Medal of Honor: European Assault Review
Medal of Honor: European Assault is the latest incarnation of EA’s long-running World War II series; a series that at this point has had a longer run than WWII itself. European Assault brings the series back to, you guessed it, Europe and puts you in the boots of William Holt. Holt is an OSS officer (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA) who works with Allied forces on a variety of dangerous covert operations. As Holt you will work with the British SAS and Russian partisans in addition to aiding US forces during the Battle of the Bulge.
European Assault is a dichotomy of styles. On the one hand you have a very respectful presentation of the American war effort and the soldiers who took part in World War II that gives plenty of honor where it is very rightfully due. In fact, the opening montages and cutscenes will evoke comparisons to Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, down to the background music and soldiers’ narration. When you get into the actual gameplay though, the atmosphere changes to a very arcade-like, video game experience. The Medal of Honor games have never really been tactical shooters or emphasized realism over gameplay and story, but in European Assault the series has moved to pure shoot ‘em up territory.
All of the hallmarks of an arcade game are here. Dropped weapons, ammos, and health packs appear as power-ups, with large icons that float above the ground at their locations and that can be seen from quite a distance away. There are "boss" enemies who in this case take the form of German officers with very high health ratings. And then there’s the continue system. Should you lose all of your health you will die, but it won’t necessarily mean the end of the level. European Assault rewards you with continues when you complete levels and objectives, and if you have any continues saved up when you die you will be brought back to life on the spot and you can keep playing as if nothing happened to you.
Probably the most arcade-like touch in European Assault, though, has got to be the adrenaline mode. As you kill enemies you will fill an adrenaline meter and once this meter is full you’ll be able to initiate adrenaline mode. In this mode you are completely invulnerable and have unlimited ammunition. Basically you’re allowed to enable a "god mode" cheat during play without the need to actually enter a cheat code. The mode lasts for only a short time as the adrenaline meter drains back down to zero, at which point you begin filling it again with each kill. It’s a great way to blast your way through some particularly tough spots, but it is a most definite departure from realism and will make those looking for a World War II experience on their Xbox cringe.
European Assault also differs from its predecessors in that before entering a mission you’re given a list of the objectives that you’ll need to complete to finish the mission. In addition to your primary objective there will also be secondary objectives, but these will remain hidden until you discover them during play. This is an interesting aspect of the game because discovering these hidden objectives will require a little exploration on your part. If you’ve played a Medal of Honor game before then you’ll know that they tend to be pretty linear, providing you with a designated path to follow as you move from one scripted event to the next. European Assault opens things a bit by giving you the freedom to select your path through a level and by encouraging you to explore the entire level to reveal and complete the hidden objectives. While there are still plenty of locked doors, crates, and the like blocking your way, the additional degree of freedom afforded you is a welcome addition to the game. You can complete the game by accomplishing only the primary objectives, but the secondary objectives add more life to the game and help extend your gameplay.