Hell's Highway is the third instalment in the Brothers in Arms series and the first for next-gen machines. As Tom found out earlier this year, developer Gearbox has paid attention to criticisms of the previous games and is working hard to address them. And as we found out when we talked to president Randy Pitchford recently, the studio is confident they've not only moved the Brothers in Arms series forwards but also the entire WWII shooter genre.
Read on to find out what's new and what's improved in Hell's Highway, and why Pitchford believes at least one bit of it is "better than Halo".
Eurogamer: So what's this new instalment in the Brothers in Arms series all about?
Randy Pitchford: Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway is an authentic war experience. It's a first person shooter where you become a squad leader amongst the chaos and devastation of Operation Market/Garden, the largest airborne invasion in the history of the world.
Along the way you'll use you're your men and use hardcore weapons to destroy the enemy. Friends will be made and lost and your heroic action and decisions can save the lives of many.
Hell's Highway is shaping up to be incredible - certainly the best game I've ever been a part of. We can't wait to finish and release the game.
Eurogamer: What new features does Hell's Highway introduce to the BIA series?
Randy Pitchford: First, the visual fidelity is extremely high. The game is truly next-generation and it's not an exaggeration to say that there is no World War II game that comes close to the graphics and art quality of Hell's Highway.
I think the new gameplay features are most exciting, however. [Such as] destructible cover - the enemy can run, but they can't hide. Wood can be shredded splinter by splinter and hard cover emplacements, like sand bags, can be blown away with high explosives. It's amazing to watch and great fun to play with. I can't believe we're actually doing what we're doing because no game I've ever played feels this cool with destructible environments.
Then in addition to leading a fire team and an assault team you can now command a special weapons team. This lets you order a machine gun crew to shred soft cover or lay down a huge field of suppressive fire, or command a bazooka team to put shells into an enemy tank or 88, or to take out a hard enemy emplacement like a sand bag bunker.
You'll play the game from the first person point of view and you're a real character in the world, not just a camera. Whenever you're near a wall or any kind of cover, you can choose to "Dig-In". When you dig in, you're really hugging the walls and the cover. It's better than Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4 where you're just sliding back and forth from behind cover. Using dig-in is really evolved from that kind of old-school FPS strafing. It's a lot of fun and a huge improvement from where FPS games have been.
There's a ton of other new things, visit gearboxsoftware.com to dig deeper. Our developers often interact with the community on our forums, so it's a great place to learn more about the game and game makers.
Eurogamer: How do the new units you're introducing change the gameplay?
Randy Pitchford: Also, there is a difference in real life between "concealment" and "cover". Concealment will hide you from an enemy, but won't protect you if they start shooting. A wooden fence, for example, is only concealment in real life. But a wooden fence is impenetrable in other games and serves as both concealment and cover for the enemy. In Hell's Highway, if the enemy is concealed behind a wooden fence, your machine gun crew can make short work of it and shred it in no time.
The bazooka team is great for taking out harder cover. If you've got an enemy machine gun crew set up behind a sandbag emplacement, you can get your bazooka team in position and put some ordnance on there to really ruin their day.
Because of the new units you have all kinds of new tactical options. You don't just suppress the enemy then look for a flank. You can do that, but you have other options too. You can take out their cover. You can suppress and assault, going right up the middle with grenades and assault rifles under the cover of an allied machinegun crew that is under your command. You can do all kinds of things to solve the tactical challenges of World War II combat. It's awesome.
Eurogamer: What lessons did you learn from previous BIA games? What are you trying to improve on with this instalment?
Randy Pitchford: There are a number of things I think we've improved upon. The accuracy of the weapon when aiming "down-the-sights" is now extremely precise. You can vault over any cover now. In general, the game is a lot more accessible and useable.
The tactical map is now more relevant - it's less about showing off and more about helping you know what you need to know when you're looking at it. Before, we had tons of historical and "making of" extras as a separate menu option. Now, we've integrated these kinds of extras into the game itself so you can find these "Recon Points" in the game and then visit your tactical map to look at the bonus content.
As you know, Brothers in Arms games are extremely authentic with locations and battles that match the true history not just in name, but down to the streets and buildings you'll see and use. The records, photos, interviews and other information we've got about the history is really interesting.
I could keep going - there are a lot of improvements everywhere. At the end of the day, Brothers in Arms cares about squad combat, authenticity and deep story telling. Each of these angles where Brothers in Arms stands above the rest has gotten even better.