Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway By: Travis Pike

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I’ve been on a kick of playing old Xbox 360/PS3 games, and I might sound like an old man for saying this, but they were better. They had single-player campaigns, and the focus was on good gameplay, not on selling me a Captain America skin. One of the games I dived into was Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway.

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Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway cover

I loved the Brothers in Arms series growing up, and Hell’s Highway has always stuck out as my favorite. It’s also the last Brothers in Arms installment of the series made for the consoles. 

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Hightway - Jasper with a Bazooka
“Jasper, get that Bazooka up.”

Brothers in Arms stood out from most WW2 shooters of the time by delivering narrative with the gameplay. I couldn’t tell you any of the story elements from the original Call of Duty series or even Medal of Honor. In Hell’s Highway, you have characters, voice actors, and cut scenes that examine everything from interpersonal relationships between soldiers, their pasts, and how the war affects them. 

The Story of Hell’s Highway 

Hell’s Highway is rather dark. The story does do some experimentation with the horror of war, but obviously happily indulges in the violence. The main three console games follow Staff Sergeant Matt Baker, a soldier with the 101st Airborne, and his unit.

The platoon is made up of side characters who all have a little personality. Red is your friend and a squad leader under your command.  Corporal Corrion is a soldier who is frustrated that he’s passed over for promotion. You get two boot troopers named Franky “Frank and Beans” LaRoche and an Englishman named Dawson. On top of that, various other soldiers that make up Baker’s recon platoon, including Jasper, who always makes a joke, Paddock, who is always balls to the wall, and superiors like Colonel Sink. 

the cursed pistol, a 1911 in the Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway video game
The Cursed pistol is Baker’s shiny 1911.

Funny enough, Colonel Sink is voiced and seemingly modeled on Dale Dye, famed Marine and technical adviser for films like Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, and so many more. The cast has their own interactions and conflicts told through various cutscenes and side dialog. Hell’s Highway focuses on Operation Market Garden and shows the effect of the war not only on the soldiers but on the European civilians. 

They even dive into the mental health of our main character. It’s clearly deteriorating in the face of the loss of friends and fellow soldiers and the killing required to be successful. 

More than an FPS 

What makes it so tragic that the Brothers In Arms series has ended is that they were more than a first-person shooter. The games implemented a good degree of strategy. You couldn’t succeed by yourself, and you almost always had a team of two assigned to you. You could control this team, position them, and use them to accomplish tasks. 

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway screen including a mounted machine gun
Mounted machine guns suppress crazy efficiently.

The teams have some variety to them. In Hell’s Highway, you can have a machine gun team armed with an M191A6 or a bazooka team armed with, well, a Bazooka named Stella. Maybe I like Jasper so much because he’s always in the heavy weapons team. There is also a base-of-fire team and an assault team. 

When you need a team to maneuver or lay down fire, your character calls them out by name. The number of times I’ve heard Baker yell something like, “Corrion! Follow me,” Or “Jasper! Get that gun up!” Controlling your teams in Hell’s Highway is super easy and very intuitive. The commands and missions aren’t deep, but if you fail to make the right call, an MG42 will turn you into a meat paste. 

As the screen fills with red you know you are being suppressed.
As the screen fills with red you know you are being suppressed.

Suppress ‘Em 

A big element in Hell’s Highway and the Brother’s In Arms games is suppression. The core element of the shooting work is to suppress and flank the enemy. A small bubble pops up over the heads of enemy units representing when they are suppressed. When they are suppressed, their fire is infrequent, inaccurate, and you can rightly flank them with ease. 

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway character Jasper with M1919
Jasper and his M1919 lay down the hate.

Different guns suppress differently. A machine gun lays down the hate and gets the Germans hugging the ground nice and tight. Oh, and suppression goes both ways. The Germans can suppress you, and if you break cover, you’re a dead man. You have to figure out how to break suppression without getting yourself or your teams killed. 

Sometimes you have more guys, and a BAR makes a big difference. Other times a Bazooka takes out an MG nest quite nicely. This breaks the monotony of just a first-person shooter. 

Hell’s Highway — The Arena 

Hell’s Highway isn’t necessarily an arena shooter. The developers made each level into a big arena. These are not completely open levels, but each segment is open enough that you are not on rails and can make decisions about movement, flanking, and the use of cover. Some cover, like a brick wall, will absorb what is tossed at it. Other cover, like a wood fence, wagon, or trailer, will disintegrate under fire. 

The actual shooting is intense, and you can aim down a set of realistic sights. The weaponry is limited to the common infantry weapons of both the Germans and Americans. The guns you start with change frequently. You Can carry two long guns, and you’ll always have your trusty 1911, which itself is a part of the story and is known as a cursed pistol. 

The symbol above the dot means my machine gun is suppressing the target.
The symbol above the dot means my machine gun is suppressing the target.

You can grab German guns if you prefer and even wield an MG42 or M1919A6 on occasion. One of the great details of Hell’s Highway is the ability to set the machine guns up on their bipods to greatly improve accuracy and stability. 

Setting up your machine gun to drop hate on a squad of unsuspecting Germans is insanely satisfying. You’ll be able to fire in the enfilade and utterly decimate the squad quickly and efficiently, as a real machine gun would. 

Take Cover 

This game was made in the heyday of realistic, cover-based shooters. You can cling to cover, and the game goes from first person to third person. You can duck behind cover and break cover to lay down fire. Hell’s Highway allows you to use a variety of surfaces as cover, and if you want to make it to the end credits, then cover will be your best friend. 

Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway soldier taking cover
Taking cover is a must to stay alive.

Heck, I’ve forgotten to mention the times you get to ditch the ground and become a British tanker. Here you wield the main gun and M2 fifty caliber to turn Germans into Swiss cheese. The problem-solving, level variety, cover, and strategic gameplay take Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway to new levels of awesome. 

Sadly, they don’t make ’em like this anymore. I’d love for an FPS to have a solid single-player campaign that mixes in some form of team-based strategy. Supposedly another Brother in Arms is up in the air, but I won’t hold my breath.