Coming full circle back to the European Theatre of 1942 where silly hats and mud splatters were considered accessorising, this instalment of the Medal of Honour series tries once again to recreate the chaos of WWII, and thankfully does a far better job than its predecessors. Unfortunately, while EAâ€™s first person shooter does manage to get all the hard parts right, it would seem that a little bit of basic training would have gone a long way into making European Assault the game it could easily have been.
Thatâ€™s not to say that it doesnâ€™t have its good points though. While its forerunners suffered from restrictive, linear environments, this instalment of the franchise boasts some of the most open-ended and marvellously undefined level design Iâ€™ve ever seen. As opposed to stuffy â€˜pick-a-pathâ€™ type games, European Assault simply gives you an expanse of battlefield and lets you figure out how youâ€™re going to get to the other side alive, subsequently creating a truly re-playable experience. Another of European Assaults commendable innovations is itâ€™s creative reward system; whenever you send one of the krauts to meet the great sausage in the sky they will invariably leave behind a little token of their appreciation in the form of a small health or ammo drop. The crux of the matter is that these rewards usually stay around for about 30 seconds, meaning that engaging in battle cautiously from a distance will usually leave you with no ammo and less chance of survival. This simple system forces you into the fore of the battle, even if it is just to claim the spoils of war, and makes sure that the game stays action packed from beginning to end.
European Assault has also made use of some other novel ideas that are regrettably less praiseworthy. Rather than use time honoured checkpoints or save systems to ensure your survival, EA has devised a revival scheme that simply brings your soldier back to life whenever one of the numerous â€˜Gerrieâ€™sâ€™ gets the better of you. This revival method does manage to keep the action flowing nicely, however, it is also particularly futile at keeping you alive when youâ€™re out of ammo and medkits, this usually being the reason for your death in the first place. Youâ€™ll start each level with a predetermined number of revives based on the difficulty setting you chose and how well you did in the previous mission. Exasperatingly though, if you should run out of these revives youâ€™ll be forced to start back at the beginning of the level, something which I found to be incredibly frustrating. Another of European Assaultâ€™s more irritating facets is its use of squad members. Feeling as if the idea was quickly ripped from Brothers in Arms, your squad mates are more annoying than anything else as they constantly wander about trying to catch stray bullets with their teeth. Thankfully, your posse seems to have been blessed with an excessive amount of health, at least three times your own, and this usually keeps them living from one level to the next.
Something definitely worth mentioning is the quality and quantity of sound present in the game. As is almost becoming a tradition in war games, each weapon is complemented with a very realistic and very satisfying report that almost makes you feel sorry for anyone who happens to be on the loud end of the boomstick. Equally impressive is the musical score that the game is set to. Not only is the music that plays in the menus almost emotive but there are also numerous triggered musical events, such as an angelic choir sounding when entering a desolate church or triumphant trumpets upon the destruction of one of the dreaded panzer tanks. These audio delights are plentiful throughout the game and, though they can be a little melodramatic on occasion, they are an excellent addition to the overall feel of European Assault. The games graphics however, arenâ€™t quite up to the same standard. While there is nothing wrong with the lighting or texturing, there isnâ€™t really anything spectacular about them either, as they provide a perfectly average backdrop to your campaign. The character models on the other hand are decidedly below par, but possibly with reason. Considering the rather large number of models that are often present on the screen at once, one could forgive European Assault for using blocky polygon men, especially since not once did the game drop in frame rate or â€˜chugâ€™ even slightly.
Disappointingly, not all of the mistakes of European Assaultâ€™s older brothers have been fixed. Most notably, and probably the gameâ€™s biggest let down, is the length of the campaign mode. Consisting of just eleven missions, European Assault can be completed in under ten hours, which is roughly half the length the game should have been. Whatâ€™s tragic is that EA have clearly managed to get that quintessential fun aspect of the game down pat, and then wasted it all by giving us a game thatâ€™s simply ten hours too small. Another massive oversight that stands out more than a nazi missing a right arm, is the gameâ€™s complete lack of an online function. In this day and age of connectivity, European Assault has sold itself short by recklessly neglecting to add on a feature that are tacked on to near every other game thatâ€™s rushed out the door. You can of course play the game split screen or system link with up to four players and the game designers have clearly put effort into the 15 maps and several different game modes that make up the multiplayer facet. Unfortunately, all this just falls short when the online feature that could have saved the undersized campaign is illogically omitted.
Ultimately European Assault is a great title that lets sizeable gaming faux pas drag it into the depths of mediocrity. Ardent fans of the MOH series are in for a treat, but for the rest of us, there are simply too many other WWII shooters to pick from and consequently this game will likely have difficulty making the transition from â€˜weekend renterâ€™ to â€˜bona fide time thiefâ€™.