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Brothers in Arms D-Day

For: PSP

Clunkier than a German Panzer tank?

Product: Brothers in Arms D-Day | Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai | Publisher: Ubisoft | Format: PSP | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Brothers in Arms D-Day PSP, thumbnail 1
There's no need to have been in World War II to imagine how awfully stressful things must have got. Video game interpretations of the 1939-45 global conflict may glamorise those dreadful years, but the better titles do at least provide a glimpse of just how bewildering battle can be. From there it's not entirely impossible to make the (admittedly gargantuan) leap as to how the anxiety levels would escalate when playing with your actual life on the line.

But if your imagination is lacking, Brothers in Arms D-Day labours this point by having its characters resort to using as many expletives as they do bullets. At least, that's what we assume the fruity language is here to serve – it's a way of intensifying the experience, giving it gravitas, and making you feel like your actions matter, that they have consequences affecting the other members of your squad.

To be honest, we found them mostly unnecessary but we're not about to mount our moral high horse and shoot the game down for attempting to bolster the action through silly swearing. Not when there are more imperative areas of the game to criticise.

There's certainly little wrong in incarnating sergeant Matt Baker and, in time, corporal Joe Hartsock, both members of the 101st Airborne Division of the US army, and taking them through real battles of the 101st's Normandy campaign – recreated here in the form of objective-led missions, mostly involving infantry and artillery elimination – for your firstperson shooting pleasure.

Well, 'pleasure' is stretching it somewhat, although the game's reliance on a suppression fire-based system, which sees enemies pinned down and hesitant to return fire while you (or a member of your squad – a standard set of commands, plus suppressing fire, can be issued with little effort) flank them, does work well, not least because the levels have usually been designed so as to afford a number of opportunities for surprising the enemy.

Helping you out is the game's 'situational awareness view', which pauses the action and displays the position of sighted enemies within a panning isometric map. It's a reasonably useful addition, and provides reinforcement to the tactical undercurrent of D-Day, but some players may find a greater sense of achievement in outsmarting the enemy without having to resort to it.

Germany's troops don't appear particularly intelligent, anyway, although this at least balances out some issues of the control system, which in addition to a dubious level of aiming accuracy is further compromised by the button combination required for strafing, feeling both fiddly and breaking up the flow of the action. Switching to the 'advanced' control set-up improves things, with strafing duties assigned to the nub and left/right look on the face buttons (as well as a dedicated grenade button – a useful addition).

The game's slower, more considered pace does at least mean the control issues aren't perhaps as apparent as they would be on a faster, more arcade-led FPS – there's arguably less strafing involved here, with the emphasis firmly on finding cover and keeping the enemy pinned down, while working out how to get a clear line of sight on them.

Alternatively, throwing a grenade will usually flush them out into the open. There's a lot of open ground in Brothers in Arms D-Day. Encounters, certainly in early levels that see you roam a mostly deserted Normandy countryside, feel few and far between, and are mostly anti-climatic. It's only around the time you take control of Hartsock, some 15 missions in, that the action finally begins to pick up in intensity. A shame, then, that framerate issues also show up to spoil the atmosphere just when plenty is happening on screen.

Further irritation is provided courtesy of frequent sound glitches, the fact weapon pick-up messages can obscure the action, and during stages involving the support of armoured vehicles.

Tanks can be commanded in the same way as troops, and offer the added advantage of enabling you to climb aboard to man the turret-mounted machine gun. However, their route finding ability is weak and they often seem incapable of negotiating perfectly ample gaps – not ideal if you're cowering behind wall ruins, facing an increasing number of German soldiers and urgently requiring the backing of heavy artillery.

If that sounds like atmosphere-building tension, it's not – it's just frustrating.

To be fair, Brothers in Arms D-Day does have its moments. There's a Skirmish ad-hoc mode offering pretty satisfying multiplayer co-op action (as well as solo, for that matter), spread over 12 maps, which largely sidesteps the main game's problems of pacing. It's easy to see how, had the content been carefully condensed, this game could have been a far livelier, more compelling affair.

As it is, D-Day often makes World War II seem bland and routine. And you don't need your great great-grandfather to tell you that's not right.
Brothers in Arms D-Day
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 19 January 2007
D-Day's strategic undertones are welcome, but overall the game is too drawn out and generally lacking in tension to truly captivate, other than in short sporadic bursts
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