Though they might not be the most vocal, let it be known that the Brothers in Arms series has quite a dedicated fan base. Beginning with the very well received Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 back in 2005, the game helped establish Gearbox Software as a name to be known, particularly for the title's notable historic accuracy, following the actions of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. World War II nuts loved Brothers in Arms for its emotional and character driven themes, a striking comparison to the blockbuster one-man-army presentation of other World War II games.
Since Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, released three years ago, fans have been begging Gearbox to get back on the wagon (or tank) and take the series out for another spin. At E3 2011, during Ubisoft's press conference, fans got just that - a new Brothers in Arms game. What they most definitely were not expecting, especially considering the legacy of the franchise, was Brothers in Arms: Furious 4.
It began as a challenge from Ubisoft. The cries of mediocrity and repetition from gamers regarding the World War II video game genre had been heard, and Ubisoft wanted something new. Putting Gearbox to the task of reinventing and reviving their Brothers in Arms series, Furious 4 looks to abandon the gritty realism of previous titles in favour of a Tarantino-esque comic flavour not unlike Inglourious Basterds.
The idea is simple; you play as one of a squad of 'dream soldiers'. This literal furious four have been given the mission of hunting down the F├╝hrer himself, and will stop at nothing until the job is done. Thankfully, there's nobody better suited for the task at hand, as each member of the squad specialises in certain skills and carries unique equipment, able to do what no other soldier can.
You might be wondering just who these furious four are? Well, we don't know their real world names, but they do have interesting titles. This band of super soldiers is composed of The Flanker, The Finder, The Fixer and The Finisher. Each of their names specifies the role they play in the team, as well as the skills they use. The striking characteristics of each member reminded us quite a bit of Borderlands, a title unsurprisingly by the same developer.
Though there is plenty to learn about each character, our demonstration predominantly focused on The Flanker; a huge soldier equipped with a chain-gun, shotgun and chainsaw.
The demo mission took place in a small Nazi occupied village. The SS seemed to be in the middle of some kind of celebration, and word on the grape vine was that Hitler was there too. Not one to miss out on such fun, the Furious 4 were making a special appearance. Tonight's main event? Death and carnage.
As our heroes burst through Bavarian-style beer houses and buildings, they worked together to take down any enemy that crossed their path. Action packed violence flowed thick and fast, and set piece moments allowed for more specific context sensitive challenges, such as a slow motion bar break-in requiring the player to take advantage of the slowed pace to quickly squeeze bullets into three nearby enemies.
After watching the demonstration, it became clear that Furious 4 puts a strong emphasis on score focused gameplay. Rather than offer an open ended experience, the game seemed to be based around performing to the best of your ability during the various action sequences and challenges. High scores and rewards will likely tie into the upgrade system, which allows characters to be enhanced with new abilities and equipment, all purchased through a short wave radio.
Overall, we were quite impressed with what we saw of Brothers in Arms: Furious 4. The action appeared exciting, and the game is undoubtedly very stylish. Though we got Borderlands vibes throughout the demonstration, it does appear to be a relatively fresh take on the World War II genre, especially in the realm of video games, and in terms of being a stylish action title it certainly hits the right notes.
But we're not without some reservations. Though very over the top, we were surprisingly taken back by the violence, especially given the context of the game, and wondered if perhaps Furious 4 was too violent. We're also a little concerned if the Brothers in Arms title is appropriate for a game like this. Not to discredit the game for what it is, but there are no doubt some unhappy Brothers in Arms fans, and perhaps Furious 4 would benefit more from standing as it's own franchise.
Ultimately though there is still much to learn, Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 is in early days, and there's no doubt we'll get a much better look at all of the characters and special features in hopefully the not too distant future. Fingers crossed Gearbox can keep their trademark charm and polish throughout.