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Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault - Director’s Ed. DVD

Score: 84%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: EA Los Angeles
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 32
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

The men who fought in the Pacific Theater of World War II never heard of a singer named John Fogerty, and they certainly never figured anyone would clamor to buy a record by a group called Creedence Clearwater Revival. But the theme song of Electronic Arts’ most recent Medal of Honor game, Pacific Assault, could easily be “Run Through the Jungle,” because that’s a lot of what you end up doing in this game.

But hey, let’s break it down... military style.

0500: Graphics Briefing -- Listen up, people... this PC game has it all. You end up fighting on the land, at sea, and in the air, and it all looks very, very good. The game’s textures are rich. The geometry is complex and competently executed. The overall design of the environments shows experience and delivers quality gameplay. There is per pixel shading and other cool technology, so the game is lights out in terms of delivering a crisp, detailed picture of all the scenery, bits of hot, flying shrapnel, and, of course, bullets (lots and lots of bullets). Even the game’s jungle elements, difficult for most videogame developers to “get right,” have the requisite foliage depth and complexity to enable most players to forget they’re playing the game and just hunt down the enemies where they stand (or crouch).

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a top of the line computer to play this on, you have to disable a bunch of the cool stuff to make the game play at an acceptable frame rate. It doesn’t matter how cool the hand grenade looks while it’s flying at you; if you can’t swivel around in time to see it, you’re just plain dead, Fred... just plain dead.

So, like all the other kooks out there who are gorging themselves on Worlds of Warcraft, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, or Half-Life 2, get ready to upgrade the processor, the graphics card, and the DVD-ROM drive, and maybe the Internet connection (and to pray that’s all you need to do).

0530: Audio Briefing -- The music composer gets a Bronze Star (very cinematic in flavor -- different from MoH: Allied Assault, but just what this sequel needed), but the sound designers each have a Purple Heart pinned to their pillows. What else do you give a bunch of people who had to listen to pre-recorded screams for months at a time, selecting just the perfect group to enliven the Pacific Theater. Me? I’d have been caught a Section 8 (battle fatigue) back Stateside after about a week.

Hey, these briefings are tough. Be back in five minutes for more mission overviews. Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.


0600: Gameplay Briefing -- The year is 1943. MoH: Pacific Assault’s action begins with troops storming deadly beaches held by Japanese soldiers. Tommy Coughlin, the soldier you’re playing in the game, is one of them. This is Coughlin’s story, along with three buddies who enter boot camp with him, and who all ultimately make it to the pivotal battle that was the Battle of Tarawa.

In a series of flashbacks, Tommy’s story unfolds. It begins with basic training -- a chance to become familiar with shooting rifles and using other weapons. It’s also a chance to learn about the small unit strategy that is at the heart of MoH: Pacific Assault. For those who have played the other Medal of Honor games, this will seem to last from here to eternity, and it’s a shame that the game’s developers didn’t provide a way to “test out” of basic training, much like college students pass a test to obtain credit for some courses.

Upon entering the war, the player leapfrogs through some of the major battles of the Pacific Theater, including Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, and, the aforementioned Tarawa Atoll engagement. Most missions are linear, though there is some branching provided to encourage exploration and replay. There are attack and defense missions, as well as rail shooters and such. The electronic air is full of the stench and sounds of battle, except when you climb into the cockpit of a plane and engage in a flight of fantasy... There is enough action to keep the game moving along, but some of the gameplay mechanics (see below) are more than a little annoying.


0700: Difficulty Briefing -- In general, this game skews to the difficult side. Players learn quickly to save early and often to avoid having to retake too much hostile ground. Also, it is essential to manage your medic wisely -- you only get one and he only has four medical kits per mission. So, although you may play your missions like Arnold in “Commando,” you’d better hope your medic has stashed some extra penicillin in his pack.

Game Mechanics:

0900: Game Mechanics Briefing -- Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is a very good video game, but it relies on some of the thumb-fingered mechanics of older games. As a soldier, you’re supposed to use your stealth to find fighters and knock ‘em out before they knock you out. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have all the enemies in the bushes and trees all the time, so they are brought into the game when your character is a certain target distance away. What this means is that as you’re playing, you use your super sniper-scope to scan ahead of you... all clear! Once you begin to move, you enter that target distance and an enemy pops into the game where you just scanned -- AND HE POPS YOU RIGHT IN THE ARSE (or arm, or tummy). Sorry, didn’t mean to shout there. Although games have done this for eons, careful play testing determines an acceptable distance for what’s called “gating in” enemies, so they don’t surprise the player when they suddenly appear. This bad gating experience is MoH: Pacific Assault’s singular fault.

Running a close second is the fact that although you’ve endured months of combat with your three buddies -- your combat posse, so to speak -- they seem to be pretty incompetent when it comes to watching your back. Purists (aka: “real gamers”) would insist that this is so the player gets the most combat out of the combat game, but really now... why have a squad of lunk-heads around if you’re really just a John Wayne roaring up the beachhead, playing point guy all the time? Even X-Squad for the PS2 had better squad play, and it wasn’t great.

Amazingly enough, EA decided that MoH: Pacific Assault could also be the combat equivalent of Dora the Explorer... If you have pop-ups enabled, you will get regular boxes appearing on screen providing various bits of information about assets in the game, the environment you’re in, or even trivia about the war. Sheesh... whassup with that? The warning label on the box should read: To avoid harmful injury or even death, disable pop-ups before entering intense firefights.

The Director’s Edition DVD includes unique weapons (high-powered light machine gun, for instance), a WWII timeline presentation (yawn...), music commentary by award-winning audio director Erik Kraber (yawn yawn...), and a bunch of other commentary and behind the scenes nonsense that movie DVDs are incorporating very successfully, but that are somewhat less successful when the movie is actually a video game. Is this worth the extra yen? You must ultimately be the judge, but investigate before you invest.

Overall, while this isn’t “Saving Private Ryan” or even “Band of Brothers,” it is a reasonably good war game, especially for fans of the series. You pretty quickly get used to the game’s faults and learn to anticipate the ways it might cheat you. And with a speedy machine, it’s a good enough graphics ride to justify the cost. Ultimately, the health of this heroic franchise will be decided on EA’s ability to fix the nettlesome bugs that kept Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault from taking home the Medal of Honor it could have earned, instead of the dinky campaign ribbon it actually received.

-Jetzep, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tom Carroll

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP or 2000, 1.5Ghz or faster Pentium 4 of Athlon processor, 512MB of RAM, 8x or faster DVD drive, at least 4.5 GB of free hard disk space, DirectX 8.1 compatible video card (ATI Radeon 8500 or greater, Nvidia Geforce3 or greater -- except Geforce4 MX), DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, Cable, DSL or faster internet connection required for online play (dial-up not supported)

Test System:

Windows XP, Pentium 4 2.8 GHz, Radeon 9100 128 MB, 40 Gig HD, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 9.0

Sony PlayStation 2 The Incredibles Sony PlayStation 2 NCAA March Madness 2005

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated