Video games help us to visualize our fantasies. Through games, we can become evil villains, superheroes and heroic soldiers. Video games are able to do this by creating a virtual environment complete with picture, sound, and feeling. I think feeling is the most important aspect of a video game. In this world of overpowered graphics chips, it is all too common to see lifelike pictures with no emotion or heart. Medal of Honor: Frontline (MOHF) for the PlayStation 2 has the most heart of any game that I have picked up in recent memory. It is not without its flaws, but MOHF does an excellent job of transporting its player back to World War II and placing them up against the impossible.
In MOHF, you play as James (Jimmy) Patterson, an ordinary soldier who proves himself on D-Day and is then requested to carry out the most crucial and secretive of missions against dreaded Nazi Germany. In classic FPS style, you face impossible numbers of enemies solo and without fear. Have I pumped it up enough yet?
MOHF doesn’t capture any new territory on the graphics front, but the visuals are nonetheless quite good. Character models are reasonably smooth, varied, and detailed. There are a large number of character animations and movement is reasonably lifelike. Enemies do at times appear to be moving on tracks but I feel this is a function of the AI system and not the graphics engine. MOHF has all of the standard features expected of a modern FPS. There are lingering bullet holes, shrapnel, smoke effects, and enemies who react differently depending on where they are hit. These features are nothing new and therefore not entirely noteworthy. I did, however, enjoy the layout of many of the levels and there are larger outdoor areas than I have seen in recent PS2 games. There is limited fogging and the game maintains a decent frame rate.
Some levels are obviously better than others. I thought the first couple levels, which recreate the D-Day invasion, are incredible and very well done. The levels that follow, however, are quite boring and seem to be an endless maze of uninspired and repetitive hallway textures. There are refreshing breaks though, and a decent amount of detail does raise its head from time to time. Overall, the graphics in MOHF do an excellent job of capturing the mood and creating a World War II environment, but in the end they have been seen before.
I think the sound in MOHF is marvelous. Weapon effects are clear and well recorded, with just enough dirtiness to make them sound realistic. There are a fair number of environmental effects and once again, the developers have done an excellent job of inspiring the right feelings. Not to harp on it for too long, but once again the first level is intense and I feel the sound is a large ingredient in creating and maintaining that intensity.
The real jewel of MOHF’s sound though, is the musical score. It is reminiscent of many of the epic war movies that Hollywood is famous for. There are sweeping choruses and lovely melodies that inspire you to go on. I sat in the Dutch countryside and listened to the music for quite some time and reflected on how perfect the entire scene was. Great score, great sound effects; impossible to complain about.
Gameplay is where MOHF falters a bit. While there are standout moments (the first level), most of MOHF is very straightforward and somewhat boring. Each level has the player completing a variety of objectives in an effort to deal a devastating blow to the Nazis. This scheme works well on the first couple levels but eventually becomes repetitive as you realize how linear the levels truly are. In almost every level, objectives are completed in the order on your checklist and there is no other way to do it. I wish that there had been more effort put into making each level more free flowing. This would have allowed for more decision-making when the player was determining how to attack the level. The linear nature also goes a long way towards diminishing the replay value of MOHF. Although there are medals and accolades to be won, most levels are uninspiring and therefore do not beg to be played again.
My other major complaint lies with the control in MOHF. While the control layout, in my opinion, is very intuitive and easy to use, the analog sticks on the PS2 just aren’t good enough. Aiming is very jerky and slow. I often found myself getting hit because I just could not get the weapon around fast enough. If it was possible to adjust this then perhaps I could not complain, but unfortunately that option was omitted. My largest complaint with the speed lies with the sniper rifle. At maximum zoom, if an enemy is running, you are unable to lead them. It is impossible, the rifle just does not move fast enough.
Beyond my previous two gripes, everything else is pretty good. The weapons are authentic, albeit an uninspired bunch, and there is good balance between them. I found the pistol and the sniper rifle to be the best weapons overall due to their accuracy and control. The MP40 is horribly inaccurate and I found it to be almost useless, even when firing single shot bursts.
Enemy AI is of a respectable caliber and there are a fair number of reactions that each enemy may have. I liked that many of the Germans had a “squad-based” mentality to them. Some enemies would charge forward while others would attempt to flank you or would stay behind. Enemies are very active to grab mounted guns and will toss any grenade you throw at them right back at you. These details are pretty standard in most games now but I was pleased at how well the MOHF enemies reacted and operated. Perhaps pleased is not the right word, as they were a little bit too good for my taste at times.
Overall, I think that MOHF does an excellent job of providing standard FPS gameplay but lacks a real sense of innovation. The first couple levels are excellent and there are jewels hidden throughout the rest of the game. It just becomes a little frustrating to wade through all the other fillers that lie between. I think there could have been a little bit more done, but overall I really liked this game and think that it is a fine addition to any PS2 owner’s collection.