Review by expane

Reviewed: 07/15/02 | Updated: 07/15/02

EA knows casual gamers, presentation is king in this immersive yet frustrating FPS

This game is the epitome of a large publisher putting a lot of time and money into insuring they have a ''hit'' on their hands.

Watching the credits you see a list of people easily 3X the size of 95% of any other video game team. Even Steven Spielberg is listed in the credits as the ''Created By''

Needless to say the MOH games on the PSX were probably the best FPS on that system, which was part of the reason MOH:FL was one of the most anticipated and hyped FPS on the PS2 this past year. While excellent ports of Half Life and Deus Ex (2 of the best FPS of all time) came and went with little fanfare, the masses lined up in droves to get a copy of MOH:FL.

Its simple really, anyone who enjoys a good FPS has at least heard of the MOH series, and WWII is one of the greatest events of human history. No fiction written has ever told a better more tragic, compelling tale than the Axis vs. the Allied powers.

Admittedly it is a great backdrop for any game but works especially well in a FPS.

When you first boot up MOH you are treated to some spectacular sound effects, no other game I have played does bullet sounds this well. EA has really raised the bar for sound in a FPS, the distant clatter of machine gun fire, the chatter among soldiers, the eco, shells dropping, the piercing sound of bullets tearing through flesh, its all immersive and overwhelming if you play it long enough.

Presentation would be 100/100 aside from a few glaring flaws. For instance, where is the blood? I realize EA wanted a teen rating but in a game that supposedly simulates WWII, not a single drop of blood is jarringly unrealistic. There is no point in NOT having blood in a FPS, it is hypocritical to try and make a ''family'' game about shooting people. After a while you get used to it, but it never ceases to amaze me at how backwards thinking publishers can be, purposely marketing a hyper violent game to teens in order to rake in $$ and covering their butts with a no blood feature?

Just make the game MA-17 and be done with it. Ok enough of my anti giant corporation preaching.

Not surprisingly MOH:FL has a Normandy Invasion level, just like Allied Assault. In fact this level has a special team that produced it, I assume to give the impression that MOH:FL is ''just as good as the PC game'' since before that level was shown last year, many MOH fans complained that the PC game looked so much more realistic, and well , that hasn't changed.

Graphically MOH:FL is pretty good for a PS2 shooter, certainly looks better than the aged Deus Ex, or the ''great in it's day'' Half Life. However MOH:FL isn't a PC port, so you would expect it to look good.

It barely looks better than Red Faction and runs at a similar frame rate, mostly 30 FPS with some slowdown here and there. Oddly enough the slowdown occurs indoors, especially when looking side to side in hallways, which is troubling since the poly count in the hallways is minimal, chalk it up to poor memory management.

EA knows the casual gamer well, and one thing the casual gamer has no patience for is loading times. So the levels load all at the start and there are no mid level loads like you would find in a PC port such as Deus Ex, or a made for PS2/PC game like Red Faction.

This sounds very nice, and yes it does make for a level with no breaks, however there are no in game saves, which means on some of the more difficult levels you will be playing the same area over and over again.

While some games are a lot of fun to replay levels (Deus Ex/Halo) that is because those levels either have non linear design or tough AI.

MOH:FL has neither. Basically the levels play out similar to old school SNES games, ''try or die'' is the motto. Enemies usually appear in the exact same spots, sporting the exact same weapons, and NEVER run out of ammo. Some are programmed to run around, others are duck and shooters, some lob grenades, some snipe, each enemy has a ''Type'' and that type never changes.

Even more frustrating is the ''respawn'' effect. You end up learning when and where enemies respawn, but when it first happens (like in the Arnem Knights level) it is just about the ''cheapest'' thing in a realistic game.

Bazooka wielding enemies that beam in out of thin air is something better suited for a sci fi game. It doesnt happen all that often, but when it does, it really kills the immersion factor and makes you very aware that you are indeed playing a game.

Control is pretty wanky , it seems realistic at first (aiming with a machine gun is not easy in real life) and seems like a good design decision, until you get to some of the harder levels.

Even on medium difficulty you will find that enemies reload faster than you, never switch weapons, never run out of ammo and have better aim than you do. I suppose this makes up for your inhuman ability to take 10 or so bullets before dying, but when facing 40+ enemies in a level, all with super sniping skills the odds skew a bit in their favor, forcing you to play a level ''perfectly'' and manage your health packs as if you were rationing for a famine.

The practice of saving your health packs til the final bits of a level are common. In fact 30% of the levels are not worth playing if you lose some ''green'' in the first few minutes. After you play Arnem Knights a few times, you realize that you must save most of your health packs for the last 15% of the level. And if you make it to a certain part without mostly full health, you may as well start over.

The same can be said for a few levels after that, there is an excruciatingly long tedious and cheap battle towards the end of one level, that only seems to get longer as you go. Just when you clear all of your objectives you realize you still have to fight through a horde of snipers and campers and at best you are going to get a few canteens of health for your trouble.

The level design in general is 100% linear and difficulty ranges from , very easy levels that can be beat in 10 minutes to controller smashing levels that constant 4-5 ''try and die'' spots that take 30-45 minutes to beat, and 90% of your deaths will take place in the last 5% of the level.

This makes for some rewarding and addicting gameplay ''just need to clear this last level'' but also detracts from overall enjoyment on the game.

The challenge becomes one of
'need to clear this' other than 'wow that level was fun'.

Sniping the kitchen cook becomes very annoying the 2nd time you have to do it. Playing a level for the 5th time perfectly, only to forget about a camper and have him take 1/4 of your health bar needlessly will have you screaming at your PS2. Do you keep playing the level even though you haven't budgeted for that 1/4 health bar and will probably die within the last part of the level? Or do you restart?

After a while you learn that restarting is best, which makes the linearity all the more apparent as you begin to memorize who is where, what they shoot with and exactly where you need to aim before you turn the corner.

Overall with all these complaints one might wonder if I absolutely hated playing it, quite the contrary, I found most of the game engrossing and fun, despite the ultra cheap level design and frustrating controls. Beating Arnem Knights level was quite a rush and I was very happy with myself for doing it.

But I was annoyed that the next couple of levels were lackluster and the level right after the train level is a similar ''memorize where the snipers are'' strategy. Trying different approaches to many levels gets you killed. Most of the time the best approach is to methodically take out snipers 1 at a time from preset positions, toss a few grenades to clear out bum rushes and ration your health packs. Slipping up once, missing one sniper, forgetting where one camper is and suddenly your chances of finishing the level have gone from 99% to 40%.

Lastly I will comment on the music and extras. The ''Northwest Sinfonia'' provides a most stirring score, one that rivals many films. You are treated to some nice ''making of'' videos and one outtake showing the person who does the high ''ooo ahh ooo'' singing is excellent as you can hear it acapella, impressive vocal talent to say the least.

While MOH:FL is far from the best FPS on the PS2, and it isn't even the best MOH game, it is the most ''cinematic'' FPS you can get on the system. And it really does a nice job of putting you ''in the movie'' for the most part. Saving Private Ryan, and Black Hawk Down style levels are there as are a couple of James Bond ''homage'' levels.

The perfect game for the casual gamer (if they play on easy) and hard core gamers who want an absurd level of challenge.

MOH:FL has decent graphics, amazing sound and a solid story. The gameplay is fun but has glaring flaws that you simply can not over look and keep this game from being as good as it should have been/we expected.

Big time WWII fans should buy it, long time MOH fans should buy it.

Most people should rent it for 5 days without any multiplayer and without any mid level saves, I see no reason to play this one a 2nd time.


Rating:   4.0 - Great

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