Brothers In Arms DS (Nintendo DS) Review

By Matthew Evans 01.09.2007 9

A very well credited movie once said “life is like a box of chocolates. Never know what you're gonna get.” Now I'm not sure how it works in America, but over here in the U.K. boxes of chocolates come with a nice little card that tells you exactly what each chocolate is so you've got a good idea of what you're gonna get. If they wanted to go with that analogy then they should have gone with a bag of Revels; in there you truly never know what you are going to get. Using the Revels train of thought, gaming is much like a bag of Revels, no matter how many toffee Revels you bite into you are always going to bite into a sodding peanut one (if you don't happen to suffer from a nut allergy then by all means substitute peanut for any flavour you don't like).

Brothers in Arms is very much a coffee Revel, it's not as divisive as Marmite but it's close. The review copy actually passed between two other people before being pushed through my letterbox purely because they didn't like the game and didn't want to bother playing it enough so that they could write a review for it. Personally I enjoyed it (I like coffee Revels).

I'm going to cut straight to the point, BiA is a DS version of the numerous WW2 games you see cropping up on the PC. It's a tired genre with little to no originality in the storytelling department, you play an American soldier doing missions for the Allied forces, which seem to be made up purely of Americans. I'm sorry, but claiming you are fighting for the Allies but only fighting alongside Americans is like taking a bag of Revels and taking out every variation except for the crispy ones; that's not a bag of Revels, it's a sodding bag of Maltesers.

Sorry for the rant, but as I said it's a tired genre and I didn't want to waste page space explaining the “plot” to people who've never encountered a WW2 shooter as they are few and far between. Now while that particular style of game has grown stale on the PC front, it is still relatively fresh on the hand-held side so porting the game over is not such a bad thing.

Everything about this iteration is deeply rooted in PC gaming, the graphics are top notch and push the envelope for the DS. Yes, there are better looking games but fewer more authentic-looking games. Brothers in Arms clearly suffers from brown and green syndrome which, while quite fitting for a game situated in this time period, has been over-done so could be seen as a bad thing - but this actually works in its favour. The DS's graphic capabilities are inferior when compared to the PSP so we rarely see companies that try to do realistic 3D games on the system, instead giving us brightly coloured, basic 3D and 2D images. Brothers in Arms bucks the trend by not only going down the realistic route but by actually succeeding. It would be very easy for a game with such a limited palette and less graphical detail to become murky and lack definition, but these images are clear and rarely cause a problem that you wouldn't already experience in a PC version. Definitely a toffee Revel.

The audio is almost of the same quality as the visuals. Technically the sound is superb, voices and sound effects are as crystal clear as the DS's speakers allow and the music is rousing but its awfully generic and sparse, and quickly becomes background noise punctuated by the common bursts of machine gun fire and the chatter of fellow troops.

You are probably getting the gist by now, but while everything seems to be going well in the game but there are niggling issues and they seem to derive from the game being firmly based on its PC roots, none more so than the control method. It's one of the best replications of the keyboard and mouse control methods I've encountered on a console, be it home-based or hand-held; the D-Pad replaces the WASD buttons on your keyboard, you move the stylus across the bottom screen to aim much like a mouse and you use the L-Trigger instead of the L-Button on the mouse to shoot. You can also do a quick reload, weapon change, zoom in/out and throw grenades via the touch screen. The problem is that it is a copy of the PC control method and doesn't feel right - this can easily be put down to the ergonomics of the DS itself but it's still a problem for the game, essentially you are trying to aim with the stylus in your right hand while your left hand is trying to thumb the d-pad to get your guy to move, finger the L-Trigger to fire and support the console with the rest of the hand in a stable manner so that if you push too hard with the stylus the entire console doesn't go crashing to the floor. The controls themselves also feel fairly clunky; how much that has to do with the holding of the console and how much is to do with the game I'll never know as Nintendo, in their wisdom, neglected to include a thumb strap in the DS Lite, which would make playing this game considerably easier. Thanks a lot Nintendo.

One other little, niggling issue that I encountered which I find fairly funny in a bad-definition-of-irony sort of way is that considering this game has so much in common with those made for PCs, it also has a common PC related issue. Yep, this game crashed on me. During the penultimate mission on the first campaign you have to destroy two tanks by sniping fuel barrels as they pass, and if you fail a cut scene ensues, meaning you fail the mission and go back to the last checkpoint. On my copy, every time that cut scene played the game would freeze and I'd have that awful stuttering noise emitting from my DS's speakers, the console would have to be manually reset and the game would reload from the last but one checkpoint, meaning you'd have to constantly replay the same section of the mission you completed over and over again. The only two ways to avoid this problem were to either skip the scene before it started or to not fail the mission (easier said than done). Ubisoft didn't have any stock to replace my copy with and they were quick to point out how to rectify the issue (restart the mission from scratch which is fairly annoying in itself, as the crash occurred over three quarters of the way through the level), so I can assume it's not a one-off issue but can't really prove it. It isn't a deal-breaker as there's always a peanut in a bag of Revels - I'd just prefer it not to be there.

Other than those two issues, the game is extremely solidly built. The pacing is well suited to the game, with checkpoints littering each level; this may make it sound like it's easy, but bear in mind it's a portable game and there's nothing worse than playing a game during your lunch break or on the bus on your way into school and you need to switch the console off but you can't find a checkpoint. The game's difficulty is a good medium with a lot of hectic set-pieces punctuated by calm periods which is normally where the checkpoints are, and when you complete each mission, as well as unlocking the next one, you also unlock the same level but at a higher difficulty. Brothers in Arms does a good job of keeping your attention as each mission is composed of various smaller objectives, so one second you are gunning down Nazis with your machine gun, the next you are whizzing through a field in a tank blowing up a convoy train. Once you've completed the first campaign you can unlock two additional ones; they don't add much more than different scenarios but the change in location and level layouts brings new challenges which offer a slightly different playing experience which goes some way towards expanding your enjoyment time with the game.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

At the end of the day it's a ruddy good game. There are little issues which will put people off, the main two being the type of game it is and the second being the control method which does take getting used to but these are merely the odd peanut in a Revel bag full of toffees.

Developer

Gameloft

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Hmmm...revels

Matthew Evans [ Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread ] As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

Super review. I'm liking the stance taken on it too.

A shame about the crash, eh.

Nice review Matt! Sounds like a decent game, shame about the crash.

I still don't understand why DS FPS aren't online though. We're in 2007.

WiFi is not a stable connection and is a lot slower than wired connection. We could be talking quite a bit of lag and that would be down to the hardware, not software.

As far as the crash is concerned it happened, thats not to say it'll happen on every game and after completing the level I played it through a second time and it didn't crash.

If you like FPS games on the PC then BiA is very much recommended. It can get frustrating while you are getting used to the control method but once you've had enough time with it the game opens up considerably. Personally I'm looking forward to a second one as long as they tighten up the controls or give a free thumb strap with it for DS Lite owners.

Matthew Evans [ Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread ] As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

WiFi is not a stable connection and is a lot slower than wired connection.

True, but Hunters worked very well online.

As for PC FPS - I can't say that I can remember playing one. :/ Crazy I know, but I have never been a PC gamer.

Give BiA a try. I've never played hunters so I'm not sure how similar the control methods are but once you've got used to them in this game it really opens up.

Matthew Evans [ Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread ] As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

Nice review Matt. :Smilie I was interested in this and it looks technically impressive, but I've just not gotten round to giving it a play - not sure I will get the chance with the amount I have in my backlog already. Shame.

I'm a bit disappointed in the lack of online FPS on DS also. While WiFi is less stable, Hunters did indeed work well, and I'm sure other developers would be up to the task if they were given a chance to make the effort.

Great review!

Looking forward to this game, the DS needs more FPS like this.

Not sure if its online but it does have a multiplayer multi-card option.

Matthew Evans [ Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread ] As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

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