"I donít just like Medal of Honor: European Assault. I respect it. "
I canít beat Medal of Honor: European Assault. I canít.
I made it through the smoldering factories in St. Nazaire easy enough. I fought against the Desert Fox in North Africa and came out victorious. I even trudged through corpse-ridden streets of Stalingrad, fighting inch-by-inch to a church and barely, just barely, winning the city back for Mother Russia.
But every time I storm up the frozen hills of Mamayev, every time I face the full might of the German blitzkriegÖI fail. I always fail. I donít check my radar and get ambushed. I look down and spot a grenade, right before it explodes in my face. I make a brave run towards the enemy fort, up the hills, past the barracks, only to get mowed down by a well-placed round of machine gun fire.
And this is when I play on easy. Oh, the shame. The shame.
I suck at this game. I donít have the reflexes, I donít have the speed, I donít have the cunning. There may come a day when I finally beat it, when I get to see Hitlerís legions fall apart from my own gun-and-hand perspective, but that day is far off.
But I can wait. Medal of Honor: European Assault deserves that much.
I think itís the presentation. Those History Channel specials, those videos you watched and slept through in High School? Itís like that. Youíre shown clips from World War II before every sortie, bringing out the real struggle before you begin the imaginary one. You see people, soldiers, brave men with weak flesh and strong minds. You see them strategizing, planning, fighting and sometimes failing. You see the dying and the dead, and if you didnít understand this before, you understand it then: This may be a game to you, but it wasnít to them.
The story places you in the mud-stained shoes of Holt, a hero among heroes. He narrates while the opening pictures are rolling, but you donít hear the voice of some ready, young soldier, noÖyou hear the voice of a veteran, old, haggard, retelling his finest hours. His voice: Authentic. His emotions: So real. Maybe heís an actor; maybe heís not a real veteran. You canít tell. The feelings are strong, the words are as moving as youíd expect them to beÖyou canít tell.
That force stays with you, too, right onto the battlefield. European Assault isnít a revolutionary first-person shooter, it doesnít bring in any new concepts. Simple group-based combat. You fight with a team; you cover them, they cover you. You have pistols, you have rifles, you have machine guns, and the occasional bazooka. Peek and shoot, strafe and shoot, dodge and shoot. Youíre often called to do some demolitions work and hold a fireworks display where the Germans donít want it, but besides a few big bangsÖaverage.
The action is mundane, but the atmosphere is supreme. Iíd seen Stalingrad before; saw the war reels and the ninety-minute specials and the made-for-TV movies. But when I was actually there, sneaking through the rubble, fighting in former houses, crawling through cemeteries and hiding behind tombstonesÖthen I had a glimpse of what it feels like to have your home become a battle zone. No two buildings crumble in the same way. Dust and bricks and blood litter every floor. Intricate detail that shows on every level; the stages are large, complex, but barely bordered. Thereís always a few ways to get where youíre going, always an alternate path that gives you the maximum advantage with minimal efforts, coming out right at the Naziís backside.
But, as well crafted as the levels may be, theyíre nothing compared to the people who fought in them. Holt may be the main character, but heís not an army of one. Itís not who you fight as with this game, itís who you fight with.
You see, Iíve always felt thereís been a gap in the way history gets taught in the United States. We always focus on our own sacrifice, on the way America fought and the way Americans died. Iím not trying to deny or dummy down any of that; brave men did brave things for just reasons, and that is always noble. But it becomes easy to forget: It wasnít our country being fought on, it wasnít our people getting slaughtered in the streets, it wasnít our nation under Hitlerís thumb. It was theirs.
Medal of Honor: European Assault reminds me.
I fought beside the British, saw them ram a boat full speed into the Germanís port and hit the ground running, using crates and barrels for cover, moving forward and never giving back an inch. The Russians were undermanned and overpowered, but still they fought, running into the onslaught and dying in droves. The fearless living march on top of the fallen dead and the battle continues. There wouldnít be any Welcome Home party for them, no ticker-tape parade. When we won, we got some pay and a pat on the back. When they won, they got their country back.
It all comes together to make an amazing ambience, one that only gets marred by a few forgivable flaws. If you kill enough people, youíre given the option of going into ĎAdrenaline Moodí a surreal super-high that slows down time and makes you invincible for a few moments. This would fit in your normal FPS; hell, itíd probably be welcome. But in a game that gets so much pride and stride from recreating an actual experience, it feels out of place, unneeded and unwanted. I also found the disappearance of the dead bodies to be a bit disheartening; peeking out from the trench and seeing a field of corpses before me would have driven the experience home all the harder.
But getting over the former flaw is as simple as not using it. And since keeping track of every single dead body would have meant taking cuts from the rest of the game, I forgive the latter.
I have this list of codes here. Infinite lives, level select, godmode, the standard stuff. I printed it out before I even got the game, full intentions of inputting them at the first sign of failure. But I canít use them. Not anymore.
I donít just like Medal of Honor: European Assault. I respect it.
Staff review by Zack Little (October 28, 2005)
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