Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault Review

Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault (MoHPA) is as much interactive movie as it is action game, and one with pretty high production values at that. It is a game filled with atmosphere, authenticity, and an overriding aura of respect for the men and women who actually lived through the events depicted in the game. Sure, the events in the game are heavily scripted and your path predetermined, but the gameplay is challenging and absorbing enough that youíll barely even notice.

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The Pearl Harbor level is an amazing experience.

MoHPA certainly starts out with a bang. You begin in a Higgins Boat hitting the beach at Tarawa. Youíll need to survive withering fire from the beach and a jetty, reaching the shore to only be inevitably knocked unconscious and begin to flashback to the start of your career in the Marines. Itís an interesting plot device that really helps to reinforce the movie feel of the game. After the relative calm of basic training and a nice driving tour of the base to which youíre assigned, things get very nasty, very quickly. It seems that the base to which youíve been assigned is Pearl Harbor, and your first day on the job is December 7th, 1941 (yeah, they made you start your assignment on a Sunday morning before 6:00 AM, but youíre a Marine, you can take it). From there it is an amazing scene of chaos and quite an adrenaline rush as you need to dodge strafing Zeroes to reach a PT boat, defend the boat from aircraft as you zip around the harbor, work to save the West Virginia from capsizing and then rescue trapped and injured sailors, and finally man the deck AA guns to protect both your ship and the Nevada as it tries to steam out of the harbor. Itís as intense as it sounds, in fact more so. Imagine a sky filled with torpedo planes, fighters, and dive bombers, ships ablaze with fire as their superstructures crumple, and smoke and flames and explosions everywhere. Itís one of the more memorable levels to ever appear in a shooter.

From there things go through a very decided change, and not necessarily for the better. You will spend a large amount of time moving through dense jungle foliage against an unseen and very aggressive enemy. It bears a striking resemblance to the play in the spate of Vietnam games that have been released recently and will invoke Vietnam flashbacks (flashforwards?) more than memories of prior Medal of Honor games. As a result, MoHPA suffers from a few of the same issues as its Vietnam-based cousins. The first is a matter of personal taste and your enjoyment of the game will depend greatly on whether or not you find it fun to move slowly through levels where you donít see much other than foliage and have to fight enemies that you often can not see. One gamerís tense and realistic level is anotherís tedious and frustrating one Ė youíll have to make up your won mind on that one. The unseen enemy is an issue for everyone, though, as the enemy does not seem to operate with the same handicap. You would think that by cautiously advancing under the cover of thick vegetation youíd have a decent chance on sneaking up on the enemy on more than one occasion. However, the enemy has an uncanny ability to spot your approach and will open fire on you every time, even though you probably canít see them at all or can even tell from where they are firing. In addition, the Japanese soldiers have an annoying habit of charging you with bayonets and you wonít be able to see them until they are on top of you.

In a way the charging enemy is a good inclusion in the game as it reflects the boldness of the Japanese Army in World War II and realistically reflects the fact that combat often gets up close and personal. However, the game is not really suited to be a fighter and youíre limited to a single move that lets you swing your rifle butt around by pressing the right mouse button. When you have a couple of enemies poking you with bayonets there is no way for you to fend even one of them off and the most prudent course of action is invariably to try to get the heck out of there. Wait a minute; didnít you bring a gun to this knife fight? Sure, but youíll be lucky to get one shot off before you are looking at a Japanese soldier face to face.