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Brothers In Arms: Hour of Heroes review: Brothers In Arms: Hour of Heroes

For as impressive as we think a 3D first-person shooter on the iPhone is, there's no avoiding the fact that poor controls ruin an otherwise well presented game.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
3 min read

Those who thought games on the iPhone would be restricted to Bejewelled-style puzzlers, Sudoku and Super Monkey Ball will get a big surprise out of Brothers in Arms. That is, until they play this game and then these same people will most likely wear a smug "I told you so" type grin.


Brothers In Arms: Hour of Heroes

The Good

Full 3D first-player shooter. Excellent soundtrack. Three campaigns of five missions.

The Bad

Frustrating controls. Passable graphics only.

The Bottom Line

Brothers In Arms is an intriguing experiment, but is not a game best suited to the iPhone. The control system, while interesting, will have you tugging out huge tufts of hair in frustration. At least the soundtrack is excellent.

We'll freely admit to being surprised at what the developer Gameloft has achieved by bringing a full 3D first-person shooter to a mobile phone game platform. So many elements of the original console version are implemented into this watered-down shooter; running, looking around and aiming, a cover system and a variety of weapons. On top of this there are also vehicle levels where the player commands a tank.

On paper this all sounds fantastic, but the actual gameplay suffers on a number of different plains. The most frustrating issue is the controls. Players move the soldiers and tanks using a circular pad on the lower left of the screen to move, swipe the screen to rotate the camera/target reticle, and tap the fire button to shoot: this basically requires three hands to do successfully. The concept is good, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

To make this all a little easier, the game's targeting is basically automatic. Rotating the screen towards an enemy — indicated with a red marker — will auto lock-on to a waiting Nazi most times. This strips most of the skill out of the game, though we found we weren't too concerned, as we were too busy trying to manoeuvre the character smoothly with the thumb pad without covering too much of the screen with our giant thumbs.

For whole sections of the game, especially sections including controlling tanks and jeeps, the greatest challenge was moving the character to the next checkpoint marker. Some sections saw us doing doughnuts in the dirt with a jeep, due in equal parts to the poor controls and our lack of co-ordination (yes, we are big enough to admit that). Others saw us dying as we tried to push into a wall for cover, but somehow staying out of cover and in the line of fire.

To add some variety to the run-and-gun style shooting there is also a sniper rifle to fire and grenades to throw. To zoom in with the sniper rifle, players pinch and pull outwards with two fingers, like zooming in to a location in Google Maps. Throwing grenades uses the iPhone/iPod Touch's built-in accelerometer and a very steady hand, with the aiming reticle moving with every slight movement of the device.

Graphically, Brothers in Arms looks like a game intended for the first-gen PlayStation. The graphics are passable representations of men and tanks, but they are nothing to get excited about. The audio is a different kettle of fish, and is the game's best feature. Cracking gunfire, booming explosions and swelling orchestral music give the game a sense of being somewhat epic, something that the graphics alone can't manage.

There's quite a bit of game in Brothers in Arms. Three campaigns with five missions in each. This is probably enough to keep you playing for about four or five hours, if you take into account the number of times you'll die because you can't run straight to cover, or because you jump straight over the cover once you get there.

Is it worth the money?
In the short time it took us to review Brothers in Arms, its price on the iTunes store dropped from AU$12.99 to AU$7.99, and it's lucky that it did. With all the frustration caused by the bad controls, 13 bucks was a lot to pay for this game, especially when you factor in all the hair you'll pull out while playing. Yet $8 is still a bit to pay for a game that may drive you crazy to the point that you won't bother finishing it, though those who get into BIA will no doubt think it is a bargain. We'd recommend Brothers in Arms to players looking to see what is possible on the iPhone, but not for people looking to replicate their favourite console experiences.