I said a while back that I’m ‘acquiring’ Earned in Blood. Welp, I’ve acquired it, and damn it, if it ain’t the one of the most craziest, hardest shooter I’ve played.
And I was playing on Normal difficulty. Go figure.
Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that your enemies are smart, but your squad is kind of stupid (which is odd, since they’re both AI). Whereas the German fireteams will relocate if you try to flank, displace if you get close, and hit targets with lethal accuracy, your squad(s) misses a lot, gets stuck on objects, and goes on the wrong side of cover. If they weren’t absolutely essential to the gameplay, I might’ve actually ditched them already.
The game itself is pretty much the same as Road to Hill 30, except with the smarter AI and better level designs. Most missions now take place in one big, open place, so you aren’t as hemmed in to certain routes as before. RH30 had quite a few moments where you’re literally forced to walk into killzones because that’s how you advance the mission, but EiB’s missions usually are just set up as, “Here’s your objective, here’s the town, here’s the enemy. Get your ass there.“
It might seem like Call of Duty 2, but I don’t recall taking on tanks ever being this damn hard in CoD. Speaking of tanks, I have to bring up a troubling point about the game – despite all the promo stuff talking about its vaunted “authenticity”, there are quite a few things done to balance the game.
Aside from the hideous inaccuracy passed down from RH30, there is also other bad elements passed down from its parent game – for example, tanks are really, really overpowered. In terms of firepower, they’re done perfectly – you actually fear tanks in this game. What’s done wrong is, since Panzerfausts are generally really good at penetrating armour, and one shot would pretty much wipe out any tank (at the ranges the game plays with), Gearbox decided to raise the armour values of the tanks until a ‘faust at 15m will only give it engine troubles (all that smoke and all). Basically, one shot will never be able to take down a tank, even if you stuff the warhead up its tailpipe (metaphorically speaking).
My other grievance is, as previously mentioned, the AI problem. The German AI is splendid – I find it extremely difficult to try the good ol’ “Fix and Flank” tactic in EiB, because the second they see you moving up their flank, they’ll retreat to another spot further back. The second you stop putting suppressive fire on them, they’ll move on your flank. The second you get remotely close to them, they’ll either run their ass off away from you, or just stand up and bull-rush you to get into hand-to-hand combat. I’ve had many times where I shuffled my fireteams around, making them put out not as much fire, and then the next second, I would find 2 German assault teams had swung behind me, and are busy slaughtering my guys. All in all, great AI to play against.
Unfortunately, the AI for the American troops is horrendous (not sure if Gearbox is trying to say something here, but since they’re a US team, I’d assume no). Your squadmates, in general, are idiots. They get stuck for no reason (in my first play-through, I’ve witnessed one of my squaddies get stuck in the middle of an open farm field – twice), they’re horrible shots compared to the Germans, and by the end of the game, I pretty much use them as cannon fodder (for the insane amount of tanks, y’know).
This is not a bad game. It’s a great game, and I’m still going to be playing it for a while. I just sort of hoped that the AI for your own squad would get better, too, instead of getting worse. The problem with the difficulty is not actually a problem with the game, but just with me, so ignore that. Overall, it is a very well-made game, with a decent story, good solid gameplay involving lots of tactics and manuver, and pleasing on the ears and eyes.
Next, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway!