Medal of Honor: European Assault Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 7.3
Review by Andy Levine
Electronic Arts is back with their latest installment of the Medal of Honor series. Medal of Honor: European Assault is a WWII first-person shooter that sees you stepping into the boots of William Holt as he partakes in battles all over Europe amid the fight to stifle the Nazi’s chances of victory. While there is still room for visual improvement in European Assault, gameplay has been enhanced to give the gamer a better idea of the challenges Allied soldiers faced while in battle. Although this title is far from attaining ‘Shooter of the Year’ status, the developers at EA are finally starting to do things right with the Medal of Honor series.

If you didn’t know already, Medal of Honor: Rising Sun was probably the worst WWII shooter ever to hit consoles. The weak A.I. and extremely linear level design made the game thoroughly boring from start to finish. Luckily, though, EA obviously listened to the feedback, recognized their prior mistakes, reacted accordingly, and have now managed to build an enhanced World War II shooter in the form of European Assault.

Taking place during the WWII timeframe, you assume the role of an army intelligence officer during his campaigns throughout Europe. You can expect to see a lot of upgrades from previous games, but the most notable enrichment deals with the use of cover protection. No longer can you run blindly into any given battlefield situation and obliterate an entire army; instead you must slowly and purposefully carve your progress through enemy lines in order to be successful. However, Axis enemies can also use cover in their attempts to foil your efforts. Whether bombarding you with heavy machine gun fire, or simply hiding behind sandbags for shelter, they can always find a way to seek and utilize protection.

Likewise, your NPC squad works together as a team. By using the ‘L2’ button you can issue the command to charge a designated position and, more often than not, you will find yourself using the squad as cannon fodder while you attempt to complete certain objectives. This brings up yet another improvement: the flow of battle. Usually, missions will offer up a set of primary objectives that must be successfully completed before moving on. In European Assault there are now also hidden secondary objectives to be pursued. Though completing these secondary objectives is not mandatory, completion will earn players more rewards and improve their overall ranking as a soldier. In order to fulfill these objectives you must act as though your life were on the line, and then utilize the surrounding environment to your advantage. Secondary objectives include taking out bunkers, destroying enemy buildings, and generally hurting the enemy in other ways outside of those highlighted in the original mission brief. While not entirely necessary, completing these objectives helps make missions considerably more involving than if you merely followed the default level direction.

For the big action buffs who don’t always like to take the most strategic route, European Assault’s new Adrenaline feature will definitely be of interest. As you dispatch more and more enemies an on-screen adrenaline meter slowly fills up and, when it reaches maximum, you can press a button that unleashes you in a ragingly chaotic lust for blood. While in Adrenaline mode, you have unlimited ammunition, are impervious to bullets, and can fire your gun like a maniac. While the effect is only temporary—lasting around ten seconds—you can inflict considerable damage while not having to reload or dodge incoming fire. It’s encouraging to note that EA has taken into account the problems incurred from their previous releases in order to make later games a success.

While European Assault has fixed some of the previous irksome quirks of the Medal of Honor series, there is yet room for improvement. Shooting mechanics still feel awkward, and it is still quite difficult to maneuver around the battlefield. There is a map which displays primary objectives, secondary objectives, your squad, and the enemy, but it is still easy to get lost and run in to dead ends every now and then. Using grenades effectively is nigh on impossible, and instead of inflicting substantial damage on a group of foes, you really just leave yourself out in the open with no firearms at your disposal. It also takes time to distinguish the good guys from the bad, but after a while noticing differences between the two does become more second nature—like who is and isn’t shooting at you. Often it’s necessary to search the levels for medical kits because the enemy deals damage in great blows. You can be revived if you lose all your health, but you only have a limited amount of revivals per level, and sometimes it’ll take a few attempts before learning where the enemy is located. Overall, these flaws don’t completely destroy the game, but they do serve to illustrate that there is still plenty of development progress to be made in the Medal of Honor series.

Visually speaking, European Assault looks great in some areas but horrible in others. The special effects, including gunfire, explosions, and ocean waves, are all well executed and collectively succeed in enhancing the game’s World War II atmosphere. At a cursory glance, incoming hordes of enemy troops are extremely threatening, but up close the character models are all but a joke. They lack detail and a definite shape to the point where soldiers and their movements are verging on the pathetic. Even animations such as pistol whips are terribly unrealistic and choppy. The environments are creatively designed, but the textures are bland, taking away from that sought after feeling of realism. In some of the major battles the frame rate drop is horrid, but the sudden decrease only lasts for a few seconds so it won’t completely ruin the moment. When in Adrenaline mode, your field of vision is encompassed by a red and black aura that pulses in time with your heartbeat. This effect, along with a red glaze over the screen, will surely make anyone crave blood. While the game’s only major graphical drawbacks involve the character models and animations, these do happen to occupy a sizeable portion of the visual arena, which occasionally makes European Assault look both corny and unprofessional.

The audio performance delivered in European Assault is still as strong as any other Medal of Honor release. The background music brings a strong sense of meaning and importance to the game’s forefront, making it feel much more like an actual war rather than a videogame representation. During the action, battle cries can constantly be heard over the furor of gunfire, hurried footsteps of running soldiers, and resonating explosions from incoming air strikes. The character voice actors use terrible accents—that are laughably bad—but at least it’s not hard to hear that they are trying hard. Some of the weaponry doesn’t sound quite as powerful as it should, but the vibration in the controller makes for a nice kickback effect that makes the weakened sound virtually unnoticeable. Even though the sound effects are far from Hollywood quality, the audio aspects of European Assault still help compliment the overall World War II aesthetic.

Disappointingly, there is no online support for European Assault, so all of the multiplayer action takes place via split screen. However, whether working cooperatively in one of the objective-based missions, or playing in an all-out deathmatch, sharing screen space on a single television just doesn’t create the same feeling as offered through online play. Moreover, the stealth aspect of gaming in European Assault’s multiplayer is thrown out the window because your ‘friends’ can easily look at your section of the screen to spot you. In a videogame market where shooters are almost guaranteed to hit retail with online support as standard, Medal of Honor: European Assault makes one of the most obvious—and avoidable—marketing mistakes. Even though the split-screen multiplayer still has its fair share of fun and excitement, the multiplayer mode is nothing without online capabilities.

In conclusion, Medal of Honor: European Assault is a definite step-up from its series predecessors, and, surprisingly, it’s a fairly decent console shooter. Containing a handful of improvements that address certain follies endured through previous Medal of Honor titles, you can expect a lot from the relatively short single-player campaign. And, while the flawed visuals, certain gameplay elements, and the derisory voiceovers could use another bout of boot camp, Medal of Honor: European Assault is a surprisingly solid draft into the bulging ranks of the WWII shooter regiment.