War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Unless of course you are the gaming industry, in which case it is rather lucrative!
Gameloft have unleashed yet another first person shooter, except this time you are not battling 21st century terrorist organisations, or dispatching waves of alien horde… nope… “Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more”… it’s time for another WWII shooter!
Back in 2009 Gameloft released Brothers In Arms, a port of the DS shooter, it played in the 3rd person (over the shoulder view) and was very much squad based. In this sequel though, Gameloft have brought it back to the more popular 1st person viewpoint. Also, while the brothers of the first title stood for the men in your unit, the meaning is more literal in this game, with you playing a man on a mission to unravel the truth about his brothers death and being stripped of his medal of honour. This story is of course wrapped in a conflict that spans the globe, from the Pacific to the lion’s den… Germany.
Gameloft have once again proved themselves the kings of FPS’s on the platform, with great control options. If you’ve played either Modern Combat or NOVA, you’ll be right at home. There are some options there that don’t work too well, but if you use the dual thumb-stick option you’ll be running and gunning with ease. One option that works particularly well is the ‘Screen tap’ setup. It’s much like the dual thumb-sticks, but instead of them being locked into position, they appear where ever you lay your thumbs… much like NOVA it allows you to shoot while aiming, and should, in my humble opinion, be the default for all FPS’s to come.
If there is one thing that Gameloft can take away from this with their heads held high, then it must be the art direction. The Game looks absolutely fantastic. But it’s the way in which all the elements are brought together to produce what can only be described as a film like experience that really impressed me. There is so much happening on screen, be it buildings exploding in hundreds of pieces, german fighters swooping in from up high, or battles raging in the distance, it really feels like you are part of a big conflict and not just your own introverted mission. Put next to the 2009 original and the difference is night and day. High resolution textures and detailed models all wrapped in great bloom lighting (3GS only) create a realistic war-torn atmosphere.
Another aspect that should be commended is the multiplayer. Once the main campaign is over, there’s team death-match to keep you coming back. Utilising the pretty solid Gameloft Live service, connecting to online (wifi only) games is a breeze, and a first for FPS’s on iPhone you can play with up-to eight players at a time. Much like Quake 3 or Goldeneye, various weapons are littered around the battlefield, such as the MG and Sniper rifle which encourages players to fight out int he open instead of camping. To cut down on lag there have been some shortcuts, such as players looking like the are skating along the environments when running, but for the most part the Multiplayer is a fun and intense experience.
Unfortunately, while Gameloft continue to make strides in what they can do visually on the system, they seem to have taken a step back in terms of Gameplay. While the game is a fun romp overall, it is hampered by poor-to-non-existent AI, and an incredibly linear level structure.
The AI – if you can call it that – is very basic and consists mainly of one routine: Run to position, stand ground, die… and repeat. It works ok on one or two enemies, but when ten or so enemy soldiers emerge doing the same routine, it looks more like a synchronised ballet group than a battle hardened Nazi unit!
The linear feel of the levels doesn’t help things either. The game exhibits way too much handholding through out the game, telling you where to go every few steps or so with giant glowing markers. And in doing so, gives the player little or no means for exploration. Combine this with many on-rails vehicle segments, and the fact that should you move your character to an area of the environment that the game doesn’t want you to go it penalises you by killing you for no apparent reason, then game comes across as more of a theme park style ride, than a free roaming FPS.
The music in the game is fantastic, as are the sound effects… working together so well at times that you could swear you are watching Saving Private Ryan. However, the voice acting is in no way oscar worthy, instead falling into the trap of most Gameloft titles with a terrible script and even worse delivery from the actors. It detracts from the great atmosphere built up so well from the visual and music, that it becomes almost a WWII parody.
Finally, all the great graphics mentioned in the ‘Good’ section comes at a cost to performance. The frame-rate often stumbles, even on the top tier 3GS. So while it’s a great showpiece visually, I think it’s pushing the device to it’s limits, that or there could be some tweaks in the optimisation of the graphical assets. Having said that, it’s still perfectly playable, just not as smooth as NOVA.
The Bottom Line
It’s a real tough one to rate this. On the one hand you have a great thrill ride of a game, but on the other a disappointing core FPS experience due to poor AI and the almost on-rails linear feel. What saves this game from becoming a bust though is the great addition of multiplayer. It’s one of the most fully featured yet, with up to eight players, varied and detailed arenas, a great array of weapons and more importantly, the addition of domination/capture the flag over the usual death-match and team death-match.
So, if you think of this as a multiplayer game, but with a fun and movie-like single player campaign as a bonus extra, then I can recommend this to all FPS fans out there… even though it is yet another WWII shooter.
Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front is out now for $7.99