War, uhh, good God y’all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again. Well, I can’t say it again because without war, I would not have had the privilege of playing Medal of Honor (MOH), which by the way is about as close as I ever want to get to real warfare.
MOH is DreamWorks’ (you know the guys who brought us Saving Private Ryan) first foray into the world of gaming. The same level of realism they brought to that movie is clearly evident throughout MOH.
While, not a straight shoot-em-all-up ammo-fest and not a stealth dominated spy game, MOH is a near-perfect hybrid of say Quake and Metal Gear Solid. Set in WWII, obviously you have many Nazis to kill, but you must also don Nazi garb and sneak into German installations. Woe is the solider whose papers are not in order.
The game follows a format much like Goldeneye where you must complete a certain amount of objectives before moving onto the next level. Your stats are tracked through the game and depending on meeting specific criteria, like amount of enemies killed and health remaining after completion, you can earn medals on your missions. What adds to the immense replay value of the game is that you can re-do missions until you qualify for medals and unlock new codes for the game.
Well, onto the nitty-gritty. The gameplay in MOH is awesome. Let’s face facts — Nazis make good enemies. Of course if you go running into a base all Duke Nuke-Em-like you’re going to die — fast.
The soundtrack for the game is nothing short of phenomenal, consisting of several orchestral pieces that somehow seem to ebb and flow perfectly with the action going on during the game. In addition to the incredible music, the sounds going on all around you add to the realism that is war. Guard dogs are barking. Shots are being fired. Planes are flying overhead. Soldiers are screaming. You have a lot to listen for during the game and sometimes a good ear can mean the difference between life and death.
The levels are very well-done and have a wide variety of environments. The mission briefings are also very well-done. Even here, Dreamworks spared no expense for realism and accuracy. In between missions I actually looked forward to the next briefing. All the classic military objectives are found throughout the different missions. You get to do search, recover, sabotage, and of course just plain ol’ killin’. The weapons you have in the game also have a wide variety, but are all standard fare for a soldier of the era. Sorry, no BFGs in this game.
For all the praise I’ve heaped upon MOH so far, without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of the game is the enemy AI. These Nazis don’t mess around. They are easily the most intelligent computer opponents I’ve ever encountered in a first person shooter game.
These guys dive for cover. They hide behind walls. They sound alarms to call for backup. They’ll lure you into a tight hallway and lob a grenade at your feet. The good ol’ US of A may have spanked the Germans in WWII, but they were far from pushovers and this game shows it.
The enemy reactions are also priceless. If you sneak up on a German soldier, you’ll see him turn around quickly and fumble for his gun. Shoot a Nazi in the foot and watch him hop around. Shoot one in the arm and it goes limp. Hit a guy in the helmet and it flies off. Throw a grenade at someone and they may have enough time to throw it back at you or simply kick it away. Point a bazooka at a guy and watch him run. Sometimes you’ll knock a guy to the ground only to see him get up seconds later and keep shooting at you. You better make sure you really got a guy before trying to move on. Of course a nice shot to the back of the neck will take out anybody (Superman isn’t in this game ya know.)
Not since Metal Gear Solid have I been so scared playing a game. When you’re sneaking into an installation under the cover of darkness in complete silence and all of a sudden you hear the RATT-TA-TAT-TAT of a German machine gun emptying your health as fast as Linda Tripp goes through a gallon of ice cream, you’ll see what I mean.
Enemies however, do tend to appear out of nowhere behind you and some materialize out of thin air in front of you during some missions. That’s just bad form. Also, the mutli-player mode was lacking. A regiment of Nazi soldiers also trying to kill me as well as my friend would have made it much more interesting. Instead the multi-player mode simply feels like an overblown game of tag.
Overall, the game is a work of considerable excellence by Dreamworks and rates 4 1/2 GiN Gems. The game simply looks and sounds like you’re in the middle of a damn war and nothing is as scary as that. By the end of a level, you’re running for a clearing, hoping and praying that one last remaining Nazi doesn’t take you out. War may be Hell, but this game is Heaven.