Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: June 6, 2005
Jetlag. Strenuous exercise. Drinking Mexican water as a tourist.
There are many things in this life that are disorienting to the human body. I’m here to tell you that the things I just listed are nothing compared to some others.
Case in point: take someone who’s been trained on the Halo and Doom games all his life, and make them play this puppy for half an hour.
Now that’s disorientation. My eyesight’s still jittery.
Medal of Honor: European Assault is a first-person shooter set in World War II, which puts you in the role of American OSS officer William Holt, in a loose retelling of the ordeals therein. (There is, of course, some creative licenses taken for video game purposes.) The year’s 1942, and therefore, we’re dealing with weapons technology that, while no less lethal, is much less sophisticated than your normal FPS fare. Here, there are no laser sights. There’s no armor or shielding or cool energy weapons. If you want to have any chance of landing a headshot, using the line-of-sight view is a must, and even then… good luck. Fortunately, you’re not the only one who has to live with this. Expect to see lots of bullets flying around the place which never actually hit anything.
Weapon mechanics aren’t the only place in which the gameplay is decidedly oldschool—the entire game is mission-based with multiple objectives that are either told to you outright at the start, or that are discovered as you progress through those missions. Each mission is a smaller part of a larger scenario, with 4 scenarios in total presented to you at the outset. Missions are completed by fulfilling their core objectives, however, the optional objectives are what give you the medals, the rankings, and the bonus supplies with which you’ll be able to tackle the next mission and make things a whole lot easier on yourself.
You’ll have precious few things on your side—a good assortment of guns and grenades, a limited supply of medkits, Revives (“extra lives,” basically), your squad mates who can provide extra fire (as well as draw it), and the Adrenaline meter. Said meter, when filled and activated, gives you slow motion, invincibility and unlimited ammunition all at once for a short time. You also have the ability to crouch and crawl, which is a very welcome addition to games of this type by allowing you to take cover behind things you normally wouldn’t think of otherwise.
There’s also multiplayer, though, sadly, with no bots.
That… really amounts to the entirety of the game. What’s put on the plate in front of you is incredibly straightforward. It’s also nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s still good the first few times around if you just tackle things head-on. When you realize, however, that you’re in wide-open environments, with buildings that aren’t just there for backdrop, bunkers, desert tents and the like—and also realize that you and your squad are very, very mortal--you find yourself thinking up strategies as to how best to take out the enemy, how to flank them, and how to spend your resources. This is a game that wants you, instead of playing more, to play well.
It’s also a game capable of surprising you when you least expect it. Like Goldeneye: Rogue Agent before it, it starts slow, but quickly progresses to “absolutely nuts.” Suddenly, that huge tank that you used to consider a boss becomes a normality for a mission. The enemy soldiers and opposing artillery pile upon you, picking at you from all sides, and you wonder just how you’re going to get out of this crazy mess alive. It doesn’t help much that the AI has been revamped for this installment of the series, resulting in enemies who wait until the coast is clear and all fire in their direction has ceased before popping up from behind their protection to fire at you, or who seek the high ground first before trying to kill you from an unseen vantage point. After the first scenario (which contains four missions), things get incredibly intense—yet, you’ll find yourself getting used to it just the same.
All of this intensity is where your squad comes in. The squad mechanic is extremely simple and a welcome break from other games that ask you to micromanage, or even ones that don’t allow you to manage at all. With the touch of a button, you’re able to set rally points for soldiers, and they’ll attack-move to that spot. They’re great to send into territory you don’t want to go into alone, yet at the same time, they’ll easily die if they’re abused. It’s certainly possible to finish missions alone, but they become grueling work. You can heal your squad mates with medkits, which is a good idea considering that the fire they draw and provide is worth it. They save your butt more often than you’d think.
It should be noted that the AI of your squad members is nowhere near as good as those of your enemies. Also, it’s not a good idea to send them against boss types. Still, for making your way to those boss types, your squad is invaluable.
As with all games that involve a combination of huge, sprawling environments and lots of people onscreen, the PS2 tends to just barely handle what’s thrown at it. It’s actually a testament to good coding that the game moves along with little, if any, framerate drop or slowdown whatsoever. As a tradeoff, everything outside of the environments looks like it came from a first-generation PS2 game, and there’s a big bar (literally) of load time between missions. Still, with action as good as this, and knowing the limitations of the system, it’s hard to really complain.
The sound, however, is what really makes this game come alive. From the moment you’re given control of your character, the sounds of gunfire are all around you—opposition and squad alike bark out orders, let each other know what’s going on, and communicate with you. If your teammates say they’ve got you covered, then you can believe them—and that’s your cue to press forward. Your ears are constantly assaulted with speech and ambience, and the best part is, not a bit of it is useless. Listening is essential to survival.
Background music? What background music? Oh, it’s there, but trust me, you won’t be listening to a note of it.
European Assault is a game that doesn’t deviate much from its given formula, even with its increasing intensity in future missions. It also aims to be a game that everyone can play, but it doesn’t always succeed. It’s not going to upend games like Halo 2 or even Star Wars Battlefront, especially in terms o replayability, but as far as first-person-shooters go on the PS2, you could do a whole heck of a lot worse.
A good time, and a no-brainer rental, unless you’re a World war 2 buff, in which case, go the whole ‘hog.
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