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Medal of Honor: Allied Assault

In the latter part of 2001, a few key top-notch first-person shooters were released, including Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. Both received rave reviews. Now Electronic Arts and 2015 have come to the party, following a great deal of hype and eager anticipation, issuing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. In many ways Medal of Honor represents the crest of a wave of interest in the Second World War, and it is no coincidence that the same company responsible for the movie Saving Private Ryan -- Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks Interactive -- originally conceived this PC title. The movie and the computer game have many highly similar scenarios, including a detailed replication of the traumatic Omaha Beach invasion. So with this backdrop, is this the cream of the first-person shooter crop?

In the context of European World War II combat, you play the role of Lieutenant Mike Powell, an experienced American Army Ranger working for the Office of Strategic Services. Because you find out little background information about Powell and he never says a word, there is little reason for players to identify in any meaningful way with this character aside from admiration for his physical prowess. As you progress through the many scenarios taking place between 1942 and 1945, you earn a variety of campaign and career medals; hence, the title of the game, named for the highest award bestowed by the United States on members of its armed forces.

The over 30 levels composing the six missions are all sizable and spread out in diverse locales such as France, Germany, Norway, and even Algeria. There is a somewhat discernible connection among the missions despite the variety of tasks to be accomplished. You undertake infiltration, sabotage, search-and-rescue, seek-and-destroy, and even secretive theft operations. Without question, the most impressive mission is the stunning re-creation of the famous landing on Omaha Beach, although the scenario involving a submarine is a close second. In some you have to move fast and avoid foes while in others you have to actually obliterate them. Even without much variety in the kinds of enemies you encounter, the overall level design is high quality.

While stealth often appears, its implementation is problematic. Even when you are hiding behind foliage or making virtually no sound at all, your adversaries have the uncanny knack of spotting you right away. Moreover, they have a decided advantage in this regard, as they can lie down prone and shoot around corners to hide their position, while you have no such option. Nonetheless, attempting to avoid detection by search lights and watchtowers can be truly enjoyable, and the opportunity to use stealth adds depth to the gameplay.

Although you operate solo in many of the single-player missions, the squad-based action is particularly intriguing. Despite the limits on artificial intelligence to be discussed later, your comrades frequently protect you when you are under heavy attack. There are even times when you have to carry out orders issued by your fellow soldiers. The biggest problem is that you have no ability to influence the movement of these allies, as you would in many real-time strategy offerings, and as a result you end up having to react to their movements more than you should have to. This ends up reducing your own ability to come up with innovative tactical approaches to the combat.


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