Medal of Honor: Allied Assault - Breakthrough
Medal Of Honor was always a fantastic game. In fact, almost two years after its release, it’s still sitting proudly at the top of the shooter category in our. Its atmosphere was, and still is, unparalleled, and in the magnificent beach landing mission, it boasted arguably the best level yet seen in a first-person shooter, stunningly capturing the visceral feel of real-life warfare in a way no other game had managed.
The only real criticisms that could be levelled at the game was that it had a fair amount of visible spawning and the fact that enemy soldiers seemed to not possess Al so much as robotic homing eyes, which allowed them to see through thick fog, trees and even walls.
The game's first expansion pack, Spearhead, didn’t quite stack up to the same levels of excellence, and although it had plenty of merit, it was also padded out with a lot of relatively average levels - a trait for which add-on packs are notorious.
And, sure enough, what we get with Breakthrough is a load of not-so-memorable missions that do nothing to improve on the awesome original and mostly retread old ground.
It's a very good shooter, of course. The question is: wouldn’t you prefer to play Medal Of Honor again, using savegames to skip the boring parts, rather than fork out 20 quid for a lesser experience?
However, Breakthrough starts off intriguingly enough, with the first of 11 single-player missions taking place in a chaotic desert level. While the novelty of parading around blindly in a sandstorm wears off fairly quickly, the sense of a big war with loads of people involved - and lots of 'em dying - going on around you is as present and as horrifying as ever. There's gunfire, blood-curdling screams, shells exploding with limb-tearing force and orders being shouted.
Medal Of Doom
But of course, this is not a realistic war recreation and you're soon facing legions of Nazis alone in true Rambo-style. After the Call Of Duty demo doing such a good job of making you feel part of a team, it’s a bit disappointing to go back to the usual FPS "one man against the world" motif. In later levels especially, it really does descend into Doom-like mindlessness, as you are forced to litter the screen with hundreds of dead enemies.
Before that there are some good settings to visit, though never anything to compare with the original's standout moments. There's a great scene in Italy where you have to cross a Venice-type river while bullets and bombs drop around the spectacular architecture. Then there’s the time aboard a battleship, when the bomb you've planted goes off before you can leave and you have to shoot your way out of the capsized ship, floors acting as walls and fire coming from all sorts of disorienting angles.
Other moments, however, are memorable for all the wrong reasons. In one level you have to take out wave after wave of tanks from the first floor of a building using a mortar, trying to calculate the trajectories of the shells as speedily as possible, and dying many, many times in the process. It’s the opposite of fun.
A Plague Of Cheats
There are some excellent in game cut-scenes in the best Half-Life style, in which you’ll see lots of things going on around you, such as the wounded being carried about, synchronised explosions and the like. And it's great to hear Italian voices for a change when you're fighting Mussolini's fascists.
But it all too often feels like a straight line to the objective, killing everything that moves and swearing at the old dirty (and much more noticeable) tricks the game uses to make things more difficult. The Al is as unnatural and X-ray sighted as ever. Enemies still appear out of nowhere and sometimes keep respawning until you’ve activated the next script. You don’t always get the right weapon for the job and ammo can become so scarce as to be ridiculous.
But most annoying of all is the sheer number of enemies in later levels that just keep coming and coming. It's less about skill than about stamina at this stage. Especially since you get another of the overused mounted machine guns with which to pick them off. At least you needn’t worry about it being too short. It goes on for a fair while, and you'll find endless days of shooting mayhem are to be had, even if you’re a Medal Of Honor veteran.
With Pacific Assault looking like the step forward Medal Of Honor sorely needs, and the Call Of Duty demo already proving that the MOH developers who formed Infinity Ward have made considerable progress, Breakthrough feels like a bit of a let down, and a bit dated to boot. If you do take a punt on Breakthrough, expect to be vaguely entertained and fairly challenged. Just don't expect to feel the kind of thrill you felt when you played the magnificent onginal.
New Multiplayer Antics
Arguably the best reason to splash out on this add-on is the online mode Liberation, which is essentially Medal Of Honor’s take on one of our favourite Quake III mods, Jailbreak. Players killed are put in jail and must wait for their teammates to rescue them - the first team to get all of the opposition in jail wins. It makes a nice change but it's hardly groundbreaking and is nowhere near as suited to MOHs slower style of play as it is to the lightning-quick Quake III. Another multiplayer addition is the introduction of a minesweeper class. You get to use one during the single-player campaign and it's even duller than it sounds. In fact the screenshot we took of it was so boring we refused to print it.
Download Medal of Honor: Allied Assault - Breakthrough
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
You've Got to admire EA. Nothing if not consistent, their ethos of building up a name and then flogging it for all it's worth has brought in millions of dollars and a place at number one in the publisher's league table. Medal Of Honoris the latest franchise to whet EA's financial appetite and despite losing most of the original development team to Infinity Ward (home of MOH rival Call Of Duty), they're ploughing on with Breakthrough -11 single-player missions spread across Italy and Africa, along with nine multiplayer maps and a new game mode. Liberation (think Jailbreak for Quake III).
We've been playing some pre-Alpha code of the game, which shows there's still plenty of work to be done, but there's enough going on to suggest that Breakthrough might well turn out to be a cracking play. There are the obligatory new weapons and vehicles (like the Carcano rifle and a British bazooka-style weapon called the PIAT) and the visuals look as good as ever. But it's the philosophy of developers TKO that reeled us in from the off.
The very first mission plunges you into a massively intense firefight in the Kasserine Pass, hampered by a sandstorm and the fact that you've only just installed the game and thought you were going to get a few minutes to acclimatise. Reminiscent of the Omaha Beach landing, the first thing you do is panic and sprint for cover, before inching forward and ridding the world of a few Germans, then getting in a tank and letting rip at bunkers and machine gun nests. As a means of getting your attention it works, and the action doesn't really let up from that point on. Later missions see you storming a fortress in a rowing boat (stop laughing at the back!), fighting running I battles through Italian vineyards and ending up at Monte Battaglia where the Allies are outnumbered 100 to 1 - just in case the rowing boats and vineyards had given you the impression the developers had gone soft.
Some flaws remain: it's criminally hard in places (were the Germans really that unerringly accurate, and if so why did they lose the war?), the driveable vehicles haven't materialized (TKO got them working but not to a decent-enough standard), the squad-based parts are pretty erratic and it's still as linear as join-the-dots. But, even at this early stage, it plays brilliantly and the developers seem to have succeeded in making every mission memorable and intense, rather than just concentrating on one or two set pieces. If the next few weeks are spent balancing the difficulty level and tweaking the Al rather than pissing away time playing the new multiplayer maps, Breakthrough could well succeed where most other expansion packs fall.