Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Like Graham, I’ve always felt bad for the Brothers In Arms series of games. The WWII shooter was well into its fatigue stage by the time these games got around to doing something intelligent with it. Rocking up to the beaches of Normandy in Medal of Honor or storming the streets of Stalingrad in Call of Duty were excellent set pieces at the time. But neither game came close to making you think about anything that was going on, it was run and/or gun. That’s it. Brothers In Arms introduced a tactical element – and it was simple too. You just had to point at things.
More specifically, as the squad leader of a group of soldiers from the 101st Airborne you had to command your men from hedgerow to hedgerow during Operation Overlord, telling them where to move and where to fire by pointing at stuff with satisfying first-person hand gestures. This suppressing fire wasn’t intended to kill but simply pin down enemy Germans as either you or another squad flanked them. Today this mechanic sounds so murderously obvious but I can’t remember another game that did it at the time, nor any in the following years that did it smoother.
Like the shooters it followed (and the entire videogame industry to this day) it took too much of its style from movies and television. Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan were obvious and heavy influences. But it also managed to balance spectacle and historical accuracy in a way that CoD or MoH didn’t. Your campaign wasn’t across Europe as a single superspy-soldierman for the OSS, nor was it a ballistic recreation of the opening scenes from Enemy at the Gates. It split you into fire teams and assault teams, penalised you with inaccuracy when under fire, and followed the story of men who actually existed.
And now, where is the Brothers In Arms series? Captured and held hostage by Gameloft, famous for creating terrible phone games. We haven’t seen a real sequel since Hell’s Highway in 2008. Well, I for one salute you, Brothers.