Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is a first person shooter game made by Electronic Arts that currently retails for $49.99. You are Lt. Mike Powell, the silent protagonist, and you have been handed the mission of doing whatever your offscreen colonel tells you to do, be it chewing up Stuka bombers with your machine gun, going undercover in a Nazi base, or participating in the D-Day invasion.

The graphics are simply stunning. Based off the Quake 3 Arena engine, Electronic Arts have taken this engine and driven it to new heights. Very fine attention has been paid to detail; every weapon is an actual replication of its real life weapon. Tree trunk textures vary from one tree to the next; leaves sway gently in the wind when you stand still. Character models look extremely realistic - 'blinking' is done by the actual model itself instead of an animated texture. Since it is based off of the Quake 3 Arena engine, the minimum system specs are not very demanding.

A noticable flaw is the lack of any blood whatsoever. Electronic Arts apparently feels that gamers are not mature enough to handle the fact that humans bleed when shot. Clearly, EA is trying to appeal to a wider market segment as it has been bestowed the rating of "T" by the equally evil ESRB. Because of this, it becomes extremely difficult to tell when you have hit a person. An unofficial patch is out to remedy this.

Multiplayer has been wildly successful; at the time of this writing there are some 7000 players on at any given time. The lack of any real CD key checking has helped ensure this game's widespread popularity; it is often a staple at LAN parties along with classics like Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Starcraft, and Quake 3 Arena. A few balance issues still plague the game:

  • History has been rewritten with the Omaha Beach multiplayer map. Instead of rushing up the beach to get mowed down, the Allies simply camped at the boat and sniped those Germans foolish enough to man the MG42 bunker guns
  • Rocket whores prevail in this game. The rocket launcher may as well have gone unchanged from Quake 3 Arena, since reloading a rocket is absurdely short, and the damage is roughly the equivalent of launching a thermonuclear warhead
  • The Allies may as well have been equipped with BB pistols - the Thompson, and the bazooka are the only worthy weapons that the Allies have. The MGS has a pathetic 20 rounds compared to the German machine gun's 30 rounds, with a slower rate of fire to boot too.

Despite all this, the gameplay is truly astonishing; the Omaha Beach mission is brilliantly planned and mapped. It's not entirely realistic, but Lt. Powell had to be superhuman or else he'd be perforated the moment he stepped off of the boat

All in all, an excellent game, and one quite worthy of your $50

In Fall 2002, Electronic Arts released Medal of Honor Spearhead, the official expansion pack for Medal of Honor Allied Assault.

This time around, players are put in the role of Sergeant Jack Barnes, more of a regular soldier than past MOH heroes Jimmy Patterson and Mike Powell. Although Spearhead has its share of infiltration missions, there’s less of a focus on OSS espionage and more emphasis on “experiencing” what it was like to be a solider in the Second World War. This means more AI squad mates to fight alongside, as in MOHAA’s excellent Africa and Omaha Beach levels.

The game opens with a scene straight out of the TV show Band of Brothers as Jack Barnes parachutes into Normandy in the wee hours before the D-Day invasion. As you plummet thousands of feet to the earth with anti-aircraft fire blasting away around you, cargo planes exploding and other soldiers screaming in terror, Spearhead offers one of the most immersive recreations of a major World War II offensive -- Spearhead’s opening is even more impressive than Allied Assault’s famous “Omaha Beach” stage.

From there, the game propels Jack Barnes through the war -- from destroying a bridge in Normandy, to suffering artillery fire in the Ardennes (another scene straight out of Band of Brothers), to entering Berlin with the Red Army invasion force.

CPU requirements are a bit steeper this time out, and I frequently found framerates dropping into the teens even on my Athlon 1800+ system with Geforce 4 Ti4200 card. Still, besides a few hiccups, this is easily one of the best first person shooter expansion packs I’ve played, even if the single player missions are a bit short.

Here are the single player game levels as described on the EA website:

Campaign 1: Destroy the Bridge

Mission 1_1 Welcome to France
After parachuting in about five miles inland from Omaha Beach with the British 6th Airborne division, you set out on a top-secret mission to destroy German fortified artillery positions. In a matter of hours, Allied forces will begin the D-Day invasion. Your success or failure in knocking out these installations will have a huge impact on what happens when the troops land on the beach.

Mission 1_2 The Causeway
Your new mission arrives via radio transmission: destroy a key enemy-held bridge and eliminate the German colonel in charge of defending it. After recovering from the jump, you and your five-man squad, you move forward knowing that your highly dangerous mission is of vital importance. By successfully destroying the bridge, you will cripple the enemy’s ability to transport heavy artillery by train to the Normandy coast. Before blowing up the bridge, you must first cross the river to locate the Nazi colonel … and it won’t be easy.

Mission 1_3 The Other Side of the River
After crossing the river, you and the remaining members of your squad must hunt down the evasive colonel. Searching from house to house, you won’t stop until you find him and carry out one of your prime mission objectives—his assassination. You’ll need to be resourceful, using German artillery and locating air-dropped supplies. And you’ll also need all the firepower you can muster when facing German Tiger tanks and other heavy artillery. Ultimately, you’ll need to rely on all of your training to blow the bridge before a train loaded with heavy artillery departs the station for the Normandy coast.

Campaign 2: Assault in the Ardennes

Mission 2_1 Into the Woods
While attempting to capture a strategic town in the Ardennes, a group of U.S. soldiers has been cut off from Allied supply lines. You and your small squad have been ordered to steal a German supply truck and divert it to the isolated soldiers. Loaded with medical supplies, weapons, ammunition, and food, this truck represents the last hope for the men trapped in the snow-blanketed forest. Camouflaged enemy infantry and tank patrols will be a few of the obstacles you’ll face when attempting this daring rescue operation.

Mission 2_2 The Greatest Escape
It wasn’t easy to survive the threats in the forest, but your team finally tracked down the precious supply truck. Now things really get tricky. While another team member commandeers the truck, you jump into the back of an enemy half-track and provide escort. By blasting away at the enemy with the half-track’s mounted machine-gun, you’ll need to run a gauntlet of Nazi firepower before delivering the supplies to the group of cut-off U.S. soldiers. It’s up to you to protect the truck at all costs.

Mission 2_3 A Night in Hell
After a few hours after escorting the supply truck to your fellow soldiers, you’re all finally sitting around enjoying some of the hard-fought spoils of combat. In a flash, the scene turns to chaos. A barrage of enemy shells shatters the nighttime quiet, and you’re in the midst of an all-out firefight. With German infantry and tanks storming across the open field, you’ll need to think fast. From picking off the enemy one at a time with your sniper rifle, to mowing them down with a mounted machine-gun, to taking out Tiger tanks with a bazooka, use whatever it takes to stop the advance.

Mission 2_4 What Comes Around …
Having survived the enemy assault, you and the other surviving troops advance on a town being used as a base of operations for an artillery company. Just a few hours earlier, the enemy attempted to cross a field and penetrate your lines. Now, you must cross that same field and enter the occupied town. It’s your job to go building by building and room by room to rid the town of Nazis. Just when you think you have things under control, you’ll have to deal with the early morning strafing runs of a Luftwaffe fighter. Not the best way to spend Christmas morning.

Campaign 3: The Fall of Berlin

Mission 3_1 A Traitor Amongst Us
The German forces have been routed on all fronts. All that remains is Berlin, the still-pumping heart of the once-mighty German war machine. American and British forces have ceased their advance, conceding the capture of the city to the Russian Red Army. However, before the final assault, you’ve been ordered into the city to uncover vital documents, including lists of double agents, traitors and corrupt politicians. The Russians have begrudgingly agreed to give you a small window of time to retrieve what you can before they launch a full-scale assault on the city. Don’t be long, though. The Red Army is not as interested in these documents as it is in crushing the last remaining Nazi stronghold and bringing the Third Reich to its knees.

Mission 3_2 The Empire Falls
After locating the documents, now comes the hard part: getting out of the city alive. It took longer than you would have liked to find the papers, and now the first wave of Allied bombers is roaring above the city. A Russian T34 tank stands ready to transport you out of the city. Use familiar landmarks to help guide you as you alternate between firing on enemy tanks with the main turret and picking off scrambling infantry with the tank’s rear-mounted machine gun. At last, you reach the bridge crossing where your mission began. In the massive tank battle that ensues, you must destroy two bridges and fend off many tanks until the next Allied bomber wave arrives to finish off the Nazi forces once and for all.

In addition to the single player game, Spearhead offers 12 new multiplayer maps including the Arnhem bridge and the streets of Berlin, and a new mode called “Tug of war” where each team must take and hold various control points. This is where you’ll get the most value from the expansion -- the new maps and the addition of smoke grenades greatly extend the life of Medal of Honor. If you’re sick of fighting it out classic MOHAA maps such as Destroyed Village, Southern France, and Stalingrad, then this expansion will give you some new high-quality environments to fight in.

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