Whilst Randy Pitchford was on one side of the Los Angeles Convention Centre presenting the debut of Gearbox’s most widely anticipated upcoming release (the majestic-looking Aliens: Colonial Marines) on the other side of the floor, a merry band of his comrades were presenting something else. Entirely. If Colonial Marines is exciting purely because of how slavishly it is pandering to fans of the film on which it is based, Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 is doing something that’s more or less the exact opposite. But it’s a no less exciting a prospect.
Fans of the Brothers in Arms series have already relented; the game’s E3 trailer (embedded at the bottom of this page) had only been online for a few minutes before the haters came out in full force. It’s an understandable reaction – this isn’t really a sequel in anything other than name. If it turns out to be unsuccessful it’ll forever be viewed as a lunk-headed gamble that didn’t pay off. But if it succeeds – the most likely eventuality, on this evidence – it’s going to completely reshape the franchise into something that resembles its forebears less than it resembles something like Bulletstorm, say.
Bulletstorm is a very good comparison point actually, but only with regard to Furious 4’s newfangled score-centric gameplay bent. But Bulletstorm was never anything other than wilfully stupid, and Furious 4 is a much more astute and facetious affair. The game’s four heroes are little more than quarrelsome buffoons to be sure, but each mission is guided by a hilarious voiceover script that’s delivered by an actor who sounds as if he’s purposely aping the potty, tally-ho performance that Mike Myers gave in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Which is the second valid reference point.
Like Basterds, this is a story about a renegade plot to kill Adolf Hitler, but although the game’s creators appear keen to push this comparison, it pretty much begins and ends there. Furious 4 has been optimised for four player co-op play, and battle takes place in a decidedly stop-start fashion; and despite the shifting objectives and locations, it feels somewhat like Horde. Your objectives are delivered first via that droll voiceover first, and then via garish Hollywood-style text signs that briefly appear in front of you, and look as if they’ve been hastily tacked onto the scenery.
We observed four different co-op objectives being tackled, and two of them commenced with slo-mo sequences that owe a debt to the wildly influential ‘Breach’ segments that first appeared in Modern Warfare 2. After that it was relentless Horde-style carnage, with most of the fun being derived from two things primarily; the joy of experimenting with the weapons (which can be combined for big scores) and the foul mouth of Stitch, a Scottish miscreant who is keen to inject the word “shoite” into as many sentences as he possibly can. It’s all wonderfully silly, and it’s hard not to laugh when two bosses – Nazi generals, of course – come at you from the sky wearing jetpacks.
Each character can bring their own melee weapons to the party – Montana, an ex-lumberjack, carries a chainsaw and an endless supply of bear traps, the latter of which can be combined with hand grenades to amusing effect – and that voiceover artist is always waiting in the wings to drop in a pithy quip whenever things threaten to get semi-serious. There were quite a few good-looking four player co-op games on the floor at this year’s E3, but none of them look like they’re going to be as much fun as this does. Don’t hate it for what it isn’t. Love it for what it is.
Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 is due for release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC in 2012.
Watch the Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 trailer here: