in Arms: Earned Blood addresses some of the issues
of its predecessor, Road to Hill 30. But in the process
it comes across as more of an expansion pack than
a true, stand-alone game.
of Road to Hill 30 will no doubt revel in Earned Blood
as it does provide more of the same gameplay that
cultivated a rabid fan base for the original game.
I would have liked to see a lot more additions in
this version and not just upgrades. It's definitely
a better game than Road to Hill 30 but not by miles.
of the inherent problems with bringing tactical shooters
to the console is that the control system is not as
sophisticated as the keyboard and the mouse combination.
Commands can be issued quickly with hot key commands
and the precision aiming of the mouse has not been
rivaled by any analog stick or D-pad. The Xbox makes
a good attempt by offering menus which can be accessed
quickly but the accuracy of the stick will result
in missed shots and even wrong commands. It's just
something you have to live with.
in story form by Joe "Red" Hartsock, he
relives the events surrounding D-Day while he and
his squad succeed in sending the Nazi's back to Hell.
Red must lead his paratroopers past Hill 30. This
is done through a series of commands that indicate
where the squad is to go and what they are to do when
confronted by various situations. The pathfinding
isn't perfect and you'll sometimes find some of your
teammates standing out in the open taking a chest-full
of lead. You can chose to revive fallen comrades for
the next mission or replay it and attempt to keep
everyone alive. It's frustrating when you find that
the reason some of your men get killed is due to faulty
pathfinding or sloppy controls.
weapons, vehicles and maps have been added. Even though
the locations might be different they still have the
same fields, forests and urban-ness that we experienced
in the last game. Arguably the best addition has been
the upgraded intelligence of the enemy. They don't
just stay in one position and wait for you to surround
them. They keep their eyes open and if they see you
moving in one direction they will move to a safer
position. You won't be able to catch them by surprise
anymore but they might be able to do it to you if
you're not careful. If need be they will retreat but
you might be able to get them to retreat into awaiting
units and ambush them. The upgraded AI makes this
game more challenging but also more frustrating.
online modes add more replay value to this version.
You can play Deathmatches and Skirmishes in co-op
fashion. The gameplay is more exciting than the single-player
story mode in that the Germans will actually be attacking
you but there is so much overlap between the online
and offline modes that the gameplay becomes repetitive
quickly. There are only so many ways you can flank
your enemy and only so many ways to use your weapons
or vehicles. Characters don't gain experience points
and very few new challenges or variables are introduced
although you can play the game as a German.
Blood looks similar to Road to Hill 30 although there
are some pleasant upgrades that give certain scenes
a photo-realistic look to them. The animation is very
smooth, especially the dying scenes which look incredibly
realistic. You almost feel sorry for the poor bastards.
The characters, like most of the environments, are
well rendered and convey a great deal of detail and
dimensional depth. The cutscenes are moving and dynamic
and clearly illustrate your objectives and motives.
The symphonic soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment
to the action. Sound effects are loud, sharp and take
full advantage of surround sound, putting you in the
middle of a war zone. Some of the voiceovers issue
the same commands over and over. I would hate them
even more if they weren't actually useful in the context
of the situation.
call Earned Blood a sequel is pushing it. It hasn't
even been a year since the last game and that's evidenced
by the similar nature of the gameplay between the
two games. It's fun and well produced but it's a console
version of an expansion pack and nothing more.