Medal of Honor: Frontline Review
Being announced all the way back in March of 2001, I thought the arrival of Frontline couldn't get here any slower. It was simultaneously announced with the now quietly cancelled MOH: Fighter Commander, for a 2002 release. At the time, the series was just beginning to reach its peak. The sequel, MOH: Underground, to the original title was greeted with glowing reviews and great sales as well. PSX owners just seemed so intrigued with a first person shooter that was a history lesson all in one. Needless to say, EA sparked a new franchise with its World War II FPS epic. The first MOH covered the Hitler era of the second World War, and focused on the rise of Nazism. As Lt. Jimmy Paterson, you had to make your way through Nazi infested areas, infiltrate Nazi controlled bases, and take out as many Nazis as possible. The second was a prequel to the first, as it dealt with the early WWII scenario. As a female French soldier Manon, you were taken to various locales (France, North Africa, Italy, Germany, and Greece) and infiltrate Nazi organizations, to prevent them from taking off in full force. Now in the third console MOH title, the segment is D-Day, and my oh my how incredibly well it's pulled off. The presentation will have you gasping for air.
Visually, Medal of Honor: Frontline does not look as sharp and detailed as MOH: Allied Assault does running a high-end PC; so don't expect something incredibly gorgeous, you won't get it. What you will get though, is a wonderful looking game with enough intricate details to really create the World War II atmosphere, and make you feel as if you're actually in it. The environments you come across have it all; from collapsed buildings, to debris, to tanks, to ground mounted turrets, to sand bags, and everything else you'd see in a war -- just picture Saving Private Ryan. The character models are pretty good for the most part, although on rare instances you'll notice polygonal clipping. It's nothing major, but it does kind of make things look a bit awkward. Facial expressions are also given to characters that you interact with. As they speak to you face to face, you'll notice their mouths move and facial features showed off. The special effects, including lighting, is to die for. We're talking motion picture stuff here, that you'll only find in the most highly budgeted 'A' class war movies. Some of the explosions in this game really feel life threatening. Watching U-boats explode, seconds after you've planted demolitions on them is one sight to behold. I haven't seen special effects this good since Rogue Leader on the GameCube. The lighting is well done, and really sets the mood and atmosphere of each and every stage.
The frame rate is a consistent 30, and the color palette does not change drastically in one area, so when you look around it will not make your pupils dilate, and create nausea. I'm quite thankful for that, because many FPS developers do not take into account that mixing bright and dark colors in one field is not a smart thing to do. When you're frantically moving your vision, your pupils will dilate in order to adjust to the change in color. When it's done too frequently, eventually nausea kicks in. Not only that, but EA didn't make the screen bob up and down as your character walks, this pretty much eliminates the cause of motion-sickness. The only setback is the texture detail. As stated before, they don't look bad or washed out, but they don't look uber sharp, either. Visually, Medal of Honor: Frontline looks great. The special effects especially give the game a tremendous boost.
The game starts out much like Saving Private Ryan. It's June 6th, 1944. US troops arrive on Normandy and attempt to invade, but they are greeted with returning fire from bunkers and stationed turrets; welcome to D-Day. Your boat gets turned over after a monstrous explosion rocks the waters and sends you into the waters. You'll have to swim your way out, and as you do that, you'll notice dead bodies in the water. You'll also notice bullets shoot through the water and actually kill troops around you. After you get out, you'll have to run over to the captain and he'll tell you what to do. The game will officially begin here. You'll have to give cover to your fellow men, as they make their way around the sands, avoiding mines, fly by planes that drop mortars, and the non-stop hailing of bullets from the bunkers ahead of you. The first stage in MOH: Frontline is arguably the most exhilarating opening and level in a videogame to date. I can't think of any other game that just threw you into a stage of so much excitement and action. It felt surreal, and eerily realistic. The missions following the intro aren't as frantic, but they do feature tons of great action to keep the excitement alive throughout the game. During some missions, your best bet will be to keep silent and creep stealthily, instead of gun down everything in sight. Even though that's a rarity, it's still an occurrence. Speaking of missions, those who are familiar with the series need no explanation as to the kinds of missions you'll be put through in each stage. For those who aren't familiar with the series, you will be required to retrieve document, destroy weapon carrying trucks, destroy U-boats, eliminate any immediate threats, rendezvous at a point, give cover, and etc.
Frontline lacks a multi-player mode, which would have otherwise granted this game a perfect 10 for replay value. But as it stands right now, the game doesn't feature too much incentive to be played over, unless you just really liked the game. Sure the challenge playing the game on the hardest difficulty level (no health regeneration between stages) counts, but it doesn't add as much as a multi-player facet would have. Frontline does feature 18 authentic WWII weapons and 19 real life missions, including the invasion of Normandy Beach, the seize of Nijmegen Bridge, sabotaging U-boats, infiltrate weapons facilities, and more. The game does a great job at putting the gamer on the edge of his/her seat. The incredibly brutal AI helps to contribute to that. The AI has great aim and will put bullets through you, so be careful. But the enemy also lacks a sense of hearing or sight too. I would shoot somebody who is no more than 5 or so feet away from another enemy, and yet the enemy is standing around as if nothing happened. Basically, we're not talking about aware and alert, as well as aggressive soldiers, like Metal Gear Solid 2, just aggressive. The AI in MOH: Frontline can be plain ol' dumb sometimes. Overall, while the game plays like a dream, it has no multi-player, which diminishes the replay score, and the AI can be lousy sometimes.
Second to none, is exactly what Medal of Honor: Frontline's soundtrack and sound score is. Featuring a masterfully crafted and orchestrated soundtrack, Frontline impresses every bit as did its previous brethrens. Everything is just so incredibly pulled off, that it helps and define the motion picture elements of this game. The voice acting is done well, too. It occurs frequently towards the beginning of the game, and on occasion throughout the rest of the game - mainly from the German troops as they converse with one another. The sound effects sound every bit as good as they look, if you can imagine that. Pair this game up with a Dolby Surround receiver that features a sub woofer and the works, and you've got yourself WWII in the comfort of your own living room.
Controlling MOH: Frontline will require about 15-20 minutes to get a hang of. The controls are somewhat different than they once were, but they're still every bit as good. Using the left analog stick to maneuver and the right to look around and aim works great. Not only that, but the Dual Shock is incredibly strong and feels great. My biggest complaint here would be the lack of USB peripheral support, I.E. mouse and keyboard. It would've been fantastic if EA had implemented compatibility for USB mice and keyboards. Because, frankly I don't enjoy aiming with the analog stick, it feels a bit slow. Having said that, I don't have any other complaints to address. Just give the controls a good 20 minutes, and be on your way.
In the end, the wait for Frontline was well worth it. I absolutely love the whole experience that this game offers. The presentation is practically unparalleled with any other FPS title I've played, save of course Allied Assault. EA really makes you feel as if you're part of the war, and that you're not just playing another sci-fi first person shooter. This feels authentic, and legit -- to sum it up, "real". That is all of course thanks to the incredible attention to detail in graphics and gameplay, not to mention the surreal sound. First person shooter fans, this is a MUST HAVE game. A very recommended purchase, despites its few setbacks.
6/1/2002 Arnold Katayev