STAFF REVIEW of Medal of Honor: European Assault (Xbox)

Saturday, June 18, 2005.
by Huckleberry

Medal of Honor: European Assault Box art I grew up reading everything I could find on the Great War...WW II. Books about figher aces, imposing generals, and unlikely heroes kept me imagining life as one of them. It was a romantic time in my mind, full of valor and patriotism. The old war movies only added to my perceptions.

However, the reality of war is nothing like my imagination. People die, families suffer, no matter which side the combatants are from. In every moment of every day there is the overwhelming knowledge that the next bullet could have your name on it.

So...Medal of Honor: European Assault, EA\'s newest iteration of their long-toothed series, attempts to bridge the two ends of the spectrum. MoH immerses you in the European and Africa theaters, and says \"Here\'s what it was like to be a soldier during our planet\'s largest conflict.\" And it\'s true...if you could have popped back to life in the middle of a firefight, or gotten so amped up during battles that you suddenly became invincible (more on this later).

Although this may look like a typical first person shooter, there are many things that give it a more realistic feel. There\'s no charging through the enemy, knowing that you\'re stronger and better. The enemy AI is smarter than most, more accurate shooters than most, and will tear you up if this is teh style you prefer. Because of this, you\'re forced to be tactical. Even with your squad of three friendlies, you\'ll want to hold back and look for opportunities to take out as many as you can from a distance. But, snipers beware. You\'ll never find them all, and you will have times of intense close quarters combat. This mixture of style brings a pretty authentic feeling to the game. There\'s a lot of waiting, and there\'s a lot of action.

Other things that lend themselves to creating a true WWII feeling are a shortage of ammunition. You get just enough. If you squander sniper rounds, be sure you\'ll pay for it later. Also, the ability to pick up and use the enemy\'s weapons. How many times have you yelled at someone on a movie screen because they left a weapon behind that they could and should have taken? Well, now you can grab it as necessary. Sort of. You can only carry two weapons at a time, which is also a nice reality check. No cycling through your 6 weapons for the perfect choice. You make do with what you have here. The one exception is grenades. There\'s enough grenades in this game to just blow up all of the European theater.

Okay...I mentioned the arcade-esque parts of this game. One is \"awakening\" from the dead. EA has decided to do away with the system we\'ve all grown up with...the checkpoint system...and instead give you \"revive\" points. Depending on the level at which you play, you\'ll find these to be plentiful or completely non-existent. You\'ll receive them for finishing levels, or for taking care of major tasks in the level itself. If you did, you\'ll pop back up with 50% health right where you just were. You just pray you killed off most of what killed you, or you\'re in for a cycle...and the use of all your revives.

The other is Adrenaline. As you fight your adrenaline meter will fill up. Completing tasks and killing make it go up. When it\'s full, you can press the black button and go into \"god mode\". Unlimited ammo, stronger shot power, and no health damage. I konw the German scientists in WWII were very close to developing a pill that brought on this effect in their women (it showed up in time to feed the East German women\'s swim team) but nothing like this was ever a possibility for the Allied forces. It\'s a bit over the top for a realistic shooter to contain.

The button and joystick controls are fairly standard. You can jump, crouch, lie prone, lean, and even peek up or down from the crouched or prone position. The only real complaint I had about button layout was mapping grenades to the D-pad Up position. It just seemed a little bit odd to me and I never got used to it.

You have 3 soldiers attached to you as part of your squad, and you\'re given some minimal control over them...push ahead and pull back is pretty much it. The trouble is they never quite seem ready to listen completely to you. They\'re sort of like the little kid who wants to see how far they can push the frazzled mom. It was sort of a \"Stay back here! DID YOU HEAR ME??? I SAID GET BACK HERE! DON\'T MAKE ME COME UP THERE AND GET YOU!\" sort of thing. I\'d be waiting to get a shot with my sniper rifle and suddenly my squad, which was called back, would be up ahead drawing fire and blocking my shot on the target. It\'s not such a big deal on the \"Normal\" level. There\'s lots of health to be had, and less damage. But wait until you go to the advanced levels. It\'s a pain in the bum, as the Brits would say, to have to spend medkits on squad guys that are getting shot because they can\'t listen to one of the two simple commands they understand.

On the other hand, as I mentioned before, the enemy\'s AI is much better. There\'s no one methodology to killing them, and you\'ll hardly ever see one spinning in circles or running into the same rock for 20 minutes. If you shoot a gunner out of a turret, another guy will get on that gun and keep you pinned down. You\'ll get flanked and face all-around good tactics. That alone can make or break a game, and I think it makes it here.

BUT...if there could be one thing that breaks this game, it would be the complete lack of Xbox Live capability. There is 4 player multiplayer as part of the game, and it\'s replete with the usual gametypes. However, the more I played it, the more I wanted to be taking on some of these objectives with teammates against real live human AI...or even real live human ANSI (artificial not so intelligent). I know it\'s quite a task to put XBL abilities in a game, but this is EA we\'re talking about...not some rinky dink outfit with one guy acting as developer, mail clerk, and gender sensitivity training coordinator. They have manpower and lots of it. And the money to make it happen...and lots of it.

While they were tossing a little bit of cashola at the XBL thing, they could have added a couple of art directors, too. I believe this has harnessed any of the power of the Xbox. I\'ve seen plenty of PS2 games that look better, and although I can\'t swear by it, I think Goldeneye on N64 had less jaggies and framerate issues. Processing power must be consumed by the AI component because it sure wasn\'t used on the graphics. It even felt in some areas like the developers specifically left it sparsely \t; because of the number of fighters to be faced. This game didn\'t even hold its own in the graphics world of 2005. Of course, it could be that EA was just going retro like the rest of the world...

The music and sound effects were exactly the opposite of the graphics. It\'s not an inordinately musical game, but what there is, in cut scenes, intro, etc., is great. Powerful at times, poignant at others, it just plays right.

The sound effects are also very well done. It\'s the sort of thing you may not notice until asked to pay attention...or until a nearby Tiger tank puts a round into the wall you\'re hiding behind. Then, especially with the 5.1 on and the sub kicked up. The game is THX certified which should tell you something.

The game is really fun to play alone. The trouble is most of us spend enough time alone, and even if online gameplay is a poor replacement for having friends, it\'s still community and we like it. It plain to see for nearly everyone that online play is where it\'s at these days, and yet it was completely left out (not even XBL aware) from the game.

EA, please go the extra mile in a game like this. You are great and all powerful and we must often live with what you choose to do. It\'s part of why we\'re afraid of what will happen to football do what you want. I like this game...I really do. But I could love this game like I loved Battlefield 1942. Don\'t be the cruel mistress, holding back to make us beg. Be the benevolent one, and leave us singing your praises because of all that you give your geeky, sunlight starved followers.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 4.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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