Saturday, 7 December 2013

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (PC)

Medal of Honor Allied Assault logo
Fans of murky faded screenshots rejoice, as today I'm taking a quick look at a classic World War 2 first person shooter (again).

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault is the third game in the franchise after PlayStation exclusives Medal of Honor and Medal of Honor: Underground. Weirdly though, this never got a console release; instead the Xbox, PS2 and Game Cube got their own game a few months later called Medal of Honor: Frontline which was never released on PC. Maybe they just wanted to make sure each system got a game tailored to the machine's strengths, or maybe it was a deliberate scheme to confuse and annoy me, I don't know.

But what I do know is that 22 of Allied Assault's developers (including the lead designers) went on to form a new company called Infinity Ward after this and spent the next seven years building up a rival WW2 FPS franchise of their own that went on to achieve a certain measure of success. So I suppose you could say that this is Call of Duty 0.

(Click the pics to view in x-treme 1280x1024 resolution. I'm sorry folks, I've got a retro monitor so all I can get are retro screenshots.)

This may look like a perfectly normal WWII planning room, but it's actually a video game menu in disguise. I'm a bit surprised to see one of these 'guess what bit of furniture does what' menu screens show up in a 21st century game as I'd thought they'd all gone extinct during the early 90s.

Actually now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure this option menu is classic Medal of Honor. I mean seriously, I think it might be the exact same one as in the original PlayStation game. 

Medal of Honor (PlayStation)
Yeah, that's the same scene all right, though the officers from the PlayStation game apparently got bored and left in the meantime. It even plays the same increasingly irritating drum roll sound clip every time I select something.

Okay then, the map is 'New Game', the paper tray is 'Load/Save', the stack of radio equipment is 'Options', the chair is 'Rewatch Unskippable Intro Videos', the door on the right is 'DLC Outfits'... maybe. I dunno. LET'S CHOOSE NEW GAME!

Hey the game's got a level select, that's awesome. Though right now I can only go to Arzew on the coast of the Mediterranean and not (for instance) Normandy to take part in the D-Day landings featured on the box art.

I've also got the option of basic training, which is a nice surprise. If I remember right the Call of Duty games generally force you to go through the tutorial every time you start a new game, just to make sure you're in a bad mood before the thing even starts.

Oh go on then, I'll give it a look anyway. It's been a while since I've had to shoot a target five times with a half dozen different weapons.


Uh, sir? You really want me to blow up this tank... this actual expensive looking tank... using that delicious looking slice of cake on the box to the left? Well if you're sure! Personally I think you could've sent me to blow up a plank of wood with "TANK" scrawled onto it and I'd get just as much practice and experience out of it, but hey you're the boss, I'm just here to learn.

Then I got to shoot a target five times with a half dozen different weapons but I'll skip over that for you.


Alright, my first mission takes place in late 1942 on the eve of Operation Torch (the Allied invasion of Vichy France controlled North Africa in case you care). I'm playing as Lt. Mike Powell, an American Army Ranger working for the OSS, and I've been invited to join these gentlemen in the back of a truck for a bit of a cutscene. I can turn my head and look out the back, but I'm absolutely forbidden from talking or doing anything to interrupt their conversation.

Our objectives are twofold:

1. Rescue Carth Onasi from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

2. Assist him in blowing shit up. We need to take out the coastal artillery batteries so that our landing craft can move in and get this invasion started.

Damn, everything was going so well until a checkpoint guard saw through our disguise. Wait, are we even wearing disguises? Man we didn't plan this one out very well at all.

Still, some quick thinking with a pistol has resolved the situation and now we're free to...

Okay video game, I'd like you to get me my rifle now and allow me to step of this bloody truck. Quickly please, if you don't mind.

Using red barrels for cover, seriously?

Well that particular exchange of fire ended pretty much as you'd expect (booom), though hitting the button for my victory reload didn't. It seems that the M1 Garand is a temperamental rifle, which doesn't much like being reloaded until each and every bullet has been expelled from the barrel.

By the way this level has a really heroic adventure movie Dreamworks-style soundtrack by Michael Giacchino. I feel like I'm going to bump into Indiana Jones coming the other way any minute.

I barely managed to turn two corners in town before my team got trapped in an ambush. Now enemies keep pouring in across the rooftops and I get the feeling that the game's waiting for me to do something about it.

Okay, the objective compass is pointing me towards the MG42 turret in that window that the others aren't bright enough to hide from, so I'll try to get inside and take out the gunner.

Success, it's my turret now! Hey, I guess there actually is an end to these assholes, I just needed to use the proper tool.

Oh crap, it seems that I've ran out of my own guys too; I'm completely on my own now. I don't know whether it's because I was too slow to figure out what to do or if they were just fated scripted to get shot here, but I'm planning to feel guilty about it until I'm proven innocent.

Man, did you three just not hear the submachine gun fire outside or something? I was expecting to have to clear out each room carefully, but if running in like an idiot and spraying submachine gun bullets everywhere gets the job done then I'm not complaining. It suits the music better anuway.

Hey, I think there's a captured SAS agent upstairs...

Okay I rescued Carth Onasi from the house and now I have to sneak past these searchlights to... holy shit is he actually using a health kit there? That's... unusual. Uh what was I saying? Never mind, probably wasn't important.

I decided to take a moderately impatient approach to slipping into the fortress, accidentally stepped into the searchlight's beam and was instantly cut down by turret fire. My first game over. Turns out that I was supposed to wait and follow Carth's lead. There's no checkpoints so I have to rely on quicksaves, though fortunately I love quicksaves so that's not a huge issue for me.

Clearing out the fortress basically involved walking through and putting bullets into anyone wearing a beige uniform and I was able to recover Carth's explosives no problem. Using them on the other hand... hasn't been any trickier really, except out in this yard where the enemy is using advanced tactics like mounted gun turrets and lying down to fox me.

How am I supposed to know who is and isn't dead out here if the enemies can lie on the ground? I can barely even see this bastard at all! Oh but I can see a tank right next to him. Time to put all that training earlier into practice I reckon (booom).

Well this is great. My reward for blowing up the artillery and tanks is a bloody rail turret level! Two of them in fact, in a row. I honestly can't stand it when these kinds of games take away my ability to dodge behind walls or search for health kits like this as it puts all the pressure on my ability to shoot at pixels in the distance before they send a rocket my way.

Hey Carth, how about I drive and you fire the gun? Or better yet, you drive and I walk! I'll meet you there once I've killed everyone.


Four months later the two of us have been sent to a U-Boat base in Norway to sabotage a prototype radar scanner. I'm supposed to cover Carth as he opens up this gate for me and then the two of us can blow shit up together again like old times.

The thing is, I just can't seem to keep him alive. I've tried sniping the Nazis, I've tried running in with a machine gun, I've tried throwing over grenades... I'm never fast enough to get them all in time. I'm starting to think that this is just plain scripted to happen and all I can do is play along with the narrative.

R.I.P. Major Grillo. You always knew where to find the explosives.

This seems to be a sniper level, which adds a bit of variety to the gameplay. Now I'm shooting at enemies way in the distance instead of shooting at them up close!

Though this doesn't entirely work in my favour, as so far I've been keeping my health topped up with the medi-kits occasionally dropped by enemies, and I can't do that when they're way over there. There's no regenerating life in this so I'm not going to last long unless I find some health hidden behind a hut, and this game doesn't generally do that kind of thing.

Also if an enemy gets a bead on me first I can get into trouble fast, as incoming fire tends to knock my screen around, making it hard to counter-attack.


You know, I have no idea what game these three are playing but I'm pretty sure they're cheating. My first clue was the fact that two of them have exactly the same hand of cards.

Oh by the way, I slipped inside the enemy base and found a clean, pressed Nazi uniform just sitting there for me to steal. Fortunately Lt. Powell can change his shirt faster than he can reload a rifle, so no one caught him with his pants down.

Sup dawgs, check this shit out. I can't read German but I'm pretty sure it says I'm your boss and you've gotta let me into that room now.

Also if an angry naked man comes up to you later claiming that there's an intruder who stole his uniform, well you should probably shoot that guy on sight just to be safe because I took a look out of the window earlier and holy shit there's a lot of our guys lying dead in the snow out there today. Peace.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault submarine dock
Hey, this really is a submarine base. I was starting to wonder.

One slight problem though: I may have accidentally shot a few people I shouldn't have and set off an alarm. But it's fine, I can handle it. I'm pretty sure I've got more bullets than they've got soldiers.


For fuck's sake do these people ever stop coming? Okay I get it, I'm a bad bad man for not playing along with the secret undercover sneaking bit, can we move on already? I'm actually starting to wonder if these enemies are infinite; it wouldn't surprise me from the people who made the Call of Duty games.

Okay fuck it, I'm making a run for the U-Boat. Let's see them fit infinite men into one of those things.

This thing is so tiny! They didn't even have space to add doors, so I have to crawl through hatches to get between rooms. I'm going to go explore it for a bit, maybe take some more pictures. Actually I'll plant some explosives first, then explore.

Oh wait, turns out that they're timed bombs with a disturbingly short fuse. Aw fuck it, I'll go explore anyway. Getting blown up is probably more fun than facing off against the infinite enemies upstairs.


You know, I'm getting the definite impression that these guys aren't ever going to stop coming around this corner. The screenshot is a bit misleading as the corpses vanish when there's too many on screen, I've killed way more of them than it looks.

Okay I'm going to reload and then make a run for it. Three, two, one, GO!

Oh for fuck's sake! How can anyone make a game about slaughtering Nazis become tedious? I didn't even know that was possible.

It's not that there's too many of them, it's that there may be no end to them. Once a game has added that element of doubt I can't ever assume that I can systematically clear out areas of a level again. Every shoot out like this could be a total waste of my time unless I continually press forward.


Aww shit, here it is: the Normandy landings on D-Day. Things just got real.

Because of [semi-plausible excuse] they're sending me in with the infantry to storm Omaha beach. Of course the real reason they've sent an OSS agent to the front line like this is because they want to stick the player into the most iconic scene from Saving Private Ryan.

I think it'd be fair to say that the original Medal of Honor game (and the WW2 FPS explosion in general) may owe its existence to the massive impact that movie had. It just took a while before they had the technology to rip the D-Day scene off properly.

Is it weird that even as bullets ricochet off the hull, shells crash into the water around me, and other boats explode, the thing that really sticks out to me about this landing sequence is that the ramp at the front is missing the little letterbox window?

It's not that I'm some kind of WW2 buff, they've just shown this image about four times already as I was installing and loading the game up and I've gotten used to seeing it there.

Well I was wondering how they'd convey the utter madness of charging at machine gun nests on an open beach while still keeping the gameplay fun and the answer is... they kinda didn't. Right now I'm playing as the hundreds of people who got senselessly slaughtered, one quickload at a time.

You know, I've been playing a lot of classic shooters lately and I've never once felt that regenerating health would have made them any more entertaining to play. But this one could really do with it. Plus (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it needs people shouting out clear instructions on what I'm meant to do here, because after getting my head shot off over and over just trying to run between these rusty metal asterisks I'm kinda losing my interest in the whole affair.

Not that I think this is a bad idea in concept, a similar Enemy at the Gates inspired level was pulled off pretty well in Call of Duty if I recall, I just feel that when a level like this is kicking my ass way more than the ones where my shooting skill was a factor, then something's gone wrong there.

Well the good news is that I've finally made it up to the part where they can't shoot at me any more. The bad news is that now I've got to run out in the open again and I've only got 21 health! See that guy getting sniped by a turret in front of me? Well I'm next, after this dude gets around to laying down a little covering fire for me to get moving.

I miss those carefree days in North Africa when I was running down streets and hallways, capping fools and scavenging health kits.


Those bastard turret gunners just keep respawning. I made it to the second crater along but now I'm stuck here. I can't move or they'll shoot me, but if I shoot them they just come back. I think... I think I'm just going to sit here and cry for a while. In a very mature, dignified and manly way.


This is more like it. I've been ordered to assault a manor house converted into an enemy command post, alone, and I get to do it any way I feel like. I've been sneaking up on enemies to take them down quietly for a change and now I even get to choose what door I want to use to enter the building.

The best bit of all is that I haven't had to charge directly at a MG-42 emplacement yet.


Awesome, I'm back to doing what I do best: running into rooms like a maniac and shoving guns into people's faces. There's the face of someone who's just come to terms with how badly his day's turned out, rendered with the power of the Quake III engine. Or id Tech 3, whatever it's called now.

By the way, the game is entirely bloodless. This is a very clean version of World War 2, where everyone just falls over when shot and there isn't a hint of injury.


Hold on a second you infinite bastards, I'm only human and I need to reload occasionally.

It seems that when I cross an invisible line on the floor enemies start to continually spawn out of nowhere and chase me down the road. And I *know* they're coming out of nowhere, because there's a wide open field beyond that guard post and I've cleared the place out. But this isn't what's really annoying me right now.

Nope, number one in the 'list of things that are pissing me off at this time' is actually the guy preventing me from slipping comfortably behind cover by continually shooting me in the back every time I try.

But this is all I see when I look for him. I mean seriously, this is just fucking ridiculous. And while I'm searching through the bushes for this guy, I've got perpetual Nazis and their interminable dogs biting me in the ass.

This isn't the first time I've been fighting soldiers in the bushes either. I had a sniper battle with one guy earlier and most of that was spent running between cover and poking my head out to try to make out which bit of the bush the tracer fire was coming from.

Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Mission Statistics
Anyway, I finally just ran straight down the road, backwards, shooting dogs the whole way, then jumped into the back of a truck and that was that.

Damn, 131 enemies killed. No wonder I'm exhausted. My boss tells me that my next mission will involve escorting a tank crew and keeping them alive, so I'm going to quit now before I end up snapping my mouse cable in despair.

All right, here's what I've come to think about Medal of Honor: Allied Assault during our time together: it's a pretty well made game built on solid first person shooter foundations, with some underwhelming environments and questionable design choices. I appreciate the developers trying to mix things up and add variety, but I wish they'd done it in a way that didn't inspire me to try hammering my desk into interesting new shapes with my forehead.

Though every level that pissed me off was followed up with another that'd drag me right back in. These are pretty huge levels as well; just when I'd think that I was done with a place, a gate would often open to reveal that I'd only been fighting through one small part of the map.

What else can I say about it? I know, I'll use bullet points to list some dry facts for a change.
  • Lt. Powell has the worst jump in first person shooter history. There's a delay on it and he barely gets any height at all. I give it an F-.
  • The level select only lets you select chapters instead of individual levels for no good reason I can see. So if you want to go walking around Normandy again you've gotta go through D-Day first.
  • Enemies aren't robots that immediately lock on and gun you down when you enter their line of sight and they flinch when they're being shot (+10 points for having hats I can shoot off.)
  • The game was made before iron sights and a two gun carrying limit became mandatory for military shooters, so you can carry basically everything at once.
In conclusion: I wasn't exactly playing it with a huge grin on my face, but it has its moments and appreciated that most of the time I felt like I was in a video game, not a scripted action movie. I do kind of want to keep playing, so I guess I have to give it a star.

So that's one more first person shooter down, 600 something to go. Please leave a comment if you find that you have something to say about the game, my site, the World War II FPS genre, or anything else relevant.


  1. I remember getting incredibly frustrated at the exact last gameplay screenshot you have here, which prompted me to turn on god-mode just to get it over with.
    And just as you said, the frustration would lead to something really fun, and so on in a not endless cycle of enjoyment and wretchedness.

  2. Ouch, you shot like 59 people in the groin? Wow, I like that it keeps track of that specific data haha.

    1. There's no way to know exactly how many people I hit in the groin really. Maybe I hit 59 people once, perhaps I hit one poor bastard 59 times.

      In my defence I was aiming for their heads for the most part, until they got all respawny on me and I lost my patience.

  3. Nice job, as always!
    By the way, I'd like to request a game: Project: Snowblind. It's an FPS set in the future, a sort of spiritual sequel to Deus Ex made by the same people. (Have I got your attention now? XD) I would say more, but the rules say that you have to play it blind, so I hope that information is enough to convince you. Anyways, there's a PS2 version and a PC version, the latter of which is on Steam for only $6 USD. I'm not forcing it on you; just a little heads-up if you or mecha-neko need a little something extra to cover - and it's not a bad game, either, :)

    1. Thanks man, it's appreciated.

      Project: Snowblind is definitely on my radar, though I'm going to hold on pulling the trigger on that until it's a better value target. Though if I get that I'll also have to play Invisible War first if I want to go through the games in order... so this idea isn't without its horrifying drawbacks.

  4. Iron sights were implemented year before in Operation Flashpoint. Very good game, btw!


Semi-Random Game Box