Brothers in Arms – Game Learning and poor sequels

I’ve been a huge fan of the game Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. For those of you who don’t know it’s a game that puts you in the shoes of a soldier dropped in France on D-Day. As he gathers stragglers and gets together his team he finds command points and carries through a series of missions based on actual events.

The game is a first person shooter. That means you are looking through the eyes of the soldier and are shooting enemies. There’s a bit more to it than that though as you command up to two squads, one suppression team and one attack team. They have various equipment and tactics depending on which team they belong to, and they behave quite intelligently too.

You have to take them through a series of missions and use their skills to complete the task. Going up against German soldiers and tanks along the way.

What is particularly good about it are the guns. They behave as they really did, are slow and often inaccurate, and take a lot of getting used to. Also when you get shot you can get hit hard, there’s a lot of blood and quick deaths to be had, so the realism is quite high.

To create the realism they’ve painstakingly recreated the surroundings from actual photos and also by visiting the locations featured in the game.

Throughout characters are portrayed very realistically both in dialogue and actions, all the time they are humanised and your own character gives a very human introduction to each chapter, almost as if reading from diaries as in the television series Band of Brothers. The horror of war is not avoided.

As you complete sections of the game content is opened up to you which tells you about the war and the campaigns and battles featured. If ever there was a way to experience what it felt like to fight, then this is it.

The great thing about this game is it isn’t exactly the learning experience of game based learning I’ve been sold to date. I’ve either been told to expect a fully immersive and interactive first person experience such as Shenmue, or simple less intensive games like jackpot machines, whose content is the learning itself.

What this does is give you the actual experience within the game itself and you learn through the entire experience as a whole, rather than being given key points of learning or putting the content within the game. So through the entire process I’ve learnt about what it was like in World War II during the invasion of France.

I think that’s a superb way of learning, recreating the experience in the whole game rather than using a game to bring you to content.

The learning aside though there is something I have to complain about with it. While you’re playing the game will continually freeze for about five seconds at a time, and this is happening every few minutes. Not only does the game play freeze but so does the audio, so characters speeches just stop, or your attack on some enemy soldiers fails as everything halts mid manoeuvre or during firing.

This is ridiculous and immediately pulls you out of the experience. Suddenly I’m just playing a game and playing around the limitations of the loading rather than being immersed in it and playing round the limitations of the environment.

For a company to have spent so much time and effort building the amazing experience that is Brothers in Arms only to destroy it with such a simple defect in the coding seems a story so akin to e-learning production…

It’s a terrible affliction and kills the interest and involvement experienced in the first game. It’s so bad I may even take it back.

2 comments on “Brothers in Arms – Game Learning and poor sequels”

  1. Louise Reply

    I’ve got this game on PS2 and loved it as well. When one of my men died I felt more gutted than normal for some reason.

    I agree about the weapons they do feel incredibly inaccurate when you’re firing them at times. My favourite was the German rifle, I forget the name. One shot and the dude was finished. I haven’t played it for a while though, I got stuck on one mission that was driving me mad.

    I don’t remember the constant loading annoying me that much, it was more the way that one of my men always ignored the place I told him to stop at and continued to wander about right in the line of fire… Hide you fool.

  2. Dave Morrow Reply

    Video games need to create rules for the world in which they exist. Sucessful ones completely abide by these rules and create an immersive experience. See GTA, Mario, Halo etc

    Games that ‘yank’ you out of their world by breaking the rules (stupid AI, severe glitching, freezing, excessive loading) can lead to less immersion in their world. Which can ruin a ‘nearly-great’ game.

    So there you go. That’s my 0.002 pence worth.

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