With Vietnam War based games becoming more and more popular in recent times, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the decline in interest for World War II based games, however like most other entertainment mediums, the gaming world never seems to tire of this genre. The obvious challenge now for developers of WWII based games is to produce fresh and unique gameplay surpassing that of previous titles; however with so many impressive WWII games in recent memory, it is getting harder and harder for developers to achieve this. One sure way to at least please the majority of gamers is to continue with a successful formula and focus most of the attention on new storylines and new experiences. This is what EA have set out to do with Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, that is, produce a solid FPS game typical of the MOH series whilst still providing enough fresh gameplay to keep the gamers interested, however, it seems the somewhat limited nature of this genre may have caught up with EA this time around.
Much like MOH: Rising Sun on the consoles, Pacific Assault is based around the stages of World War II where the army of the Japanese Empire enter themselves into the fray in the form of Pearl Harbor and its following events. The storyline in the game is reasonably unique in the sense it doesn't follow your typical structure; rather than simply controlling a character in a standard storyline, your controlled player, Tommy Conlin, is stunned by a grenade during the D-Day beach invasions in Tarawa, sending him into a daze, where you then proceed to delve into his military memory, playing out all the events since his arrival in boot camp. The first main mission there after is the Pearl Harbor attack, which is basically Pacific Assault's "premier" level, much like the beach landing in Allied Assault, and the fight for Stalingrad in Call of Duty.
Naturally, the game's theatre for battle is based entirely in the Pacific between the years of 1941-1944. As usual, the game is a mixture of standard FPS gameplay and storyline development in the form of cut scenes. This basically means the basis of this game is complete missions/tasks and move on - it is as linear as a FPS storyline gets basically, but that is not really a fault in this case, as the storyline does manage to keep you interested, diverting your desire to make influential real time storyline decisions to the cinematic qualities of the game. After all, when a game has that "movie" feel, it is often best to soak in the entire storyline just like you would in a movie, rather than paving your own steps.
One of the gameplay's strongest elements is the squad combat. You can give basic orders to your squad members, who do prove useful from time to time, however these commands are not always available to you, only becoming available depending on the situation at hand. This means the game does dictate what you can and can't command your squad to do, but most of the time the squad does a decent job of commanding themselves, such as finding cover and retreating when appropriate, so this isn't really a bad thing. You can also call for medical help, however the medic can only help you a certain amount of times, so using him only when absolutely needed is wise. Overall, the squad combat AI is pretty good, although at times they can be a little reluctant to respond to your commands. It is good to see the AI at least proving useful however, often squad based games can result in the squad members acting as nothing more than human shields, but in Pacific Assault, their contributions make for some very intense combat.
One of the weakest elements of the gameplay, however, is the repetitive nature of the game. Every shooting game naturally has a degree of repetition involved, but Pacific Assault doesn't do itself a favor by continuously setting out missions in jungle environments. This is one thing which games based on the Vietnam war obviously can't avoid for the most part, but in this case, a bit more variation would have been nice as not only are these jungle missions aplenty, they are also quite long. For a Marine, Tommy really doesn't do as much as he could have in the game; the game seems like one large and repetitive level.
Unfortunately, Pacific Assault also suffers from lengthy loading times. This in itself is tolerable, but the fact the game has a reasonable amount of loading screens doesn't help, particularly considering half the time the next level seems to almost have the exact same environment as just mentioned. To further expose the poor loading times, you will often find yourself reloading save points due to deaths and whatnot, as the game does get quite challenging, so saving often is a good idea, but that doesn't help the lengthy wait for even somewhat smaller levels to load.
Visually, Pacific Assault looks great. Whilst the environments are repetitive as previously stated, they are at least nice to look at. Nothing really jumps out as stunning at any given point during the game, and some aspects are less impressive than others such as the somewhat low resolution textures found in some areas, but still, Pacific Assault is a very solid game visually. This is a proven engine with multiple implementations before it so it was no surprise to see Pacific Assault exceed in the visual department. The only complaint found is the fact the series has basically looked the same since the original, so sooner or later we'll have to see a graphical overhaul for the series to truly advance.
Sound wise the game features a bevy of audio acceleration standards, such as the EAX variants, however nothing about the sound in the game really managed to impress. Gun sounds are realistic, but that's basically expected now days, as is the various other sounds of battle such as explosions and cries of wounded soldiers. One aspect that disappoints is the ambient sounds, particularly in the jungle, where you will hear the usual animal and insect noises repeating over and over, only it is clearly obvious where the sound file goes back to the beginning in its infinite loop thanks to a unevencut out at the end of the sound file. I guess it was figured that this wouldn't be evident during the heat of battle, but it most certainly is, and whilst it isn't a huge problem, it shows the somewhat lack of polish the game has, which is not usually the case with EA's MOH series.
MOH: Pacific Assault doesn't really do anything overly significant that places the MOH franchise at new heights, what it does do however is provide the same classic and proven formula, along with a few new tidbits, that will keep the fans of the series happy. It's not the best FPS on the PC but when you put the mentioned annoyances aside, it does provide a solid all-round FPS experience. If you can't get enough of the WW2 action found in previous MOH and COD titles, then MOH: Pacific Assault will suit up well, but for everyone else, particularly those who like more variation in their FPS gaming, Pacific Assault isn't really a must have title.
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