Game Review: Medal of Honor: Frontline

Geek specs:

Title: Medal of Honor: Frontline
Platform: Playstation 2
Genre: Action
Developer: Dreamworks Interactive
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release: May 30, 2002

Introduction: Just like it's Playstation predecessors, Frontline retains the gritty reality of war far better than any franchise to date. The colorful off-beat style and finesse of this series is overshadowed by the grim details it conceals. This is total war in all its glory.

Review: Before describing the game in any real detail, there are a few things worth noting first: Electronic Arts has attempted to create a franchise based on the most terrible era in history. World War II was truly a devastating war and a video game incarnation is no easy task. EA states that their Medal of Honor series is realistic not only because of the detailed weaponery, uniforms, battles, and tactics, but also the accuracy of which the series is based. This was not acheived in the least bit with this game. I cannot vouch for all of the games in the series, but Frontline more than bends the truth behind World War II: it breaks it. Before reading the rest of the review, just know that Frontline is very historically inaccurate which detiorated the games overall impact on me.

The hero from the original Medal of Honor, Jimmy Patterson, makes his stunning return to the frontlines. In this role, you basically become a one man army; a forerunner, if you will, to halt Nazi weapon stocking, sabotage volatile U-boats, or just simply to clear out a railroad for your fellow soldiers to travel upon. These missions comprise 60% of the game. There are, of course, many battles too where Jimmy becomes a pawn in the overall scheme. While you infiltrate a bell tower and take out the Howitzers, a small troop is on the other-side of the town dealing with a tank from across a small bridge. This is where individual efforts make a difference. Jimmy is highly skilled, but could not possibly take on an entire German army alone. Brave soldiers and even a few civilians take up arms to aid in the war effort. Use this to your advantage to save ammo (instead of blowing your cover while desperately shredding the last of your shells, allow a fellow soldier to go ahead of you to clear the way).

Graphically speaking, Frontline almost measures up to its PC forerunner, Allied Assault. Thousands of textures bring the war experience to life and the decent framerates leave little room for slow-down with all of the surrounding carnage. Soldiers sometimes showcase life-like movement, but most are chunky and poorly proportioned. They will not always die from a shot to the head and will not lose any speed if hit in the legs. This area could have been improved to ensure different reactions for each play-through. Frontline, like many other Playstation 2 games, suffers from jagged texture edges caused by that damn aliasing problem. For the most part, this is unnoticeable in the heat of battle and the game's overall beauty is not affected by it. The weapons are realistically drawn and fired as well. Each is also reloaded differently according to real life mechanics. EA did their homework in this area and I thank them for their efforts at a realisitc arsenal.

The control scheme is brilliant. Never will your head turn astray from the screen to aid your hands in finding the reload button, for instance. Movement, rotation, aiming, firing, and alternating weapons is very easy and can be performed on the fly. One of the most friendly features of the game is its custom control scheme. There are several preset configurations and a module for assigning commands to each button. Quick weapon changes and the ability to dive and duck behind barriers will become vital to your success.

After the very first mission (which imitates the landing on Omaha Beach) complete immersion sets in as the game performs a smooth transition from an FMV sequence to the game play. Factual World War II scenarios and locales can really make anyone feel like a soldier. The sheer mechanics of the game are only complimented by its brilliant sound. A beautifully crafted soundtrack lays the foundation and the many sound channels full of vibrant clamour top it all off. Tanks can be heard rolling thunderously in the distance and bullets scatter the battle field in a hail of fury. Explosions galore shake your steady hands as the Dual Shock controller rumbles in perfect sequence.

Conclusion: Despite the obvious manipulation of battle conclusions, operations, and non-existant tactics, EA has managed to create yet another tirelessly immersive war experience. Tearing apart Nazi's was never more fun. Being conservative as EA is though, you will find little gore and absolutely no blood in this title. I don't find that this hurts the war experience though as the bulk of the violence is still prevalent. The only areas I wish could be improved for the next installment is squad-based gameplay (like in Allied Assault), a less linear game experience, closer attention to detail (the fact that you can fire while crawling and climbing ladders is irritating), and, of course, more missions. Possibly from the latter part of the war in the Pacific maybe?

Ratings: (scale of 0.0 - 5.0)

Gameplay: 4.0 Graphics: 4.0
I thank EA greatly for providing a custom control scheme to cater to any gamer be they FPS buffs or just World War II fanatics. The game plays as good as it looks with ninteen very well designed levels filled with all the war carnage you can handle. If you are looking for a game to break the mold of the original Medal of Honor games, this is not it. The menus and pre-mission narratives are the same from the original. Not a top-ranking FPS, but definitely the best World War II experience out there. Thousands of textures, detailed weapons and landscapes, and better lighting effects carry dominion over the Playstation predecessors. There are many flaws, however, particularly with jagged, aliased textures and flat, undetailed background images. EA uses fog in some levels to almost cover-up the backgrounds. The character models are also very odd; fellow soldiers have little life-like appeal.

Sound: 5.0 Overall: 4.0
The horrific war atmosphere that the graphics create are complimented by the game's wonderfully orchestrated soundtrack (thanks to Michael Giacchino) and ear-popping sound effects. War never sounded more intense. Many would argue that this installment does not measure up to its PC counterpart but the fact is, this is another great World War II nostalgia game from EA that excels in many categories. It will not be awarded full points however because of its linearity and lack of either squad-based gameplay or possibly a multiplayer game which Allied Assault did have. If there was a middle ground (a 4.25 rating), Frontline would get it.

Written by Magus


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