Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: June 6, 2005
World War II has been an ultra-popular setting for a number of games lately, both good and bad. I've heard a lot of people starting to complain about the perceived "overuse" of World War II in many games. To them, I say, "Get real." The reason World War II is so popular is because it has everything: heroes, villains, horror stories, happy stories, tragedies, injustices, triumphs and losses. A conflict that lasted for such a long time and involved so many people can hardly be ignored as a possible setting for a game. I think it's great that we get to play so many titles based on World War II, as it will help us to remember the sacrifices of the many who fought and died for our country. The latest game to take us on a journey to relive the exploits of "The Greatest Generation" is Electronic Arts' Medal of Honor: European Assault.
A first-person shooter in the same vein as all of the previous Medal of Honor games, European Assault has you trekking through Europe, fighting with your group of men in an assault against the German forces in a variety of locations. The presentation of this game is absolutely incredible, reminiscent of a Hollywood big-budget movie production in the tradition of "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers." This game is gritty and raw, and it's also insanely challenging, even on the default difficulty level.
Starting your journey in France, each mission will follow the same general outline. You follow a path from the start of the level to the end, where you will complete your primary mission goal and proceed on to the next mission. It's how you get to that point which makes this game a lot of fun. There are other goals in each level besides the primary one, and it's up to you to find out where to unlock these secondary missions and to complete them – if you want to. If you'd rather just plow through each level, focusing only on the primary goal, you also have that option. This sense of freedom that the secondary missions lend to each level really helps to up the replayability and enjoyment of the game. Add to this the fact that you can go back to replay any level you've previously completed at any time, and you've got tons of incentive to go back and play again.
There are a lot of different aspects to the gameplay that all come together to form what is probably the best Medal of Honor yet. You can crouch or go prone to avoid enemy fire. You can use the iron sights to get a good shot on a far off enemy, or to lean around a corner and pick off someone before they have a chance to return fire. You can only carry two weapons at one time, but you can pick up the weapons that drop when you kill the enemies. You can jump, melee the enemy and also use medpacks. There are a lot of different options for you, and every single button on the controller serves a useful purpose.
One of the more interesting roles that you play is leader of a squad. You have three guys who are directly under your control, and you can direct them to advance or come back to your position with just the press of a button. It's useful to have your squad cover you while you run ahead, or call them back to you if you need assistance. They'll take damage, which is represented by the star above their heads, and you can use one of your medpacks to heal them back up to full strength if they're about to die. Unfortunately, they aren't too useful, outside of being bullet sponges. They do have their good moments though, and can save your bacon by kicking away a grenade or taking out an enemy that's about to bash you with the butt of his rifle. Just don't count on that sort of help too regularly.
On the other side of the line, however, lie the enemy and its artificial intelligence. They can be quite brutal, running away when alone to join up with others, or tossing grenades at you, and also manning empty machine gun emplacements. If you get close, they'll bash you with a rifle, and duck if they notice you about to snipe them. Most of all, they will not hesitate to shoot and rip you to shreds in an instant. It's quite pleasing to encounter an enemy that's just so...difficult. Certainly, it's not something you see in every shooter out there, and it's definitely a welcome addition to European Assault.
Make no mistake: you will die quite often in European Assault, even on the normal difficulty level. You'll have to keep one eye constantly fixed to your health meter and use your medpacks liberally. They are scattered about the level in fairly ample quantities, but you'll be in dire need of them. When you do die, there are no checkpoints to head back to. You will use a revive, which brings you back to life right on the spot. If you die when you have no revives left, you have to start over at the very beginning of the mission, which sometimes can throw 30 - 45 minutes down the drain. Frustrating, to be sure, but it also motivates you to complete the secondary objectives to earn more revives. It's when you have two or three revives and end up dying completely that will really tick you off. This game is difficult, and if you can't handle the heat, you'll probably give up halfway through it. Even if you do get to the last mission, you may still give up, because it's really, really brutal.
The game also shines in the audio department. The musical score is quite appropriate for the game and is something you'd expect to hear in a movie. It's quite poignant and moving at times, and the voiceovers and narration are also really well done and add a lot of atmosphere to the game. Your squad will react appropriately when under fire, and battle cries will echo throughout the game. The enemies are also quite vocal when they are trying to mow you down. Gunfire and explosions are loud and wicked, so if you play this game on a 5.1 surround sound system, you'll feel like you're right in the middle of an insane firefight. It's really an excellent sounding game. If a grenade goes off too close, you'll lose your hearing and your ears will ring; bullets ricochet all around you, and you might find yourself ducking. It's almost like being there.
The only place where the game really suffers is in the graphical department. Guns are well modeled, and the environments look great, as do explosions. Unfortunately, the character models are a bit blocky, and the facial features are pretty uninspired. Animations are just okay, but nothing too special. Some textures look really good, but others are pretty bland. One thing that helps a lot is the fact that the game maintains a solid framerate, even with tons of action and shooting on screen.
There is a multiplayer mode, but it's offline only, and there are no options for bots to take the place of players. There are a suitable number of modes and options for the multiplayer aspect, but honestly, you'd be better off spending your time on something else if you were looking for a multiplayer shooter. There are tons of better options out there on this front. For those who are willing to delve into the single player and have a good time, then you might have a bit of fun with some friends and multiplayer. Otherwise, it's considerably below average.
Medal of Honor: European Assault will not take you by the hand and lead you to the finish. You'll have to fight for every inch of ground that you gain, and you'll meet your untimely demise more than a few times. Along the way, you'll experience a gritty, raw, and realistic combat experience that will give you a greater appreciation for what veterans of World War II went through. There's a lot to do, and you'll spend quite a bit of time with this title if you really get into it. It'll certainly be a wild ride, but at the same time, an incredibly enjoyable and satisfying one.
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