-- No period in time has been more thoroughly examined in gaming than World War II. But it might be time to study another chapter in military history.
The latest test to your tolerance arrives with Ubisoft's Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, a competent tactical shooter that fails to separate itself from the pile of WWII games.
Hell's Highway focuses on Operation Market Garden, an Allied airborne assault fought in Germany and Holland. As Sgt. Matthew Baker, you lead a force capturing key bridges to set up a surge into Germany.
Brothers in Arms is effective in recounting the physical and mental tolls war can take on soldiers. Explosions don't just kill, they maim and decapitate. The zoomed-in Action Cam shows arms tearing off when grenades detonate. Bloodied heads snap back ferociously when hit by a sniper's bullet.
You can't help but feel compassion for Baker. He seems to take deaths very hard. He hallucinates on occasion when weaving through fiery buildings. The story is dark and disturbing.
Combat is heavy on tactical warfare and cover. Developer Gearbox breaks down battles with the four F's: Find, Fix, Flank and Finish.
Red dots appear over enemy forces. Once you spot enemies, you must "dig in" to find cover. When either you or your squadmates suppress the enemy, the dot turns grey. Once they're pinned down, you can covertly flank them from another angle and finish them.
Artificial intelligence on both ends is mostly effective. Squadmates follow orders consistently. Enemies not only stay entrenched, but will retreat to safer positions if they catch you flanking. They're not very aggressive, however. Rarely do they attempt to flank you or force you to fall back. You're usually hunting them down and flushing them out.
While the difficulty ramps up as the campaign progresses, the game tends to feel very repetitive. A couple tank missions break up the story, but it's easy to fall into this cycle of suppress, flank, kill, repeat.
Hell's Highway also incorporates destructible cover, but with limits. It's gratifying to watch your bazooka team wipe out sandbag barriers hiding Nazi forces with one shot. Yet during one indoor fight, for example, I couldn't destroy a sofa with a hand grenade.
Then there's the greater issue of subject matter. It feels as if this game has been played out dozens of times, whether it be as Call of Duty, Company of Heroes or Medal of Honor. Is it time for gamers to admit to WWII fatigue?
For those seeking an online adventure, Hell's Highway allows for 10 vs. 10 multiplayer. Two squad leaders command three 3-man squads in an attack/defend skirmish.
Hell's Highway is a solid, satisfying shooter. But game developers may want to leave this war in the history books for a while.