Medal of Honor hasn't had the best time of it lately. We had the shocking Rising Sun followed up by a fairly average PC game but now it's the consoles turn again with European assault. It looked like EA was moving away from Europe for its future games but they have returned to where the franchise was made such a success. European Assault is a make or break game on console for EA and this time they really have delivered what people want in the MOH games; action action and a bit more action.
In Medal of Honor you play as a character from the OSS, the secret service used by the Allies in World War II for covert reconnaissance missions and to infiltrate behind enemy lines. Set across some of the most famous battles in North Africa, Russia, France and culminating in the Battle of the Bulge, the storyline focuses on one characters journey through many theaters of war and is told both retrospectively and in real time by the cut scenes which again are footage from the actual war. You could accuse EA of being lazy by doing this, but it's hard to argue with footage from the actual battles.
The game is once again played from a first person perspective but it has a few changes. First of all you're now the leader of a squad and can command allied units to move forward, take point etc. The allied units are fairly intelligent and don't need babysiting. If an enemy comes into view they will automatically attack rather than wait for the command. Although to us they didn't really add much to the game, it's nice to see that EA are beginning to believe the mantra that the war was not won by one man paraded by Activision and Infinity Ward.
Other than that, the game remains much the same as other MOH games. You run, you shoot, you complete objectives however what is different is the atmospheric feel to the game. In the past there has been one standout level per MOH game such as Pearl Harbour and Omaha Beach, but in European Assault the action and explosions don't stop. You're never in a situation that is quiet and forever under intense pressure to complete a mission and get out alive. This is what makes European Assault the pick of the Medal of Honor games from recent times. The enemy is also a lot smarter using cover and ducking to reload. There is one point in the game where the difficulty goes through the roof and rather than slowly build up to harder levels it just happens. The game being hard is ok, just increasing difficulty ten times between levels is not.
New abilities for the player include ducking out of boxes and if you don't use this, you can be cut to shreds rather quickly. Also EA have added adrenaline which really is a fancy name for bullet time. When you build your adrenaline meter up, you can slow down time to avoid bullets and take enemies out easier. Nothing we haven't seen before, but it works quite well in MOH all the same.
There are a few disappointments to the game however, one being EA really hasn't changed the formula its been using for a decade now. Of course the MOH games are some of the most popular around so why change, but its increasingly harder to get excited to play a MOH game these days and generally you know what to expect. The games longevity is helped by the huge number of secondary missions you can complete to unlock extras but other than that it really is just like the old games, with better missions and more action. Another disappointment is the lack of online play. They had it for Rising Sun but for European Assault it's gone the way of the dodo for some unexplainable reason.
The visuals are quite well done but it is here that some of the realism starts to wane. When you set a charge on a number of power generators in a power station you expect that station to collapse, but alas in European Assault it doesn't. It's small things like this that keep Euro Assault from absolutely must have for WWII game fans because it seems as if EA took the easy way. The character models and facial animations are extremely well done as are most animations but overall it does have the feel of a PS2 port. The sound effects help the game's atmosphere with continuous explosions and the voice acting gives a continuous sensation of pressure.
Medal of Honor European Assault is halfway to a fine return to form for the Los Angeles team. They've given MOH fans what they want in terms of action and all they need now is a little bit more variety in the game and the series will return to the prestigious status it deserves. For now European Assault is only for the truly hardcore MOH fan or someone who just hasn't got enough of WWII games already.