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Medal of Honor was once an excellent series. Now it’s pretty much dead thanks to atrocious reboot in 2010. Up until 2003, the Medal of Honor games were quality shooters for their time. In my opinion, 2002 was the peak for the series since both Allied Assault and Frontline were released that year. After that, Medal of Honor games were hit or miss up until the series downfall in 2010. But one of those hit or miss games was released in 2005. Developed and published by EA, Medal of Honor: European Assault was released in June, 2005 for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube.
Like most Medal of Honor games and World War II themed shooters of the time, there’s not much in the way of story here. There’s no real character development, plot twists, or dramatic elements. Basically, it’s war and you need to complete the objectives. You play as Lt. William Holt and must complete four campaigns, each with their own set of missions. Each campaign is set in different countries including France, North Africa, the Soviet Union, and Belgium. And of course you’ll be killing a shit-ton of German soldiers. Every campaign has an intro sequence, narrated by an elderly Holt before transitioning to another voice actor that represents his younger, war time self. The voice acting is alright but there’s not enough to really form an opinion. Other than that, soldiers will scream and yell during battle, and German soldiers shout in German. It’s all typical World War II shooter stuff and there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before.
The gameplay in European Assault is where things get a bit more interesting. You still need to complete missions to progress but the environments themselves are more open than linear, giving you a sense of freedom. I guess you can say European Assault is kind of like a precursor to what we would see in future games, like Medal of Honor: Heroes and Airborne. Your minimap always points to your main objective but as you explore the environments, you will discover additional objectives, otherwise known as secondary objectives. Before starting a mission, you can see how many objectives there are in total but you won’t know what they are until you discover them. These open environments are actually a great change of pace compared to the more linear missions in previous games. As soon as you start a mission you don’t necessarily need to go charging straight for the main objective and can navigate anywhere you want. Basically, you can complete objectives in any order. You’ll earn medals for completing missions and going for all Gold medals across the board is a moderate incentive to replay missions.
Each mission has it’s own set of objectives but you’ll always be doing the same type of stuff. You’ll always be destroying things, recovering reconnaissance, rescuing prisoners, and killing high ranking German officers. The challenge, of course, comes from the enemies, in this case the Germans. There’s four difficulty modes and even on Normal, European Assault can prove to be quite a challenge. Just running into every situation guns blazing will almost always get you killed. Approaching an area that’s full of German soldiers normally means an objective is nearby so you can always expect heavy resistance. Utilizing cover is a great way to avoid getting killed. You’ll want to approach each area with caution, peep around corners and over ledges, and aim down your sights for better accuracy. You can always pick up health in the form of medkits scattered throughout the environments and from canteens from fallen enemies. Medkits can be stored in and used whenever, which can be a real life saver during some of the more challenging encounters. On the Easy and Normal difficulty modes you start with a set amount of Revives, which are the game’s equivalent to lives. More Revives can be acquired by completing objectives. The two higher difficulty modes eliminate Revives so when you die you’ll need to start the mission over. Medkits are also removed so you’ll need to rely on dropped canteens to replenish health upon pickup.
War is hell and Medal of Honor: European Assault attempts to simulate that to some degree. Luckily, you don’t have to fight alone. You’ll always be accompanied by three fellow soldiers that you can command. However, the command system is extremely basic and I even question why it was included. You can command your guys to move to a specific location or regroup. That’s as far as it goes. They perform well enough, although not always believable. If out in the open your squad AI really shows its stupidity, especially in the final two campaigns. You may command them to get behind cover, but they’ll be running all over the place to get there, and many times they just get in your way. They do take damage and can die but you can heal them by using one of your medkits. In some ways they serve the purpose of keeping enemy fire away from you, making navigating the battlefield a bit easier. Your squad members will actually kill enemies but if all your guys die, you’ll quickly realize how much you relied on their presence. The German AI is actually quite decent. They do a decent job at trying to avoid your shots, they’ll kick back grenades, and they’re pretty good shots, themselves, so you’ll always want to be near cover.
The end of the game really highlights how stupid your squad can be and how cheap the enemy AI can be. While I did enjoy the end-game missions, most of them have you dealing with droves of enemies. Because of the historical context, you don’t really have a ton of enemy variety so to ramp up the challenge, the developers decided to throw tons of enemies at you. Sometimes it feels like enemies have pinpoint accuracy and one wrong step could be an instant death. If you’ve never played this before and don’t know what to expect, chances are this will happen often. With more and more enemies to deal with, this happens more frequently late in the game and just feels unfair. Yes, I know, war isn’t fair, but then again this is a video game.
What would a World War II shooter be without weapons? You’re provided with a decent amount of World War II weaponry to combat the German forces. The M1 Garand, Thompson submachine gun, MP40, and StG-44 are all here among others and it’s exactly what you would expect, no real surprises. And, yes, just like in several previous Medal of Honor games, the reload animations for the rifles are fantastic. You’ll be mowing down plenty of Germans and one of the more unique elements of European Assault is the adrenaline meter. As you kill enemies, your adrenaline meter will fill up and when it’s completely full you can unleash ultimate hell. You’re granted unlimited ammo, invincibility, and bullets do extra damage for a limited time. It’s a great mechanic for getting out of tight spots or pushing through heavily defended areas.
Medal of Honor games have always been known for their music and European Assault doesn’t disappoint. The soundtrack consists of cinematic orchestral tracks that are memorable and really fit in perfectly with the theme of the game and the gameplay. The sound effects are also of great quality. The guns sound powerful, explosions sounds booming, and most of the time I felt like I was in the middle of a real battlefield, all thanks to the excellent sound work. Even the sound of Holt’s equipment shuffling around as you move is noticeable and just adds a bit of realism. The visuals are alright for the time, I suppose, nothing amazing by any means. Some areas look a little bland but chances are you’ll be focusing on the action most of the time so you may not even notice. The frame rate will dip occasionally, especially if things get hectic or if there’s a lot of smoke in the area, and I saw a ragdoll freak out once but I never encountered any serious technical problems. Based on my experience I would say the game runs fine and it performs as expected for a console title. The real shame is that European Assault was never ported to PC. I have all major consoles and a PC capable of playing games and I never take sides in any kind of system war but this is one game that I would have loved see come to PC because it’s just screaming for mods. Oh, well.
So is Medal of Honor: European Assault a hit or miss? I would say it’s a hit. With only four campaigns, this is definitely a short game which is kind of a bummer, but there’s plenty of action and a moderate amount of replay value. For the time, I think the open environments were a refreshing change of pace, giving players a sense of freedom, discovery, and control on the battlefield. I only had a few minor issues with the difficulty but overall this is a solid shooter. I would even say it’s the last great Medal of Honor title to date. If you enjoy the Medal of Honor series or just World War II shooters, Medal of Honor: European Assault is one game I would suggest you add to your collection.