MEDAL OF HONOR: FRONTLINE / Electronic Arts / Playstation 2

Back around when this game first came out, a (well-meaning) friend gave it to me as a birthday present. I barely remember having some fun with it and thinking it was an alright shooter, good enough to persist to the end at least before selling it or giving it away or whatever I did with it.

With these false memories planted in my head, I fished out a copy 8 years later from the PS2 Scrap Heap at the local Gamestop for $3. I honestly don't know if it was the massive sleep deprivation I was suffering at the time eight years ago, or if my taste in (and demands on) FPS games has just markedly improved in the past near-decade, but I now cannot for the life of me see how I had the patience to endure getting even halfway through this game, let alone enjoying it to any degree.

The game's problems are all showcased in the first two levels, which at least prevents you from investing much time in it before you discover that it's largely rubbish. Let me describe my experience on my review re-play with each of those levels one at a time, so you can understand where I'm coming from in my criticism.

The first level is basically supposed to be the aesthetic showpeice of the game, a re-creation of the landing at Normandy on D-Day (just with a whole lot less people about ... the beachhead is quickly reduced to just you and a few incompetent allies taking on about six German machine gun turrets.) It does a fine job of creating an interactive re-enactment of Saving Private Ryan, and at the time, it really was rather involving, atmospheric and generally visually impressive. Unfortunately, the design team focused a little too much on the immersion and not nearly enough on the gameplay. The first major problem with the game is showcased in the first two minutes - unclear, confusing and often completely nonsensical mission objectives. The first order of business is to find your platoon captain, who is pinned down and repeatedly screams at you for "COVAR COVAR I NEED COVAR!11!!!!" The game instructs you to shoot at the bunkers to give him cover. Well, there are several problems with that. One is that they are so butt-ass far away that you can't even see the soldiers in them, just the muzzle flashes of the nested machine guns that are eating you up. Another is that constant mortar shellackings are shaking your sights around and making aiming nearly impossible. Firing in their general direction appears to accomplish fuck-all, the whole time with this genius yelling his repetitive demands for COVAR COVAR!1111! in your ear over and over. What you have to actually do - and what the game completely does not inform you of AT ALL - is to run all the way to the other side of the beach, get a hidden machine gun, then go talk to some other guys who ask for COVAR COVAR!!!111!!, then shoot in the general direction of the right muzzle until you get a notification that "1 of 4 Retards Was Rescued." After muddling about the beach like this for way too long, the idiot Captain finally gets his ass in gear and blows a hole in a fence, and from that point on the game mostly plays more like a traditional Medal of Honor game.

Nonsensical mission objectives are back on full display in the second mission. At the outset you're supposed to pick up some white box that's sitting under a pile of shit near your starting position. Unfortunately, unless you watched the (optional)(and always boring) Mission Briefing, you don't know this. So you can merrily truck all the way through the level before finding out that you have to walk back to pick up a peice of paper that should just have not even been in the game to begin with, or at least more clearly marked. This is also where you first encounter your Stupid Secondary Objectives. In this level, you're with a squad of doods, and as you progress through the level, they move along with you and scripted events occur. All well and good, until you realize you missed a secondary objective earlier in the level and now can't exit the level - there's a church (which is so bombed out it doesn't look like anything at all) in which you have to climb up to the bell tower and use a mounted machine gun to hold off some wave of Krauts. If you simply walked right by it and went on with the level - the natural course of action - it's incredibly silly when you go back to satisfy some arbitrary condition and suddenly your squad (who advanced all the way through the level with you) materializes back near the starting position to take on the squad of Churmans that also suddenly materialized nearby. And then there's this asshole tank nearby who lobs shells at you, basically killing you instantly if you stay at the machine gun for more than three seconds at a time.

The design team seems like they were way more concerned with Zomg Awesome Epic Set Peices! than actually making a game that makes sense and plays well. There's plenty of other problems on march here. You don't hold a button to precision aim, but rather just point your view around clunkily toward the enemy. And crosshairs are off by default! At least they bothered to include them, otherwise the game would be completely unplayable and an Ugh Face candidate. I swear for the life of me I couldn't find a reload button; it appeared you had to spend all your shells to have a gun auto-reload. What the hell? The sniper weapon is also incredibly slow to aim. While they focused on having a range of "wounded" and "death" animations for the enemies that are pretty elaborate, the hit detection is flaky as all get-out. I can't count the number of times I put a center-mass shot into Fritz and he started hopping around on one foot! And while they might go into a "wounded" animation, there's often no immediate response to, say, sniping somebody right through a lung or shooting a rocket into their head. They'll just calmly take it in stride and turn to fire at you until you pump enough bullets into them to push their Overall Damage Count over the death threshold. And I'm hardly a big player of your Battlefield 1942/Call of Duty/etc. games but even with limited exposure to the genre, this all just seems so incredibly tedious. Murky troops pushing through murky, bombed out environs yelling about "Keep your head down!" whilst every war movie cliche gradually gets trotted out. Bleh. Boring. And the game has no multiplayer mode whatsoever - forgivable in a really top-flight FPS, but this is miles away from "top-flight." One you've completed all the story missions - if you can stomach them - there's really nothing at all left to do with the game.

The sound effects and music are very good, but that's about it. The game struggles to be mediocre at its absolute best moments and there's just no call for it on a platform that's loaded with other, much better FPS games. Hell, even the PSX prequels were more fun. Don't be suckered in by all the high reviews from the time this came out ... apparently they were so suckered by the graphics (or maybe by EA pressure/payola) they overrated the balls out of it.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video
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