Your opinion on the most recent Brothers in Arms is most likely to be decided by how you rate technical accomplishment on the DS. Of course, compared to most console WWII shooters, visually it simply doesn't compare. But this is no console game, and as far as DS games go it has muscles far bigger than you'd imagine would possibly fit inside a tiny DS cart.
There are explosions and tanks and scattering Germans all over the place, as you and your squadron charge about diving for cover and splashing sandbags with Nazi blood. This is war you can fit in your pocket, and it is damn exciting almost all the time.
Unfortunately, it can also be a little frustrating. The controls work surprisingly well, employing the d-pad to strafe and the touch screen to aim, with a fantastic system for throwing grenades and changing weapons controlled with the stylus. However, the camera is a little too unruly, and though to a certain extent it adds a feel for the chaos of the battlefield, it is extremely infuriating on the occasions when it causes your death. In addition to the camera, panning with the stylus is just too slow when enemy hordes are attacking from all sides.
For many, Brothers in Arms DS' linear structure will also be a reason to criticise the game, though it is worth remembering that just because technology has made open gaming possible, all the releases that were great before aren't now redundant, and just because it can go in, it doesn't mean it has to.
Still, Brothers in Arms DS is particularly linear, as instead of allowing for player exploration, it actively discourages it, giving a sense you are in a TV set that looks incredibly real, but is held together with tape and pins just out of your sight. It does this by placing markers about every 30 seconds of the game, guiding you along the path to victory. On one hand, this makes sure you are always in the thick of the action, but on the other it means the levels fly past rather quickly - though it is not disappointingly short, Brothers in Arms DS will not last you long.
The markers also make the game a little easy, but then watching a film is easy, so if you are looking for a bit of trigger happy escapism the linear nature might be a reason to invest rather than a deterrent. However, those after a challenge or a game of substance and depth will likely be disappointed.
The vehicle control in Brothers in Arms is another part of this DS release that is simultaneously ambitious, impressive and at times flawed. Controlling the tanks works in the same way as using your on-foot protagonist, and their slow, lumbering style and independent turret and track movement is perfectly matched to the d-pad stylus input. However, mastering a jeep is like steering a broken supermarket trolley or riding a bike with your arms crossed. As you can imagine, the erratic turning sends the camera into a frenzy of misbehaviour.
The game's sound absolutely impresses, and despite numerous criticisms, this is still one of the best looking 3D games on Nintendo's handheld. Yet still there are niggles. For example, there are loading times on what is a cartridge game, and occasionally the objectives are unclear. It is also a real shame that no compatibility with the DS rumble pack is included, as if any game could take advantage of it, it is Brothers in Arms.
A smooth and functional multiplayer, multi-card deathmatch mode is included too, and while it is workable, it offers little more than a cursory distraction from the rationed but hearty meat and potatoes of the main game.
Quite how Gearbox's pocket shooter turns so many negatives into such a playable game is inexplicable, but sometimes the most unpolished combat boots are the most comfortable. In the end, if a stick shaped vaguely like a gun and a dose of your imagination is all you needed as a child for a good game of army, then this will be right up your street, as it captures the WWII of schoolboy's comics and playground banter. However, if a high-tech military simulator is your idea of a good time, then look elsewhere.
VideoGamer.com Score6 Score out of 10
- Great pocket-based explosive action romp
- Offers fantastic throwaway escapism
- Extremely linear
- Infuriating camera movement