Ah, for the days of the not-so-bright enemy. When walking mushrooms would brazenly stroll underneath their impending doom, and flaming skulls of death would charge into the barrel of your BFG. Life was so much easier back then. Now you find yourself missing the baddies quite a bit more often than you used to. Are you getting older? Your aim off a bit? That mouse of yours need a good cleaning? Well, not exactly. It's just a lot harder to hit enemies when they shoot at you from behind corners or while lying on the ground. The A.I. is just part of EA's triumph in their latest release, MEDAL OF HONOR: ALLIED ASSAULT.
In MOH you are a Special Forces soldier for the United States Army, and World War II is in full swing. Amongst the different missions assigned to you is D-Day, and you must maneuver your way up the beach while avoiding the machine guns and shelling. The organized chaos of these larger battle scenes is simply amazing. As you are being carried to the beach on the boats, you can look to the side and see other ships being blown to bits, corpses flying about like rag dolls. When the front opens to allow you to rush forward, bullets can be heard whizzing by, your fellow soldiers dying in a hail of gunfire. Without the cover of artillery shell craters you would certainly die instantaneously, as opposed to the slow drawn out death that you will find during the first few attempts. The scene is extremely reminiscent of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - whether because the game developers got many of its ideas from the movie or because both the game and movie are accurate in their representation, I do not know. But EA has pulled it off magnificently. Once you arrive at the base of the German line of resistance, commanding officers will give orders. Meanwhile some men have broken down and are rocking themselves back and forth along the beach. Medics can be seen trying to patch up the other soldiers who have been hit in battle. Shouts of "Covering fire!" can be heard, and one group of soldiers is trying to draw the attention of the machine gun nests away from other men trying to run up close. Everything about it is simply amazing.
As mentioned earlier, the artificial intelligence is superb. Aside from shooting from behind cover, groups of enemies can be heard yelling the German equivalent of "Grenade!" if you decide to chuck one into their midst, then scurry for cover. Not only are the enemies intelligent in how they maneuver, but your teammates are not complete idiots either! Where in most games you find yourself waiting for allies to follow you, or trying to get them to move out of your way, in MOH they actually help you! If you are piddling around trying to shoot lights and explosive barrels for kicks, your allies will move in and take out quite a few of the guards. They can die too though, and if you are not careful then you can find yourself all alone, an army of one, which is the situation you are in for most first person shooters anyway - so you'll probably be able to manage.
Realism tends to be "the cool thing" these days. And there is an abundance of it in MOH. When getting shot, you are momentarily stunned, making it so that charging into a room full of enemies isn't the best of ideas. And the time-appropriate weapons make things more difficult as well. Ejecting the cartridge of the sniper rifle is a second long process, which can be a tad bit hindering when trying to gun down an oncoming army of Nazis. Don't expect to find any alien weaponry lying around either; the most you can hope for is a German grenade or two. The only part of the game that is a far cry from the real world is the incredible amount of damage you can take, and how a bottle with a red cross on it can cure you of everything short of death and stupidity.
Some parts of the game seem a little too arranged. Often you will take over a gun nest after disposing of a single inept soldier, and then be confronted by a mass of men that don't understand that you have a high powered machine gun with an infinite supply of bullets (another one of the game's little reality flaws). The fact that they are sending highly trained Special Ops personnel onto the front lines of Omaha Beach leaves a little to be desired in the way of strategy as well.
Multiplayer is also available, and supports up to 64 players in World War II based carnage. However, without an abundance of innovative multiplayer levels, and a limited amount of weaponry (there being only the realistic weapons of the time), I doubt this will become an online craze like other first person shooters UNREAL and HALF-LIFE have come to be.
Other than those minor complaints, MEDAL OF HONOR: ALLIED ASSAULT is one of the best games to be released this year. With black and white projection reels that give you information regarding your mission, and an interesting twist at every locality, you won't find yourself growing bored by wandering around aimlessly, shooting anything that moves with no good reason. The graphics are outstanding, with high polygon models that make even 800X600 resolution look clearer than reality. The musical score keeps the action going while avoiding tedium and annoyance. At times, such as the Omaha Beach level, there is no music, which just accentuates the death rattles, explosions and gunfire going on all around you.
Certainly check this one out, but if you are looking for an easier romp through the realm of WWII, I might suggest something else. Maybe put some camouflage on your dog and cat or something, because with this level of A.I. ALLIED ASSAULT is no walk in the park.
ESBR Rating: Teen
Genre: First-person shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Fun Factor: B+
Reviewer's Wild Card: A