Medal of Honor: Allied Assault - Breakthrough
2nd Nov 2003 | 10:18
Can EA reheat the Medal Of Honor soufflé? asks PC Zone
Medal of Honor was always a fantastic game. In fact, almost two years after its release, it's still sitting proudly at the top of the shooter category in our PC ZONE A-List (page 160). Its atmosphere was, and still is, unparalleled, and in the magnificent beach landing mission, it boasted arguably the best level yet seen in a first-person shooter, stunningly capturing the visceral feel of real-life warfare in a way no other game had managed.
The only real criticisms that could be levelled at the game was that it had a fair amount of visible spawning and the fact that enemy soldiers seemed to not possess AI so much as robotic homing eyes, which allowed them to see through thick fog, trees and even walls.
The game's first expansion pack, Spearhead, didn't quite stack up to the same levels of excellence, and although it had plenty of merit, it was also padded out with a lot of relatively average levels - a trait for which add-on packs are notorious.
And, sure enough, what we get with Breakthrough is a load of not-so-memorable missions that do nothing to improve on the awesome original and mostly retread old ground.
It's a very good shooter, of course. The question is: wouldn't you prefer to play Medal Of Honor again, using savegames to skip the boring parts, rather than fork out 20 quid for a lesser experience?
However, Breakthrough starts off intriguingly enough, with the first of 11 single-player missions taking place in a chaotic desert level. While the novelty of parading around blindly in a sandstorm wears off fairly quickly, the sense of a big war with loads of people involved - and lots of 'em dying - going on around you is as present and as horrifying as ever. There's gunfire, blood-curdling screams, shells exploding with limb-tearing force and orders being shouted.
Medal Of Doom
But of course, this is not a realistic war recreation and you're soon facing legions of Nazis alone in true Rambo-style. After the Call Of Duty demo doing such a good job of making you feel part of a team, it's a bit disappointing to go back to the usual FPS "one man against the world" motif. In later levels especially, it really does descend into Doom-like mindlessness, as you are forced to litter the screen with hundreds of dead enemies.
Before that there are some good settings to visit, though never anything to compare with the original's standout moments. There's a great scene in Italy where you have to cross a Venice-type river while bullets and bombs drop around the spectacular architecture. Then there's the time aboard a battleship, when the bomb you've planted goes off before you can leave and you have to shoot your way out of the capsized ship, floors acting as walls and fire coming from all sorts of disorienting angles.
Other moments, however, are memorable for all the wrong reasons. In one level you have to take out wave after wave of tanks from the first floor of a building using a mortar, trying to calculate the trajectories of the shells as speedily as possible, and dying many, many times in the process. It's the opposite of fun.
A Plague Of Cheats
There are some excellent in-game cut-scenes in the best Half-Life style, in which you'll see lots of things going on around you, such as the wounded being carried about, synchronised explosions and the like. And it's great to hear Italian voices for a change when you're fighting Mussolini's fascists.
But it all too often feels like a straight line to the objective, killing everything that moves and swearing at the old dirty (and much more noticeable) tricks the game uses to make things more difficult. The AI is as unnatural and X-ray sighted as ever. Enemies still appear out of nowhere and sometimes keep respawning until you've activated the next script. You don't always get the right weapon for the job and ammo can become so scarce as to be ridiculous.
But most annoying of all is the sheer number of enemies in later levels that just keep coming and coming. It's less about skill than about stamina at this stage. Especially since you get another of the overused mounted machine guns with which to pick them off.
At least you needn't worry about it being too short. It goes on for a fair while, and you'll find endless days of shooting mayhem are to be had, even if you're a Medal Of Honor veteran.
With Pacific Assault looking like the step forward Medal Of Honor sorely needs, and the Call Of Duty demo already proving that the MOH developers who formed Infinity Ward have made considerable progress, Breakthrough feels like a bit of a let down, and a bit dated to boot. If you do take a punt on Breakthrough, expect to be vaguely entertained and fairly challenged. Just don't expect to feel the kind of thrill you felt when you played the magnificent original.