For its next Brothers in Arms game, Gearbox Software is focussing on the famous yet ill-fated WWII Allied offensive Operation Market Garden. Hell's Highway, as the sequel is subtitled, is in development for PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, and the developer's introducing numerous improvements that'll - all being well - ensure this is the most accomplished Brothers in Arms game yet. It's also got the benefit of having Epic's Unreal Engine 3 steaming away under the hood, and Gearbox is making good use of the jaw-dropping technology in its WWII epic.
We recently caught up with Gearbox Software's president and extremely sociable chap Randy Pitchford and asked him to fill us in on Hell's Highway...
What's the storyline for Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, and what can you tell us about the lead/main character in this sequel?
Randy Pitchford: Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway puts you in the boots of Sgt. Matt Baker, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne. Baker and his men spearheaded the invasion of Normandy on D-Day and now are the vanguard of a bold Allied plan intended to end WWII by Christmas of 1944. The plan called for paratroopers to seize a series of bridges along a highway through Holland towards Germany. An Allied tank corps would charge down the secured highway and into Berlin. That was the plan.
Unfortunately for the Allies, the Germans have the best Panzer divisions in their army as well as elite infantry and fallshirmjager units in the area. The Germans swiftly react to the invasion and counterattack at the point and at the base. The counterattack plan is to cut off the invasion at the base and surround and kill the Allied army. If the Allies could succeed in the mission, the war would end and Hitler, who was exterminating millions and researching atomic weapons, would be stopped immediately.
If the Germans completely destroyed the invasion force, the Allies would suffer a tremendous loss of their Army on the continent of Europe and the entire balance of the war would shift.
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway focuses on a group of paratroopers whose heroic actions and sacrifices not only affected the course of history, but affected the men personally.
Are there any new characters we're going to be introduced to that you can tell us about?
Randy Pitchford: Of course! There are real figures from history, including George Koskimaki who literally wrote the book "Hell's Highway." There are the Dutch civilians that were so helpful to the Allied liberators. And, of course, there are the men of Baker's squad - including some replacements for the men who fell at Hill 30.
Can you tell us a little more about the part of WWII you're actually covering - the campaign you're covering?
Randy Pitchford: Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is about Operation Market Garden. This is the largest Airborne operation in the history of the world and it took place in September of 1944.
Brothers in Arms does not attempt to be a survey of the entire war. The point is to become a part of a real paratrooper squad and really get into the details of what they experienced. Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, like Saving Private Ryan, focuses on a specific time and place and tells an interesting story about real soldiers there.
We'd love to get a few examples of the environments we'll be fighting in in the game...
Randy Pitchford: The Operation Market Garden battlefields are diverse and interesting. There is Hell's Highway, of course, which earned its nickname because of the thousands of vehicles and men that were destroyed along its length during the fighting. There are cities, like Eindhoven, that were populated as fighting pushed control back and forth between the Germans and the Allies. Some of the cities were heavily bombed during the operation creating a landscape of destruction and death that the men had to fight through. There are many waterways cutting back and forth along the highway - this creates rivers and bridges and even marshy areas, all of which became battlefields or obstacles for the fights. There are wooded areas and open fields. Hills and plains. Lots of diversity - makes for tough, but interesting fighting.