was this Scottish (?) accent.

But if I think of World War 2 games, I think of Brothers In Arms, and I wish that some of that era was still with us now.

31 Comments

  1. leeder krenon says:

    A cracking game, one of the few FPS I could be bothered to finish.

    • s77wab says:

      Yeah, really enjoyed – one I’ve revisited a few times too…….

    • GenBanks says:

      Yeah… I’m not normally one to finish games either but I finished Hell’s Highway. I was still disappointed by the lack of tactical depth compared to the previous two games though. They were almost like puzzles, each tactical set piece had to be solved but would be solved slighlty differently every time.

  2. DizzyCriminal says:

    There was meant to be an Inglorious Bastards style follow up to this, but Gearbox seem to have been chasing their tail ever since Borderlands 2. I’ve never played this but I may have to keep an eye out for it to pop up on the cheap now I’ve seen it get a solid endorsement.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Sadly, they cancelled Furious 4 in July this year and moved some gameplay elements to Battleborn.
      What a shame that was, I was quite looking forward to something WWII themed that was maybe more of a biffy brawler and rompfest than strategy (hello Bloodrayne!).

  3. Gap Gen says:

    Mostly I remember the strange dream/PTSD sequences in this, which was somewhat a departure from the older games.

  4. Bodylotion says:

    Ordered the special edition of this game because most of the game is set around my city Eindhoven. Should play this one again some day.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I’d be interested in how accurate it is.

      • Bodylotion says:

        Some buildings are pretty accurate however the Germans retaliated with airstrikes the night when Eindhoven was liberated so many older buildings were destroyed because of that.

  5. Wilderness says:

    Having played MoH and COD before, had thought this to be of the same ilk. Then I got the rush, almost like a hit, the first time. This is the first game I whizzed by. Everyday. Every free time was spent on Hell’s Highway. My first tactical shooter.

  6. Archelon says:

    I really enjoyed it, although it is something of a mixed bag. The squad sections are great, providing a kind of Close Combat reliance on suppression and movement, and rather than the risk of eating a stray bullet it has an almost mathematical Time Crisis-style exposure system. The non-squad parts, conversely, are identikit bog-standard shooty bang bangs and I couldn’t wait for them to go away. The interactions between the squad members are a cut above the normal gruff nonsense. As the “bosses” of the game, tanks are intimidating but you quickly realize that they’re kind of rubbish.

    Would recommend though- strikes a surprising balance between clean tactics and a relatively compelling journey through a well-realized WWII world.

  7. quarpec says:

    I have, it was awful and I quit and uninstalled after the first mission

    gearbox, more like garbagebox

  8. Agnosticus says:

    An absolutely awesome game! More cinematic than the previous titles, but no less fun.

    One of the best single player WWII games I have ever played.

    Btw, the MP was absolute garbage and a waste of everyones time.

  9. SanguineAngel says:

    This game was not my cup of tea. There was an awfully large fuss made of the squad controls at the time (same for that Star Wars Republic Commando) and I was a bit underwhelmed. I thought the controls just didn’t go far enough – I guess I was hoping for more of a hybrid in both cases.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    I vividly remember being blown away by the trailer (in the formative days of the Xbox 360, when you’d download game trailers directly to your HDD and they had 5.1 audio and all), seeing depictions of all the inter-personal and dynamic-seeming squad interactions taking place right in the middle of firefights. It looked ten times more sophisticated than any other WWII shooter at the time. But as far as I can recall, the game suffered from delays and it seemed even Gearbox’s interest in it waned after a while. I can recall it being released some time later without much fanfare. It was apparently (I never did play it) not the revelatory experience it initially purported to be.

    That was a really exciting time, when all the trailers looked so incredibly “next gen,” promising huge leaps in gameplay, as well as presentation. I was giddy watching some of them. While I had some undoubtedly great experiences that last console generation, it never quite reached the ambitious sophistication teased in its early days.

  11. thetruegentleman says:

    A decent game weighed down by a god-awful attempt at being both Saving Private Ryan and Brothers in Arms.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Um, it did quite a good job of being Brothers in Arms. You mean Band of Brothers. That show was incredible

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Earned in Blood is so much better, coop campaign, better battles and much better vehicle combat.

  13. EhexT says:

    “While we all tired of World War 2 games and the Brothers in Arms series was never as popular as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty, they were each smartly designed games about first-person squad tactics. Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway was the third and seemingly final entry.”

    Except of course Hell’s Highway wasn’t really a Brothers in Arms game anymore. It was a shooter with a massively cut down squad system instead of the squad and cover based puzzle where you can use your own limited health as a sort of brute force cheat code to solve puzzles you can’t figure out that the first 2 games were.

    The first 2 games were amazing and unique. BiA 3 was…a bad BiA game trying and failing to be a mediocre CoD.

  14. melancholicthug says:

    Yes, I really liked the whole series. The fact that they were made while checking actual footage and maps from the real paratroopers was pretty neat. And the squad combat part was really cool.

  15. Sin Vega says:

    All I know about this game is that for a couple of years, it was one of the 2-5 games that made up about 70% of the used game shelves in wherever it was I used to buy games.

  16. Fenix says:

    The way the game threw infinite cutscenes at you expecting to know who soldier X and Y are, really frustrated me.

    It was a fun game, but you definitely needed to have played the games before it to care about its story.

  17. Premium User Badge

    john_silence says:

    The nightmare sequences Gap Gen refers to were pretty good indeed as far as I remember. For me the rare solo parts generally worked well because without the usual squad back-up you suddenly felt naked and vulnerable.
    The squad play was disappointing though, as in the entire franchise, because of the gross limitation that you could only order your troops to places you had a sightline on. Despite the existence of an overhead tactical map you could refer to, it wasn’t possible to send your guys on even a slightly circuitous, checkpointed path to the enemy flank. They were blunt tools to pin down the opposite pieces on the chessboard, while you had to do all of the finer maneuvering yourself. Not very satisfying strategically.
    Plus, the cutscenes were ghastly. Editing was just horrible, filled with weird pauses, and the attempts at emotional involvement were ludicrous with so little actual character development.
    Automatic grenade slo-mo however? FTW

  18. Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

    Holy shit, this: link to youtu.be
    Does anyone know if you can turn off or mod off the enemy life status orbs?

    • Pizzacheeks McFroogleburgher says:

      ..or is it line of sight..?

    • Ephant says:

      You mean the suppression “orbs”? I’m pretty sure you can turn them off.

  19. thedosbox says:

    This was pretty much the only WWII game I played after the original Medal of Honor. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  20. RegisteredUser says:

    Since someone mentioned it in the weekend playing thread, if you’re into non-COD war themed shooters that are a bit different, check out Vietcong as well(ideally the uncensored one).
    Graphics are a bit meh now, but shots are meaty and the game is actually decent.
    link to metacritic.com

  21. james___uk says:

    Ohhh great game! You’re making me want to reinstall it.

    Interesting note about this game is that it’s one of about two games ever (other being Star Wars The Force Unleashed) to use Digital Molecular Matter tech so it has even better destruction on objects than you see in games today. I’m surprised tonnes more games didn’t use it, it was pretty dam impressive

  22. bill says:

    Well, I’ve tried to play one Brothers in Arms game, I don’t know i it was this one.

    It was dire.
    Running along narrow “corridors” because you couldn’t get over the 2 foot tall fence on the left or the 3 inch deep rain ditch on the right.
    Horrible iron-sights combat.
    Terrible enemy scripting that kept breakign because I was somehow ahead of where I was supposed to be so the enemy was infinitely spawning obliviously behind me and there was no way to proceed because I couldn’t trigger the correct trigger.
    Checkpoints that happen before a 5 minute dull stretch of fending off dozens of enemies with a fixed gun, waiting for your leader to open a tiny wooden gate, and then running across a field under mortar fire meaning you have to replay all of that if a mortar hits you.
    Etc…

    So, that’s all like CoD, but just done worse. But then there’s the supposed tactics where you can spend 5 minutes to kill 2 guys by slowly positioning your team mates USING THE EXACT SAME STRATEGY EVERY TIME rather than just running up and shooting them in 10 seconds.

    yeah… big advance that….