I played through most of the latest installment in the Medal Of Honor series during the weekend. As you might expect, it’s a first-person shooter set in World War II. You’re a Western soldier (American? British? I’m not sure) working for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the wartime pre-CIA) and you face hundreds of German soldiers per mission, sometimes backed up by comrades. I’m not at all sure why this has the “Heroes” name attached to it – based on my limited exposure to the MOH series, this feels just like the other games.
Things do not start off promisingly, as the game’s looks are seriously lacklustre. We’re talking early Xbox, average PS2 level of graphics, with very low resolution textures, very basic models and no lighting to speak of. But they are entirely functional. The artificial intelligence is completely lacking, too. I haven’t seen soldiers this dim-witted in years. Germans might stand right next to you and pay you no attention. Germans and Allies might be firing side by side at some far away targets, disregarding each other. It can be a little surreal. On the other hand, the EA level of presentation is there, with very nice introductions to missions and an overall pace that picks you up and doesn’t let go.
The game’s controls have received praise, and rightly so. This is the best first-person shooter control setup I’ve tried and it’s actually so good that I found myself playing the game just because I was having so much fun controlling it. It wipes the floor with both the mouse and keyboard setup and the twin-stick pad. It’s not quite as fast as a mouse aim is, but feels so much more natural. They’ve incorporated the leaning and sighting in a great fashion. Here’s to hoping that the Wii will see more accomplished shooters from now on. Unlike all of the action-oriented control methods I’ve tried on the Wii, this is the only one where I don’t have to spend time trying to recall how to do stuff. They do have plenty of gimmicks, too, but those are all good fun as well, like the way you swing the Remote on your shoulder to mimick a bazooka and the way you pump the Nunchuk to, well, pump the shotgun. The scoped rifles took some getting used to, but again overshadow all previous attempts at one. The only actual shortcoming of the control method are the machine-gun emplacements. The feel just isn’t there and it was so hard to hit anything that I cleared most of the MG sections using other weapons.
It’s a shame the missions and the AI don’t live up. Regardless, I played with excitement all the way to the end. There’s all sorts of achievements to shoot for, too, which do add some weight to the game. The arcade mode is something of a missed opportunity. The idea is that you can play the entire game as a light-gun shooting gallery, leaving the movement to the game. Unfortunately, they haven’t really thought about the pace or the routes enough, and when the freedom of movement is stripped from you, a game should make up for it with added set-pieces and the like. It’s still a diversion and enough of a different experience from the game proper to be worthwhile.
I haven’t tried the multiplayer, but intend to, solely because of the control scheme.