There's a crisis on the Medal of Honor front. Opposition World War II titles are closing on the long-running series' defences and attacking with increasing force. Activision's Call of Duty has mobilised stunning set-piece weapons, and Ubisoft Brothers in Arms is about to unleash a blitzkrieg of authentic realism.
Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault on PC was a semi-effective counter-attack, but the moderately-received Rising Sun on consoles was another sign that EA's WWII FPS series is suffering casualties. Reinforcements are needed.
It looks like they've just arrived - but you might not recognise them. No longer subtitled Dogs of War, the new console instalment in the series - Medal of Honor: European Assault - will mobilise for PS2, Xbox and GameCube this summer.
How can it redress the balance against the onslaught of competing WWII titles? By retaining the hallmarks of the Medal of Honor series while also adding new, hard-hitting and high explosive features. Linear corridors have been replaced by free-roaming battlefields, combat squad command has been added, AI has been beefed up and a new 'Rally Mode' kicks in when you're really earning your stripes.
The result could signify a distinct shift back towards EA in the WWII game conflict. To find out more about Medal of Honor: European Assault and how it will reinforce the series we talked to Dan Winters, the game's executive producer at EALA.
First of all, most people know this game as Medal of Honor: Dogs of War, but you've changed the title to Medal of Honor: European Assault. Why?
Dan Winters: We changed the title to European Assault about a month ago. Ironically, we made the decision because Dogs of War wasn't translating well for the European press. We could have released it under different names but we wanted to create a strong global title, and that is Medal of Honor: European Assault.
You've mentioned that you wanted to take the Medal of Honor franchise - and the WWII FPS genre - in a different direction with European Assault. What changes can players expect?
Dan Winters: In fact, we didn't want to go in a new direction. We wanted to retain the foundation of Medal of Honor and build on it. For Medal of Honor, the foundation's always been the emotional authenticity of being a World War II soldier, the historical accuracy of taking real moments and being able to relive those, and the way the game lets ordinary people do extraordinary things.
We've added a couple of main additional features to build on this. One is Combat Squad Control, which lets you direct allied troops. The second thing we've implemented is the Open Battlefield, which is very different to past Medal of Honor titles. We've also totally reconfigured the code base, so where we could get 16 or 17 guys on screen at one time we're pumping 50 right now, with another 25 active somewhere else in the world.
The Medal of Honor games have often been criticised for tunnelled linearity. How do European Assault's Open Battlefields blow this apart?
Dan Winters: I think our idea of the Open Battlefield is the one single vision that has grown the most over the course of European Assault's development. Basically, we wanted to let players choose their path to victory. Past Medal of Honor titles were kind of like rollercoaster rides. They were very linear in structure, with moments of intensity and moments of anticipation, but it was very much 'step one, step two, step three'.
We wanted to keep the same levels of intensity the series is known for, but also give the player the ability to engage in encounters as they see fit.