Review by JustinW303

"If war is Hell, it's looking pretty good right about now."

World War II could certainly be described as the end of the “good old days of war,” if such a phrase could be uttered. Truthfully, can you find a single good thing about wars? They’re largely unnecessary and much too costly to be of any use, never mind the thousands of lives wasted for a cause not worth the time. But, I suppose if I had to I’d much rather fight for the pride and protection of my country (WWII) than over speculation or the need to be the world’s peacekeeper (Anything after). World War II, as apparent by the name, involved every one of the world’s major powers, and then some. If you had a functioning industrial system, you contributed. In this chapter of the epic and seemingly inexhaustible Medal of Honor series, your attention is focused on the Allied struggle with Germany, beginning with D-Day and ending with a joyride. If you’ve always wanted to make a hobby of mutilating Nazis (err, sorta. This is rated ‘T’, after all) and putting bullet holes through swastikas, your game has come. While suffering from some minor, though sometimes downright annoying, control problems, MOHF still manages to blow away every other preceding FPS on the console, and even a few that have been released since. The throwback weapons and intense atmosphere contribute to a fine shooter and a bit of a history lesson as well, thankfully devoid of the monotonous drone attributed to the typical professor. Whether you’re drafted or you volunteer, this one’s worth fighting for.

Playing as the proverbial one-man army, you assume the role of Jimmy Patterson, a handsome young man who can definitely take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’ (Nazi ass, that is). You’re assigned to several separate campaigns throughout the game, each with a different objective but with one underlying goal: discover the whereabouts of a secret high-tech German warplane, the HO-IX, and steal it. The game begins quite literally with a bang, as an explosion cripples your boat and thrusts you onto the shores of Normandy on one of the bloodiest and most memorable days of the war, D-Day. The scene is a hellish one: soldiers being cut down on all sides, mortar blasts creating graves mere feet from where you stand, and machine guns chattering non-stop as the bullets fly past, and often into, your body. It’s like Saving Private Ryan, sans the blood and grotesque scenes of gore and dismemberment. This frantic level of chaos and excitement will even out in later parts of the game, but this solid introduction will stay with you well after the last bullet is fired.

Even the most casual of gamers are quick to point out the disadvantage console owners have in this genre. Nothing compares to the proven efficiency and outstanding accuracy of the mouse/keyboard combination. Period. However, some fail to realize that with a good control scheme any FPS can maneuver and aim just as well as its PC counterpart. That being said, this game misses the target by several feet, and that’s often the difference between a skillful display of marksmanship and an embarrassing bit of bird watching as your crosshairs fly violently toward the sky as you’re being hit on all sides. This will lead to more confused panic as you swing your gun in circles, looking for something, anything to shoot. You finally give up and decide to leave the thing in one place as you run in every direction trying to force a Nazi in front of your rifle. Run-and-gun tactics are the only answer here. The analog sticks are so sensitive that even the faintest of taps will send your aim straight to hell. Head shots are a chore, and are more often an accident. EA must have realized this, but instead of toning it down a bit they just threw in a half dozen different and less stressful control options. You can even create your own makeshift layout, so go crazy with it.

You’ll begin to notice some of the linearity and redundancy just a few levels into your game, and they’ll stick with you as you fight though the 19 missions leading up to the final cut-scene. To start with, the objectives are very specific and one-dimensional, often asking you to retrieve a document/map/weapon or destroy a building/tank/submarine, and with only one possible way of accomplishing these requests. Needless to say, you’ll tire from these overly simple tasks as you progress, so don’t expect any surprises. The game’s most memorable battles occur in the outdoor levels, whether it be in the crippled remains of a city once bustling with life, or a German naval port crawling with bloodthirsty Nazis. There are trees to hide behind, crumbling walls to use for cover, and nice, wide-open areas for shooting on the run. On the flip side, the indoor areas you’ll wreak havoc in are sometimes indistinguishable from one another, with the corridors lacking much variation at all. You’ll move from one room to the next, clearing it of any threats before continuing through the door and into another uninspired hallway.

But, even with the shortcomings in control and the strict storyline and objectives, nothing can quite compare to the enriched and heroic atmosphere this game possesses. Though it slacks off a little after the first level, you really feel like you’re part of the wartime effort, even if you seem to be the only one with a gun against hundreds of enemies. It’s sheer chaos as you strafe from side to side unloading clip after clip into the enemy, with your heart beating rapidly as you hurry to reload or switch weapons. It’s hard to top the feeling you get after sniping some Nazi out of tower and watching him first examine his wound, then fall headfirst to the ground below. Might as well grab his weapon, right? Speaking of which, where do I start? You have your basic pistols (Colt .45, Walther P38), rifles (Springfield ’03 Sniper, STG 44), and the always handy Bazooka, among many others. Some cause more pain, some reload faster, and others explode. Find the one that fits you best, then go crazy.

As funny-sounding as they may be, your fascist foes aren’t a bunch of softies or new recruits. If you don’t take cover, you will get hit, and they seem to know this as well. They’ll duck behind crates, walls, and (if you’re lucky) a well-placed machine gun nest. It’s better to be the one in possession of these, obviously. They hurt. You may also notice how your grenades are sent right back to you by way of a good kick or throw if you toss them too early. Remember that. All this combined with their average to excellent level of accuracy means you won’t blow through the game in a matter of hours. It’s never too difficult, but it will take you a few good days to make it to the end, and even longer if you want all gold stars and every medal in the game. This alone gives it enough replay value to keep you busy for a little while after initial completion, unless your ungodly skill made that a breeze for you. Here’s hoping you don’t like multiplayer, because it seems to be missing-in-action. No two-player, and certainly no online play. Bummer.

I’ve mentioned the game’s amazing atmosphere several times, but the artistic quality of the levels just further reinforces it. The gritty environments are captured perfectly and very realistically, with the smallest of details screaming out at you and forcing you to stop and take a look around. Observing the crumbling cement, haggard fences, and flashes of opposing gunfire will leave you in awe. The character models are dead-on, with smooth and sometimes eerie death animations despite the lack of motion capturing. Clear textures and a consistent framerate keep things flowing, but the predominantly gray color scheme keeps the surroundings dull and depressing. Wars aren’t supposed to be happy, but a little color in some areas wouldn’t hurt, right? The lack of blood left some people feeling shafted, but once you get going you won’t even notice it’s missing. And if it keeps the game at a ‘T’ rating, it only helps. On the whole, it’s a very thorough and precise representation from EA. Well-done.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this game, and certainly the most stimulating, is its amazing aural presentation. It's nearly impossible to describe without making several unavoidable understatements. If you’re going to recreate the feel and emotions of a war like this, everything has to be perfect. Play through the first level and you will have experienced this first-hand. Explosions, planes, bullets, shouts. It’s a never-ending barrage of quality, and it validates that surround sound system you have scattered about the room. Everything is accurate down to the faintest of footsteps, meaning someone could start shooting through your window without you even noticing a difference. The musical score adapts to everything happening around you, going from slow and suspenseful during moments of quietness, to an accelerated and frantic orchestra of blaring trumpets once you engage in combat. It’s as professional as can be. In fact, the entire sound department borders on being the best overall anything ever. Yes, you read that correctly.

We’ve discussed, however briefly, the gruesome and brutally harsh side of wars. They’re not something you ever want to experience first-hand, for sure, but what EA has done with this series is amazing. It’s a history lesson, a reminder, and a work of art all at the same time. Its beauty is evident in every facet. Graphically, it’s a treat. Aurally, it’s a masterpiece. The oversensitive analog controls and the complete lack of any type of multiplayer are the only smudges in an otherwise perfect product. You’ll love every minute of it, and if you plan on earning every medal in the game you’ll definitely have to work for it. As far as longevity goes, don’t expect anything over 20 hours, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Don’t hesitate for a second, because you’ll regret not picking this one up as soon as you see it. Go now!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/01/04

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