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Medal of Honor: Allied Assault

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Chad got me an interview at EA's LA studio, to work on the sequel to this game.  I picked up a copy so I could talk intelligently about it.  Blew the interview, though, so I didn't get the gig.

Being a hard-core gamer, there are a few things I'd change about this game.  I was thinking that the game was just okay.  But then I realized that it was sucking me in and I was playing until 5:00 am.  So I guess it's got something going for it.

First, it's fairly linear.  There are really no side paths to explore, though at times it looks like there could be.  You can't jump fences, break open grates, or generally bypass anything.  You take the game in the order scripted, and that's it.

Part of that was a device to make the game look bigger than it really is.  You can look past a fence to see a treeline or a building several yards away, but you can't get there and ruin the illusion that there's more to the world.

But it would have been better if they had provided a bit more than a single path through a level.  For the vast majority of the game you might as well be playing in a dungeon tunnel.  For example, in Normandy, they have hedgerows on either side of the road.  You have absolutely no choice on where to go.

One thing that Half Life did that this game wasn't able to capture was the sense of foreshadowing/anticipation.  In Half Life, there were several times when you'd see something in the distance and then later on in the game you'd arrive somewhere and realize you were in the location you had viewed earlier.  In the meantime they often had planted another location beyond where you were.  That sense of progression really helped give the world a sense of continuity and a sense of size.

Given that MoH is a WW II infantry game, I don't know how to use that device very often.  For the most part you're on the ground and just can't see very far.  But I found it very effective, and I think it's something level designers should strive for.

Next, it's a bit Mario Bros.  The weapons are pretty lethal, so it's easy to take a lot of damage really fast.  So often getting through a level requires getting killed in order to learn where the bad guys are and then reloading over and over again until you figure out how to kill the bad guys before they do too much damage.   Sometimes that entails strafing around a corner with your gun already pointing in the direction it needs to be in order to hit the guy instantly.

In fact, sometimes you didn't even get a chance to set up behind a corner.  More than once I saw the enemy reach his gun around a blind corner and shoot me from 100 yards.   In a couple of other levels there were thick tree leaves that the enemy could see through and shoot me while I couldn't see them.

For example, the landing on Omaha Beach.  The sounds and some of the scripted events at the beginning were really good and captured feel of Saving Private Ryan.   But the level itself was largely a crapshoot.  Is the foxhole here?  No.   Die.  Reload.  Is that it?  Yes, but down to 12 health.   Reload.  Damn, down to 18 health.  Reload.  Only made it ten steps this time before dying.  Reload.  And then in the third section of that level you have the landmine maze.  I think I got lucky and only had to die five or six times before randomly finding the path through.

And that might be the worst part of this game.  It just didn't feel like there was any reasonable expectation of using care and stealth to complete most levels.  Most had impossible enemies who would nail you before you were fully in view.  There was no way to scout their location and take them out without resorting to several restarts.

There were a few gameplay devices that I found questionable.

The most obvious had to do with cleaning up dead bodies.  Now, I know the reason to do that is to help boost frame rate.  And I didn't really mind the bodies disappearing.  But what was a pain was the ammo on the bodies would disappear with them.  Ammo was in short supply in some sections, and many times the dead bodies were inaccessible due to enemy fire until after they had disappeared.  To me that was a major faux pas.

And speaking of bodies, being a hard-core gamer I would have liked at least the option for blood and gore.  But this was a mass audience game, so they declined to do that.   Not a big deal.

A couple of game aids seemed a bit too easy.  One is the magic compass.  It always tells you where your next objective is.  Given how linear the game is I'm not sure it was really necessary.  And again, it seemed to discourage exploration, which I really enjoy.

Similarly, when you get to your objective, whatever it is you need to manipulate is highlighted.  It was usually the only object that could be manipulated.  Again, that made for a smaller-feeling world.

I haven't finished this game.  In order to play online I had to download the patch, and that wasn't compatible with my saved games.  I didn't feel like going through them all again.  It's been a few months, so I may try this one in the future.

On my brother's Game Total Value Scale, Threat of Procrastination.  A bit less of a sim than I expected.  Not bad.  I did keep playing for a long time.

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Last modified: January 25, 2003
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