After a first Brothers in Arms on iPhone that turned the World War II series into a third-person shooter, series creators Gearbox Software and publisher Gameloft are issuing a bigger first-person sequel any day now.
I tried a preview build of Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front on an iPod Touch yesterday at Kotaku's New York City office, getting a handle on the a rare iPhone/iPod sequel to a popular PC/console-born shooter brand.
As positively as we reviewed the first iPhone release in the series, 2008's Brothers in Arms: Hour of Heroes, the virtual control stick, virtual buttons and on-screen player avatar crowded out the action.
The new game is in first-person, which helped clear my line of sight some. My thumb still had to cover the lower-left corner where a virtual joystick was rendered. Tucked into the edge of that corner was a crouch/stand toggle. My right thumb could touch buttons that would fire my weapon, zoom in for sniping or toss a grenade. To aim, I had to put my right thumb closer to the center of the screen, swiping as if it was a second analog stick. This left maybe the middle third of the iPod's screen as the only unobstructed part of my theater of war. Not ideal for handling any enemies who might come in from the sides. Thankfully, in the prologue mission I played, enemies came mostly from the front.
The game has 13 levels in six environments, hopscotching from Africa and Sicily to the Pacific. A Gameloft representative told me that the levels are about double the length of those in the first iPhone release, averaging about 25 minutes to play through. What the spokesperson couldn't tell me was if or how this new Brothers in Arms fits into the narrative of the series. That's too bad given that one of Brothers in Arms' standout features compared to other war shooters is its cross-game, continued narrative.
The other hallmark of Brothers in Arms on consoles and PC has been its tactical gunplay. In a full-sized Brothers in Arms game, cover and squad commands are usually so important that smartly orchestrating a careful enemy-suppressed flanking maneuver is the only way to not die. The new iPhone game allows the player to snap to cover, switching to a third-person view, but in the prologue level I played there was little of the tactics in the Brothers in Arms I've played on consoles. Instead, I was running and gunning, Call of Duty style, shaking my iPhone when I got locked into melee combat against a Japanese soldier on a Pacific beach, manning a turret. then mowing down enemy forces before rushing through a trench.
The new game offers three vehicles: a plane, a jeep and a tank. It also has multiplayer, supporting six-player online and local matches. I wasn't able to try any of those features.
The game looks very good and its controls feel like they'll work if, as mentioned above, the level design doesn't undermine them with any needs for quick turns. The game is set for release on Apple's app store later this week or early next, depending on when the folks at Apple flip the relevant switch.