Brothers in Arms DS
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
|FIMP: Brothers in Arms DS [NDS]|
I've played perhaps two hours or so into the game thus far, which involved a fair amount of on-foot and vehicle-based combat. Gameplay is very objective-oriented, with your commanding officer barking out direct orders for you to follow with very little leeway otherwise. Objectives include destroying tanks, planting explosives and defending areas from enemy onslaught. One objective given to you while in a tank involves derailing a locomotive in the middle of its journey. Despite the objectives, the gameplay seems a little haphazard; not as cohesive, not as fluid as you'd like it to be. You fight in a squad, but - and perhaps this is due to either the last-gen visuals or the small screen it's on - it never feels like you're advancing as a cooperative unit, and the objectives are given with very little time in between such that it's almost as if there are too many objectives in any given period of time.
So far, the controls work decently. Anyone familiar with Metroid Prime Hunters' stylus-based shooting will have very little trouble adapting to Brothers in Arms DS. It is admittedly slightly different, and not necessarily for the better: instead of keeping your reticule in or near the center and shifting your viewpoint, the stylus directly moves the crosshair about the screen. Turning and looking up or down is initiated by moving your reticule to the edges of the screen, mimicking the method found in games like Red Steel. While this method allows you to pinpoint enemies without shifting your entire perspective, it makes it more difficult to control your turning with precision. It would have been better to at least include an option to allow for a gradual turning radius that activates a turn as soon as you leave the center of the screen - the farther away you get from the center of the screen, the faster you turn. Obviously, your viewpoint would lock when you started firing.
The cover mechanic is not very deep at all, but it's still engaging. All you need to do to duck behind cover is walk towards and press up against it. You're then free to strafe left and right behind the cover, while pulling away detaches you from it. There's no blind-fire mechanic, something found in Gears of War and Kill.Switch - so you'll have to be precise with your aim and timing when firing your weapon. Despite the lack of options, basing the combat largely around cover still gives the title a sense of fear, caution and intensity commonly associated with today's World War II titles.
Tossing grenades both intuitive and restrictive. To do this, you touch the grenade icon in the lower corner of your touch screen. You then slide your stylus along a small meter that grows out of the icon, corresponding directly with a grenade targeting reticule on the gameplay screen. The camera zooms out to a 3/4 isometric view, and you can easily gauge the distance you want to throw and simply lift the stylus to chuck the pineapple. The restrictive problems come in when you consider that you're limited to a vector - wherever you're looking when you happen to touch the icon, that's the straight line of range you have. So it takes away the flexibility of the quick "look, hold, release" mechanic of traditional grenade gameplay in favor of letting you directly control exactly where your grenade will fall with your stylus. For the most part it's serviceable, but it takes some getting used to and isn't really "better" than the old method.
The aesthetics are probably what grabbed me the most. Sure, the DS is barely capable of anything past the Playstation era - but with this in mind, the game still manages to sport some detailed character models and environments. The dirty, destroyed mood of the setting comes through quite well and the entire game performs at a passable and consistent - if not totally smooth - framerate. One memorable moment in particular had me firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a church steeple to take out some Nazis perched within, with the resultant blast completely obliterating the structure into broken chunks of brick. The sound easily trumps the visuals so far though. There's very little music to speak of, but Gameloft packed in fully voiced dialog (which is mostly just your commanding officer and squadmates shouting). Explosions and weapons have a nice kick to them, as well.
I'm not completely sold on Brothers in Arms DS yet, but I'm not down on it either. It's too early to tell which way the game is headed, but if the mission structure and objectives become more intriguing and organized as the game progresses, we might have a winner on our hands. However, given what I've experienced so far, the possibilities of monotony are still very real.
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