- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, rated R, $29.99; Battle of the Bulge, not rated, $19.97, from Warner Home Video for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers; and Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 from Ubisoft for Xbox, rated Mature, $49.99.

Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944, to deal a near-lethal blow to Hitler’s plans for world domination.

To help relive the triumphs and tragedies of the events surrounding that dangerous time, multimedia developers have released a variety of interactive experiences to home-entertainment-console owners looking for a weekend full of war.

First, the definitive version of director Samuel Fuller’s World War II experiences arrives in digitally remastered glory in a two-disc DVD set, The Big Red One: The Reconstruction.

Through a painstaking restoration process spearheaded by writer-director Richard Schickel, technicians used Mr. Fuller’s original shooting script and worked with 70,000 feet of film to chronicle the adventures of a select group of American riflemen from the 1st Infantry Division and their battle-hardened sergeant.

In addition to the 162-minute film of survival starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill found on the first disc, viewers get an excellent deconstruction of the reconstruction in the featurettes on the second disc.

Most impressive are a look back on the making of the 1980 film and the on-screen camaraderie of the actors, a War Department propaganda piece on the Fighting 1st from the 1940s, a 1990 interview with a very animated Mr. Fuller, and an examination of the technical issues and computer wonders involved in resurrecting the movie.

These include cleaning up scratches frame by frame, painstaking color restoration and even re-creating every explosion and gunshot to bring the audio up to today’s eardrum-shattering standards.

Next, multimedia soldiers can pop in a DVD offering the digital transfer of the 1965 film Battle of the Bulge.

Although panned for its historical inaccuracy, the movie still delivers an action-packed 170-minute punch as Allied troops struggle to stop the last major German offensive plowing through the Ardennes forest in Belgium.

Starring acting luminaries Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and Charles Bronson, the film features plenty of tank battles and cliched heroics. Extras to the disc are disappointing, but a promotional interview with Mr. Shaw, who plays an obsessed German tank commander, is priceless.

After watching more than five hours of Nazi-stomping, viewers can become part of World War II in Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30.

If this squad-based, first-person 3-D shooter even remotely resembles the chaos, violence and deadly decision-making associated with real war, I would have been a statistic before putting on my helmet.

Players take control of Sgt. Matt Baker of the 101st Airborne’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Division (actually based on Lt. Harrison Summers) as he commands a unit while trying to survive gritty engagements that keep the heart pounding.

Developer Gearbox Software meticulously chronicles the paratroopers’ drop into Normandy on the D-Day invasion and their subsequent missions by allowing players to virtually walk on and interact with the terrain that existed in 1944, along with getting a history lesson.

The authenticity — including a re-creation of Cole’s Charge at Carentan, France, which has the player following Medal of Honor winner Lt. Col. Robert Cole — is achieved through artists visiting the locations, using Army Signal Corps photos and aerial reconnaissance imagery, and even shooting the actual weapons to bring the adventure to life.

Additionally, it is not enough simply to kill Nazis; players must use careful strategy to suppress enemy fire, position soldiers to perform flanking maneuvers and stop tanks.

The violence pulls no punches and transforms the game from an entertainment medium into an emotional torrent of survival in 20 chapters of hell as blood splatters on screen; limbs are blown off; and profanity, spewed out of pure fear, jumps from the speakers.

The degree to which the developers go to combine audio and visual stimuli to create an authentic single and multiplayer experience easily makes this one of the most sobering video games ever made.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected] times.com).

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