Lessons have been learned. After Rising Sun duly barfed its half-baked, historically inaccurate innards over us, it looked as though Medal of Honor was finished. The series has been running longer than the actual Second World War did, anyway. But after the harsh criticism, severe kickings, and, we suspect, many losses behind the scenes, Medal of Honor is back, regrouped, and ready for another assault. It ain't no Brothers in Arms, that's for sure, but on the great suck-o-meter, this one isn't hitting the bell with every swing of the hammer either.
As William Holt, a member of the US special forces assigned a place within various European units through the course of the war, you fight your way across Europe in a tale of derring-do told through the medium of atrocious mockney accents that would put Dick Van Dyke to shame. Missions are now fairly far removed from the one-man infiltration episodes of other Honor games, with at least another three soldiers under your command at any time. They're now all fairly intelligent too, and will happily throw themselves at the action when required, but this is actually due to AI rather than some advanced command system. In fact, telling 'your boys' what to shoot at mostly involves vaguely indicating the direction with a click of the left thumbstick. There are no specific commands or orders to give, nor any formations to take. Just point, click, and hopefully they'll shuffle off in that direction as opposed to the one they were embarking on. It's fine for flanking manoeuvres, but sadly little else.
Mission structure, rather than the mission content has also changed somewhat, although the distinct lack of anything approaching an epic John Williams-style score gives this a virtually atmosphere-free playing environment. There'll still be plenty of secret Nazi bunkers to infiltrate, V2 rockets to destroy, or submarines to sabotage, but the missions are now broader, less linear beasts. Sub-missions will appear on the radar if you stumble into an interesting area, and with a good half-dozen sub-quests on each level to complete, it's easy to become distracted from the main objective. It's fine though, because each one completed earns you an extra life (just like in real war, kids!), and these are easily the most valuable pick-ups worth scavenging for, as missions don't have save points, most tend to stretch on well after all the medipacks are used up, and most feature an end-of-level Nazi of some description. These guys are abnormally tough, all trussed up in their trenchcoats and sporting mental facial tics, so go for the sub-quests. They're often the only way to finish a level with all your limbs still attached.
Whatever remnants of the old Rising Sun engine that might remain are well hidden in European Assault. Enemies can be blisteringly accurate shots, often springing out with an SMG on full automatic, leaving little time to dive for cover or retaliate. They're not exactly sitting ducks either, although they do tend to shake and quiver when killed. The ragdoll effect is in overdrive here, and it looks a bit daft. They are, however, still a rather brainless bunch, so learn their patterns and take 'em down.
Weapons feel so much more solid and workable than last time though, with shotguns lifting people off their feet and sending bodies spattering into walls with a satisfying squelch. Bazookas, pistols, and machine guns are also greatly improved, offering powerful, meaty blasts sure to send the most dastardly Nazi to a deserved grave. Only grenades seem a little weak and a little like tossing lettuces. But hey, this is Medal of Honor, you can't have everything!