Brothers in Arms: Hour of Heroes
Hour of Heroes' abominable tank and jeep controls ruin what is otherwise a striking shooter.
Brothers in Arms: Hour of Heroes is one of the most impressive iPhone games we've seen. Note that we said "seen" and not played. While Gameloft did masterful work on the graphics, atrocious vehicle controls destroy what could have been one of the year's best 3-D mobile games.
Hour of Heroes casts you as a soldier in the 101st Airborne during World War II. Armed with your Thompson, M9A1 bazooka and whatever else you can find, you'll take it to the Nazi war machine across three campaigns (Normandy, Ardennes, Tunisia) and 13 missions. Now as a third person shooter, Brothers in Arms is quite enjoyable. You'll run through destroyed towns mowing down Nazis and using that bazooka to blow up houses and a bell tower. Soldiers scream for help, the Nazis shout in German and scenery looks amazing stretched across the iPhone's glorious screen. On the flip side, objects pop into view, the soldiers have ugly jagged edges and there's an enormous kill box (you'll shoot guys without lining them up in your sights), but considering the platform, this is one of the best looking apps you can buy.
There are three control schemes built around the same foundation; a circle on the lower left that moves your soldier forwards, backwards, left and right. Cam Move lets you turn with your finger. Simply place it anywhere on the screen and drag it in the direction you want your soldier to look. It takes a while to get used to, but of the three modes, we like this one the best. The second puts another circle on the screen (lower right) and you use it to turn. While useful, you must keep your finger within that circle in order for it to work; not easy, since it's natural to pay more attention to the action on screen. Finally, there's, Sight, otherwise known as the worst of the bunch. This one works similar to the first, except you guide the sight with your finger and doing so is so annoying that you'll probably consider throwing your iPhone at the nearest wall.
To shoot all those evildoers, you tap the firing icon on the right, and to throw grenades, you press another icon, tilt the iPhone to measure the distance and let fly. While a novel approach, chucking those grenades takes too long, especially while under tank fire. You can't run around or take cover, so wasting even a second means eating a shell and dying.
Each of these control schemes annoys us. It's next to impossible to skillfully maneuver our guy without taking enemy fire or getting hung up on a wall, but we forgave Gameloft because for the most part, these missions are fun to play. We just wish we could say the same for those horrible vehicle segments. Guiding a tank/jeep around the playfield is a Freddy Krueger-style nightmare. Fences don't break, so you need to awkwardly move around them. Trees get in the way, so you can't see who's shooting. The targeting reticule is slower than a sunset and imprecise, making it difficult hitting enemies from afar, but they sure know how to kill you. That means you'll make lots of painful restarts until you finally clear that one checkpoint that took an hour to get past. It's ridiculous.
It's a shame, because aside from the tank mishap, Brothers in Arms: Hour of Heroes is a good video game with sharp graphics and lots of action. Had Gameloft focused primarily on the other missions, this would have easily become one of the iPhone's best apps. Sadly, it's one of the worst.
What's Hot: Lots of action, authentic WWII weapons, three unique campaigns, decent on foot controls.
What's Not: Awful tank and jeep controls, no real story to follow, intro video is a montage of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 video game, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway.