Version tested: Wii
The World War II shooter genre has yet to make itself essential on the Wii, with the best efforts on the console - Call of Duty 3 and Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 - still only managing to scrape their way to disappointing 5/10 scores. Now it's the turn of Ubisoft's squad-based Brothers in Arms to take up the challenge.
Arriving on the Wii almost a year after it was first promised, Double Time is a conversion of both the original Road to Hill 30, and the follow-up, Earned in Blood. Both games are packaged separately inside a cardboard slipcase, giving the impression of a substantial experience. However, since both games focus on the same overly familiar territory of rural France during the D-Day landings, and feature most of the same characters doing much the same things, it's hard to really see them as distinct entities.
The games are supposedly narrative-driven - they're both "based on a true story" as the cover reminds us - but all this means is that the action is constantly interrupted for poorly staged cut-scenes rendered using the game engine. The graphics are fairly grim and rather undersell what little poignancy the trite story can muster. The attempts at depth and emotion just come across as a warmed over imitation of Saving Private Ryan, performed by balloon-faced mannequins. None of which helps distinguish the series from all the other wartime shooters that trade in the giddy thrill of shooting virtual Nazis, but then pull sad faces so we can pretend our vicarious sofa battles are somehow respectful to the men who actually fought and died all those years ago.
Much has been said about how the Wii interface should make it ideal for FPS games, but it's perhaps telling that the only game to really deliver on this promise was Metroid, which is only partially an FPS anyway. The good news is that Brothers in Arms does a pretty good job of boiling the expected control system down to work on remote and nunchuk. Movement and strafing is mapped to the nunchuk stick, while aiming and turning are handled via the remote. Shooting uses the B trigger, with the nunchuk buttons set aside for crouching and precision aiming. It's a core set-up that most previous Wii shooters have stuck with, and while aiming initially has a slightly floaty feel it soon becomes second nature.
Squad commands are simple, with the decent friendly AI filling in the blanks for the blanket orders you're able to give. Hold down the A button and you can direct your fire team where you want them to go. They're smart enough to find cover and return fire without you having to determine their combat stance, and should you move the squad cursor over an enemy it changes to a target. Your squad mates can then lay down suppressing fire, or rush the enemy, with a simple button press. Hardly the deepest squad system in gaming, but it's adequate for the needs of the game. Later on you get to order some tanks around, which makes for a nice change from the near constant flanking manoeuvres the rest of the game relies on.