Review: Medal of Honor: Frontline
Posted 10 May 2003 at 03:43 by Andy
Electronic Arts' announcement that they were to bring their 'Medal of Honor' franchise to the GameCube was greeted with considerable excitement by both FPS fanatics and gamers in general who'd become frustrated with the lack of more mature titles for Nintendo's latest console. Loosely based on DreamWorks own 'Saving Private Ryan' the games started out on the humble Playstation but have since appeared on almost every platform including the Gameboy Advance. Frontline is a conversion of a PS2 title and although this is increasingly how many third party titles reach the GameCube the results are often disappointing. The involvement of Electronic Arts however should signal quality but does it?
I could start this section, as most critics do, with endless comments on just how the GameCube version compares to the PS2 version but as the majority of readers are unlikely to own both consoles and both versions of the game I don't really see much point. Instead we'll take the more sensible route and judge the visuals solely as they appear on the GameCube and in that sense they're well above average. It starts with some very well designed and implemented environments that place you firmly in the action. These have been achieved through the thoughtful use of both textures and lighting effects although some elements such as the water could have done with a little more thought. The models of the various soldiers are also well rendered and move in a convincing fashion except when they start to misbehave.
You'd imagine that after years of military training your soldiers would know how to follow orders and while they generally do, some individuals in MoH have very different ideas. Animation glitches really should have been ironed out during the testing stages on such a high profile project and indeed on any console title. They include instances where a German soldier will be shot and fall to his knees but another shot will have him standing up again and repeating the same animation. Collision detection is also something of an issue; some troops having the ability to push their arms and legs through solid walls destroying the atmosphere completely and cheapening the whole experience.
The highlight is undoubtedly the overall presentation and attention to (historic) detail. Each mission is kicked off with archive footage, which achieves the desired effect of fully immersing you into your role as Lt. Jimmy Patterson. The sub missions also feature the now famous illustrations, reminiscent of old war posters, which indicate the next location or mission objective. The war room has also survived and it's here that the majority of your decisions are made, as it's basically your menu system. Overall, Frontline is a real mixed bag in the visual department and though the majority of it is well above average some inexcusable mistakes spoil what should have been a flawless trip back to the 1940s.
The audio in the game is flawless and effectively creates one of the most atmospheric titles you'll ever play on your GameCube. Including some 70 plus minutes of an original orchestral composition by Michael Guacharo it places you directly in the centre of every war movie you've ever seen. This perfectly matches your current mission adding a greater sense of realism to your current predicament. The highpoints though are the various sound effects where it becomes very apparent that everything's been considered from the various weapon and vehicle sounds to the explosions and bombers flying above you. There are also some nice touches featuring German troops who tend to chat almost constantly warning you of their location before you even see them.
In Frontline you play the role of Lt. Jimmy Patterson; a one-man war machine that's seemingly sent into impossible situations when the rest of the US Army simply can't, or won't, do. This involves you embarking on six complex missions, each consisting of a handful of sub levels, which are your only real checkpoints. I mention this as it throws up one of the game's first minor niggles as getting shot when you're feet away from completing a mission means replaying the whole sub level again. This is not really an issue in the early stages of the game but later it may make you want to throw your controller at the wall. Anyway, on with the review. Missions generally require you to shoot German troops with the emphasis on clearing your immediate area. This may not appear very important until you dispose of too few troops and get a bullet in the back when racing for the exit. You have limited ammunition so heading in 'guns a blazing' will almost never lead to success and a more considered approach is always the best bet. All the weapons are based on actual WWII firearms and FPS fanatics usually have their favorite and we found the sniper rifle most invaluable. It allows you to scan an area and pick off soldiers although once the opposition snipers discover where the shots are coming from they'll simply start firing back.
Unfortunately the AI is not as sophisticated as it could or should be. Problems occur when you even attempt to use stealth in order to overcome an impossible situation with greater opposition firepower or simply enemy numbers. Frustratingly, keeping out of sight and making no sound appears to have little effect as troops become aware of your presence simply if you're in their area and not when they actually see you. The same thing happens when you try and use your silencer pistol so shooting a single troop in an enclosed room will bring other soldiers bursting through the door to see what's going on.
This game is not all about firing weapons though so the occasional mission involves you placing bombs or causing a distraction by setting a building alight however these are generally so linear in their construction that it feels more like you're just going through the motions before the shooting starts again.
In addition to the free roaming FPS levels you'll occasionally have to deal with an 'on the rails' type affair, which is usually connected with a vehicle of some type. In the first of these you are perched on the back of a truck shooting at enemies, only alighting to open one of the many gates that the driver is unable to penetrate. Once off the truck however it's back to a standard FPS, as you're required to clear the area in order to continue your journey. The mine cart section is a little more restrictive as the whole level takes place on a fixed rail and your only movement is a 360 degree turn in the cart. Although this is a nice idea, as long as you shoot enough troops you'll complete the level with very little problem. This journey in particular could have been made much more interesting by adding a few more objectives such as changing the direction of the tracks or clearing paths but instead it's a simple 'A to B' exercise which offers little in the way of a challenge.
Frontline allows you to jump into the action almost straight away and the 'guided' nature of the various missions means you'll never really become lost or hit a problem you can't solve with a little thought. Obviously this works both for and against the overall enjoyment of MoH as while the learning curve allows almost anyone to pick up and play more experienced gamers will become frustrated with the lack of freedom. What will keep everyone going however is the immersive, well written storyline based on real events, and it's refreshing to see that at least one aspect of MoH will always separate it from the rest of the FPS bunch.
Control Stick – Movement
C-Stick – Look around
Control Pad – Weapon Select
Z – Reload
L – Aim
R – Fire
Y – Jump
X – Crouch
A – Action
B – Melee Attack
Frontline is one of the increasing number of titles were the games longevity is dependent on how committed you are to achieving a perfect score in each mission. This unlocks cheats and secrets that can be used at a later date or even in the multiplayer option which although is something of a bonus (and exclusive to GameCube and X-Box versions) adds little to the single player experience. The main game will take you some 14 hours to finish but the incentive to play again is entirely dependent on how much you enjoyed it the first time around.
While not quite as polished as the mighty 'TimeSplitters 2' from EIDOS, Frontline offers a great deal of FPS entertainment with an atmosphere that simply can't be beaten. The are some graphical issues and some gamers may find the control system a little irritating but even taking all this into consideration Frontline is still a great game and if WWII or the FPS genre is your thing you really shouldn't be without it.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Not Quite Timesplitters but if you crave the realistic feel of WWII battle there's simply no competition.
A Little Linear