by Robert Zak
previewed on X360
Bye-bye Sgt. Barker. Hello Furious 4!
The Brothers in Arms series has built up its reputation on tight squad-based gameplay and strong, intimate storylines revolving around a certain Sgt. Matt Baker. As such, the E3 trailer for Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 caused some gasps of disbelief and raised eyebrows as the game has clearly taken a very different direction to its predecessors. The earnest style that fans had come to associate with the game had been replaced by a gung-ho, super-stylised bloodbath more closely resembling a certain war film by a certain Mr. Tarantino, than a traditional 'WWII' shooter.
Furious 4 does not feature Matt Baker, but it certainly does not lack colourful characters. The plot revolves around an elite band of four (psychotic) soldiers whose mission it is to take out World War II's most familiar face, Adolf Hitler. The team consists of Crockett, a cowboy who uses a cattle iron to brand the foreheads of his Nazi victims; Stitch, a British geezer who, judging by the trailer, enjoys zapping Nazi crotches with an electric tazer; Chok, an agile, tomahawk-chucking Native American; and Montana, the token 'big man' who specialises in heavy weaponry. Suffice to say that these four help make this the most explosive Brothers in Arms game to date.
Different Facade, Similar Co-operative Gameplay
At surface level, this game is a brutal deviation from the BIA formula, leaving fans split over its style. Rather than going through the motions of attempting to show the grim realities of war, Furious 4 relishes its own violence. It's not shy about manically swinging a chainsaw around a group Nazis to create a fountain of comical blood and guts, or slapping the word 'Slaughter!' in the corner of the screen as a whole room of Nazi beer-hall revellers are torched. Of course, such excessive stylisation of violence is not particularly ground-breaking either, and Furious 4 will inevitably face tough comparisons with such popular titles as Borderlands and Bulletstorm.
But beneath this fashionably excessive facade, this is still very much a BIA game, focusing heavily on co-operative class-based gameplay in which every player has an equal role to play. The campaign will, of course, be entirely playable with up to 3 other players and early footage, in which the player and his team raid a German village in search of Hitler (with their mission being to 'Kill that Son of a Bitch'), demonstrates the co-op play nicely. At one point, players have to take up different entry points when raiding a beer-hall, with each being assigned different specific objectives during the raid. At the end of the level, a shielded, machine-gunning boss is best taken out using a combination of the characters' unique skills.
Jet Pack Nazis, Bear-Traps, Flaming Tomahawks
With realism being pretty much thrown out the window with the introduction of the plot and main characters, it's only reasonable that the rest of the game is equally excessive. In the gameplay footage, we see the player taking on Nazi jet pack troopers firing from multi-tubed rocket launchers, a Wolfenstein 3D-style mini-boss, and a chopper crashing into a ferrous wheel. In eschewing realism, the game looks bright, bold and colourful, reminding you that this WWII landscape is not the one from history books, but from such films as Inglourious Basterds and Where Eagles Dare.
This brings me neatly to a new upgrade system. Not too much has been revealed of this as yet, but if Montana's bear-traps and Chok's flaming tomahawks are anything to go by, then there will be a plethora of sadistic, but strategically crucial, weapons throughout the game. The developers have made it clear that the playable characters are formidable from the start, and that unlocks will not just be a tiresome process of "un-nerfing."
Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 is a controversial one, and while it may draw in people who have not hitherto played the BIA games, it may equally scare away die-hard fans of the series. Yet despite its complete stylistic overhaul, it remains heavily focused on co-operative and a strong storyline, which is written by Matt Neumann, the same writer as for all the other games in the series. So the BIA die-hards should not be too apprehensive, while newcomers to the series will not need much encouragement to blast their way through a comical Nazi Germany.