01 September 2003
Posted in Games
Installation & Documentation
Ease of use
Value for money
Mac OS 10.1+
or OS 9+
Medal of Honor is a simply stunning game. At first, set in North africa where the Americans first entered the war physically in the Northern Hemisphere, it's like a straight shoot 'em up, but as you ascend through the layers it becomes entirely bewitching. For a start, it's common for games to have 'cut scenes' between levels - in MoH, these are movies and, weirdly, although you can't do anything else, you can look around so when the first mission starts off with you jouncing along in a truck, you get to look at the other grunts' anxious faces. It's disturbing.
This is your game launch pad
Later in the game the same thing happens with the landing craft and you get the same feeling of powerlessness that soldiers must have had in real life. As Ranger Powell, you're trapped on this damn boat, there are bullets pinging against the hull and explosions going off and you really just want out. The other soldiers look terrified, too. Where's reverse gear? Let's go to another beach - the English and Canadians to the north had it far easier! But you know the ramp is going to go down.
Crikey, your compadres don't want to be here either. Just wait till that ramp goes down - it's D-Day after all
Of course, the ramp does go down - this level is virtually impossible even on the easy setting. You have to somehow get through a storm of bullets that track you when you move from behind an anti-tank structure. People are graphically dying all around you. If you're patient, hit 'quick-save' a lot (F5) and time your dashes; you do eventually make it to the shingle bank where you get a little cover.
Your character is tough though - in one level he was shot 25 times before he keeled over, whereas the Germans can die - thankfully - from one shot to the head (I do like that sniper rifle ...).
Your character, Ranger Powell, can carries more than a Jeep at times - pistol, grenades, ammunition, Thompson submachine gun, a Garand semi-automatic carbine, a captured German assault rifle ... and when he's hurt, he just needs to run over a fallen waterbottle with a red cross on it to miraculously recover (these disappear if you're not quick enough).
The AI in this game is quite extraordinary. Enemy troops run and hide, lay in wait, limp off, collapse and groan then get up and shoot you in the back ... Your own troops are also fetchingly real and you end up playing stupidly, trying to protect them when they show up. Sometimes they're helpful, shooting at snipers you otherwise wouldn't see and adding their firepower to yours. Besides, you only get the medals if any of them survive a level, so it's often best to go ahead and deal with everything yourself just to draw fire and protect them.
Rendezvous with the mademoiselle, oui? She looks a bit mean - too many years occupied with Boche
We all run
At one point I was astonished to see two of my GIs start shooting each other in the chaos - oh yes, but they're Americans and that's what they're renowned for. There was a saying, after all, in WWII: "When the Germans bomb, the English run. When the English bomb, the Germans run. When the Americans bomb, everyone runs."
Some levels you need to be stealthy - so it says in the notes - others are just blazing gung-ho carnage. To be honest, the stealthy part is hard and just shooting up everything is way easier.
The fascinating part is that the missions are really interesting and the grahics are first class. My favourite was the one where you get to drive the stolen King Tiger tank: you swing the mouse to 'look' around and the turret swings ponderously slowly to catch up, just like in real life. Hold another key down and the tank changes direction to line up with where you're pointing the turret - takes a few seconds of getting used to, then it's ingeniously easy. Also, there's unlimited ammo so you can just blow everything to hell. Yeeha, bring on the schadenfreude!
Some levels are basic, but many are horrendously hard or simply diabolical. I resorted to a cheat after a frustrating hour or two at Normandy getting killed dozens of times. Another problem was lots of crashing. On the net it said the 1.13 patch was the best, but it had been supersceded by 1.14 which was buggy, as was the out-of-the-box game on a dual-processor. Considering I was running a dualie with 768MB RAM and a Radeon 9000 video card, I sure wasn't expecting crashes (due to the stream of complaints at the Aspyr site, let's expect the next patch to remedy this. That said, there appear to be many users with lesser machines playing very stable games). But I had to run the game with most video options turned to the lowest settings to make any progress.
The period music is very well done and overall, the sound is awesome in stereo.
Here's a nice, claustrophobic twist - sneaking around in a scientific complex with a mask on!
MoH and Spearhead tips
Get comfortable with, or reset, the game keys from the start. Memorise the pictures on the briefing scenes. Often it's good to sacrifice your first character when you hit a new level just running around and drawing fire, so you know what to expect when you restart.
On some levels, after certain events, you'll notice the Germans 'spawning' - every time you kill two, two more magically appear. So shoot them in the legs so they fall over and run for it - if they're not dead, they can't spawn, and if they're shot in the legs, they can't chase you!
Turning the sound off on the worst levels really helps you concentrate. Also, hit that quick-save key whenever something good happens.
Very, very involving play
Challenging and intriguing
Authentic feeling (OK, so I've read lots of war books!)
Stealth - pah!
Fiendishly difficult sometimes
The crashes really bummed me out
© Parkside Media 2004