Future Publishing


Medal Of Honor: Frontline

Author: Jon Attaway
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Machine: Xbox (EU Version)

 
Published in Official Xbox Magazine #11

End the fascist frolics of wartime Germany by killing all ze Nazis

Medal Of Honor: Frontline (Electronic Arts)

World War II - one of the most evocative scenarios in mankind's history, a period that has spawned more books and films than you can throw a clutch of grenades at. Now, finally, Xbox owners have a chance to relive the horror and adrenaline of battlefield combat in Medal Of Honor: Frontline.

From the jaw-dropping beach-landing opening sequence, Medal Of Honor: Frontline does exactly what it says on the tin and takes you deep into the dark heart of WWII as you fight to liberate France and push back the enemy. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? And it many ways the game has the potential to offer a real nerve-jangling combat experience. But, for the most part, the action just doesn't turn out like that, because once you strip away the epic veneer of the surroundings you're left with what is at the core - a very basic first-person shooter.

So, why isn't Medal Of Honor: Frontline up there with the cream of Xbox shooters? Well, one reason is AI. This is always a major obstacle for developers of FPS games. We want enemies to react to our presence, to constantly keep us on our toes; we want them to act differently - yet appropriately - to situations we force upon them. We want sophisticated and realistic gun battles.

What we definitely don't want is outmoded, prescribed bang-bang tedium, which is sadly what's often on offer here. You're never fooled into thinking that the enemies are anything other than unsophisticated fodder. If you die and have to go through a mission again, it plays exactly the same as the previous attempt, turning it into a test of memory rather than your honed two-stick FPS skillz. World War II wouldn't have lasted six years if the Germans were as predictable as those in Medal Of Honor: Frontline.

Another problem is that you never feel as though you're handling deadly weaponry. Despite some nice sound effects, much of your arsenal feels as intimidating as a toy gun.

It can be argued that the tools of the trade were considerably less hi-tech back in the day; after all, you're holding an antique rifle not a rail gun. But that doesn't excuse the frustrating accuracy issues. Having your crosshair directly over a hapless Nazi is no guarantee that a squeeze of the trigger will get him. Combined with the overly straightforward exchanges of gunfire that constitute the average battles, the lack of weapon finesse means any sophistication there might have been is bludgeoned into a very average experience.

However, if you're content with a straightforward, frill-free blast, then it's likely you'll enjoy much of what's on offer here. The infamous D-Day landing sequence, for one, is very atmospheric, as bullets zing from all directions and clods of earth explode around you. But it's a shame this sequence comes so early on, as the game effectively plays its trump card within the first few minutes - where do you go from a playable cinematic opener?

There are some great death animations that deserve a mention - such as shooting a soldier and watching him roll down stairs. And there are some nice-looking scenes, too, although the game's PS2 roots means that it's not among the top tier of visual delights on Xbox. Indeed, while it's okay in stills, the environments on the whole are markedly non-interactive - objects rarely explode once fired upon and you can't even shoot the lights out. Even GoldenEye managed that, back in 1997.

That's Medal Of Honor: Frontline's problem in a nutshell, really. As a first-person shooter, it's embedded in the mid-90s like a mine in the mud, learning nothing from the current leaders of the genre whatsoever. Even the game's most impressive scene, the D-Day landing, feels old hat to play, thanks to a curious objective. Instead of struggling to get to the shingle bank like everyone else, your 3D objective is to run to and fro rescuing four soldiers who are pinned down by machine-gun fire. It feels odd to be bustling about the war zone like a courier, and the strange task detracts from the otherwise visceral atmosphere - especially after a few retries.

The brutal truth of the matter is this: if you have an Xbox, the chances are you're already aware of benchmark titles like Halo and TimeSplitters 2 that offer a more polished and rewarding FPS experience.

But if you're looking to have a no-questions-asked World War II FPS arcade romp, then you may find that a title like Medal Of Honor: Frontline holds a certain appeal - at least for a short burst of Nazi-hunting.

There's lots of room for a good World War II FPS on Xbox, but it needs to do a lot more with its source material than this game, which has ultimately resulted in a very average shooter. The respectful treatment of the conflict so evident in Saving Private Ryan has been diminished by the sloppy quality of the action on display here. Something as awfully compelling as World War II deserves much, much more.

Good Points

  1. Some atmospheric moments
  2. Good tunes and sound effects

Bad Points

  1. Uninvolving battles
  2. Nothing new or exciting
  3. Weapons aren't satisfying to use

Verdict

Power
There's no particular use of Xbox's strengths, but it's still rather nice in places.

Style
Mixed - some Normandy levels capture the atmosphere brilliantly while others are a tad bland.

Immersion
The combat isn't sufficiently evolved to make this particularly engrossing to play.

Lifespan
There are plenty of missions to try, and a fair degree of challenge on higher difficulties, too.

Summary
An average FPS that doesn't really impress on Xbox. World War II deserves a much better game than this.

Jon Attaway

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