At one point in time, the world seemed obsessed with World War 2-related media. Movie-goers had Saving Private Ryan, TV fans could watch Band of Brothers and even video game lovers could jump into a game of Medal of Honor and experience World War 2, or at least a fast-paced version of it, for themselves. Games themselves had covered the war with either a view to create a new blockbuster (MoH or the rise of Call of Duty), or create their own unique spin on it (Wolfenstein), but none tried to emulate the gritty realism of it all. Enter Brothers In Arms.
Developed by Gearbox Software, the Brothers In Arms series took a more realistic approach to recreating WW2, often putting you in command of your own squad of infantry, forced to find ways to outhink and overcome enemy fortifications. While it might not have achieved the same level of success as Call of Duty, the series managed to cultivate a following that’s loyal to this day. Today, we’re asking the question: will we ever see a new Brothers In Arms game?
The History of Brothers In Arms
The series began in March 2005 with Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 for PS2 and the original Xbox, which was developed by Gearbox Software and published by Ubisoft. The game is based loosely on the real life exploits of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, who were dropped behind German lines hours before D-Day as part of Mission Albany. As Sergeant Matt Baker, you lead a squad of soldiers around Normandy, culminating in the Battle of Bloody Gulch around Manoir de Donville, the eponymous Hill 30.
Before release, Gearbox’s President Randy Pitchford described it as “probably the best game [he’s] ever worked on” in an interview with Gamespot. He’d go on to talk about how the game’s development was informed by the research conducted by speaking to veterans who’d lived through World War 2, sneaking in a sly dig at Call of Duty and Medal of Honor in the process.
“There’s a real brotherhood between soldiers, and Brothers In Arms captures that like no other wargame before it. Other games tend to emphasize duty and honor, and those are important concepts, but when you really spend time with veterans who were in the thick of it and you talk to them about what mattered, they tend to come back to the same kinds of sentiments about how important it was for them to have the respect of the guy next to them, to not let them down. That concept of brotherhood became a really consistent and important theme as we became immersed in this stuff.”
That research came in the form of retired US Army colonel John Antal, and was described as instrumental in designing the gameplay that came to define the Brothers In Arms series. Compared to other war shooters of that era, Brothers In Arms was a lot more cerebral in its approach, utilising fire and move tactics instead of just running and gunning. Players could command fireteams to suppress and flank enemies, allowing you greater control over the battlefield than other shooters at the time.
In that same interview with Gamespot, Pitchford offered a tease into the future of Brothers In Arms, stating: “Brothers In Arms is definitely a long-term commitment from Gearbox and Ubisoft. I’m really excited about the future of these characters, and we have some amazing surprises for fans soon. E3 2005 will be a very good time to look for more about Brothers In Arms.” Sure enough, at E3 that year, Gearbox announced Brothers In Arms: Earned in Blood.
What shocked people the most is that Gearbox and Ubisoft would then go on to launch Earned In Blood later that year, with a full release in October of 2005. The game was developed with the same engine and core gameplay as the first game, only with improvements to the enemy AI and level design, but ostensibly it was the same core game with a new campaign and fresher coat of paint.
“Earned in Blood is only an incremental improvement on the original. The greater flexibility of the AI and the new multiplayer options are certainly welcome additions, but the game still feels […] more like Brothers In Arms v1.5 than a full sequel. […] But you know what? I don’t care. The mechanics of this game are unique and enjoyable enough that I dove enthusiastically right into the sequel. Fifty bucks is a lot to spend on what is essentially a large expansion pack but, short of the first game, you won’t find a more authentic or original tactical action game.”
From there, it was clear that Brothers In Arms had become a key franchise for Ubisoft and Gearbox, with D-Day launching for the PSP in 2006 and Brothers In Arms DS in 2007, which was then ported to iOS in 2008 by Gameloft as Hour of Heroes and to the N-Gage (remember the freaking N-Gage?) as simply Brothers In Arms. Ports and mobile games were a key focus for Brothers In Arms, particularly the latter, with Double Time being a Wii port of the first two games, also launching in 2008, while four mobile games including Hour of Heroes dropped between 2008 and 2014.
The last major Brothers In Arms release was Hell’s Highway, which launched in 2008 on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, which once again saw players return to the boots of Baker as he formed part of Operation Market Garden during 1944. The third proper game in the series attempted to refine the formula, with Pitchford remarking in a 2008 interview with Eurogamer that Hell’s Highway featured improvements to weapon accuracy, vaulting over cover, the tactical map and the game’s overall accessibility.
Unfortunately, of the three main games, Hell’s Highway is the worst reviewed of the entire series, averaging in the high 70s on Metacritic. By no means does that make Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway a bad game, as many still loved its take on tactical shooting and WW2 storytelling, but it’s still a notable dip from the reception to the mainline series of games, and could go some way to explaining why we haven’t seen a new game in the series since.
Where’s Brothers In Arms At Now?
After Brothers In Arms 3: Sons of War in 2014, one of the previously mentioned mobile games developed in collaboration with Gameloft, the Brothers In Arms hasn’t seen a proper release since, but that doesn’t mean Gearbox wanted to leave the series in the dust. In fact, during E3 2011, a new Brothers In Arms game was announced, Furious 4, that looked set to be a grand departure from the historical accuracy the series had become known for.
Furious 4 would have been a 4 player co-op game that would see a diverse cast of characters cut a bloody swathe through Nazi Germany in an attempt to bring down Hitler themselves. Upon its reveal, Furious 4 drew comparisons to the Quentin Tarantino film Inglorious Bastards, with gameplay that was described as more like Bulletstorm than anything resembling a strategic military shooter.
That new IP would go on to become Battleborn, whose colossal failure could be the basis for ten thousand articles.
Despite the game series being dormant though, Gearbox are still making use of the franchise and license. In 2020, it was announced that a TV series using the Brothers In Arms license is in the works, with TV veteran Scott Rosenbaum as showrunner while Pitchford himself is serving as a producer. The first season will reportedly focus on Exercise Tiger, a disastrous moment during WW2 that was designed to rehearse the landing at Normandy.
Unfortunately, poor communication during Exercise Tiger led to a friendly fire incident, while a day afterwards, a convoy was attacked by German E-boats outside of Lyme Bay. Between the two instances, it’s estimated that up to 1200 allied soldiers lost their lives during Exercise Tiger, with survivors sworn to secrecy in an attempt to both prevent leaks ahead of the real invasion and to avoid the embarrassment that came from the whole debacle. Honestly, it sounds like it’d make for a fantastic TV series.
Will There Be A New Brothers In Arms Game?
If Randy Pitchford has anything to say about it, probably yeah. From his comments shared earlier for the first Brothers In Arms game to the fact that he’s overseeing a TV series based on the show 15 years later is proof that the series means a lot to him. If Pitchford had his way, we probably would have had a new game in the series already, but alas, it hasn’t come to pass just yet.
Speaking to IGN at Develop: Brighton in 2015, Pitchford did confirm that Gearbox were working on a new game: “I feel like I’m on the brink of it, but we’re not quite there yet. Once it happens development will really take off and then sometime after that – if we don’t completely kill ourselves – we’ll announce. But we’re in the incubation phase with the next one there, for sure.”
Randy Pitchford also mentions that there’s some challenges that have come with its development: “I think the next Brothers In Arms game has to be authentic and we have been working on that. I feel we have unfinished business there with both the fiction and the history and I’d like to get into that. I spend a lot of time thinking about it. Sadly it takes a lot of resources, energy and money to do what must be done, so it’s not something I feel I could completely do alone. I need good partners for it, so we’ve been talking to great folks but it’s really putting all that together that’s the limiting factor. Once we put all the partnerships together in terms of publishing, collaborators and creatives, we can talk about it.”
Whether or not the leak is genuine remains to be seen, but it does corroborate some conclusions reached by a fantastic Reddit post from the user Fenix400. Without going into too much detail, the post chronicles how Randy stopped acknowledging the series entirely for a period of time after Borderlands 3 was announced, along with some of the details that have emerged about the upcoming game from interviews, leaks and more. The post also cites a now deleted forum thread which allegedly shared an indie developer receiving an engraved Brothers In Arms plaque with two soldiers, one wearing winter goggles. Fenix speculated that this meant the series would visit the Battle of the Bulge.
Now that Gearbox has launched Borderlands 3 and development on that game is focused on DLC, which isn’t as intensive as developing a full game, perhaps now is the time to shine for the Brothers In Arms series, especially if it can coincide with the launch of the TV series. Unlike most games that we feature in these retrospective articles, the idea of a new Brothers In Arms game is pretty likely indeed.
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