Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Replay Review: Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault [2004]

It has been more than three years since I went back and played Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault, as great as it was, this one Medal Of Honor: Pacific Assault is my favourite of the  franchise because it moved the action from the European theatre - where most of the U.S. campaigns of WWII shooters take place - to the Pacific and also put you in the boots of a U.S. Marine. This had been done the year previous with the substandard Medal of Honor: Rising Sun for the consoles, but Pacific Assault was the real deal and was generally far more well received.

Graphically Pacific Assault was superior, upgrading from Allied Assault's id Tech 3 to a modified Lithtech Jupiter (from Monolith Productions) with some additional Havok physics. It was released just shy of three years since Allied Assault and it represented a lot in terms of more modern FPS games. No longer could you single handedly "win" WWII by running and shooting everyone; here you had to take cover, aim your weapon properly and rely on your AI team-mates to which you could issue rudimentary commands for covering fire, intel on enemy positions/attack vectors and even healing. Now admittedly it didn't do any of these things brilliantly, the level of AI required to make this a seamless experience was a bit away yet but this was one of the first to do so and you have to start somewhere. That said it is a bit frustrating when your own men walk into your line of fire.

Let me say that the game's "training course" is also one of my favourite training courses in any FPS. It starts off with an appropriately loud drill instructor who waxes lyrical about his beloved Corps and how much better it is than all the other services. He then puts you through the paces of learning how to play an FPS in the decidedly Marine way: with live ammunition! One of the essential lessons you learn is taking control of a fixed weapon positions such as mortars and machine guns. The game is littered with mounted weapons of different types that you take control of, certainly more than any other FPS, so it's something one should get used to.

Pacific Assault's real draw was the different setting and not having to shoot another 1000+ Nazis during it's 11 hour campaign. The Japanese adversaries here were not just reskinned Germans either, they obviously appeared as Japanese soldiers, yelled in Japanese, used appropriate weapons and equipment and best of all would occasionally Banzai-charge you with their bayonets! Missions involved Pearl Harbor (1941), Makin Island (1942), Guadalcanal (1942-1943) and Tarawa (1943), the tropical jungles and golden beaches of the Pacific islands presenting a welcome respite from the bocage and hedgerows of France.

While the setting was one of it's greatest draws, it was ultimately a little too realistic. About half the game had you wandering through dense jungle  eliminating Japs in ramshackle wooden villages. While the objectives were varied with regards to gathering intelligence, eliminating radio towers, fuel containers or ammunition dumps etc. these took place in jungle clearings after a slow trundle though the surrounding foliage eliminating enemy patrols first. A very rinse and repeat cadence to it all - much like the USMC's war accounts from the period. It's not to say of course that the game is unexciting, just a little more repetitive than others of it's ilk and for many players it wasn't an interesting experience and certainly not whet they were used to.

While the Medal of Honor franchise took a more sombre, realistic stance than Call of Duty's more cinematic games, Pacific Assault still didn't showcase the brutality and sheer inhumanity of the Japanese which far exceeded the calculated the industrial genocide of the Nazis. It would have been a very different experience to have the player rescuing those captured by the Japs as opposed to Nazis (again). However as few allied POWs taken by the Japs lived to tell the tale, it would likely have been an unrealistic expectation for a game that of course must end on a victorious note.

Final Verdict: Pacific Assault allows you to experience WWII from a different angle for once, here the first half of the U.S. Pacific campaign. However it will likely seem far to bland to someone who may not have studied the war in the Pacific and a little substandard in gameplay/AI quality to similar titles due to newer concepts of the time. According to in-game statistics I personally eliminated 1368 Japanese soldiers as a Marine Raider, so I'm as happy with it as I was originally.

Technicals: 10h 37m playtime though EA App in 1600x1024 @ 91FPS (Engine cap) on RTX3070Ti/4070Ti in Windows 11. Windows HDR enhanced visuals.

Bugs: None.

Availability: Medal of Honour: Pacific Assault is advailable through the EA Store for €9.99 or GOG for €9.39. Review copy was obtained from EA Origin free givaway in March 2016.

Medal of Honour franchise:

  • Medal of Honor [PS1] (1999)
  • Medal of Honor: Underground [PS1] (2000)
  • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault [PC] (2002)
  • Medal of Honor: Frontline [PS2/Xbox] (2002)
  • Medal of Honor: Rising Sun [PS2/Xbox] (2003)
  • Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault [PC] (2004)
  • Medal of Honor: European Assault [PS2/Xbox] (2005)
  • Medal of Honor: Vanguard [PS2] (2007)
  • Medal of Honor: Airborne [PC/PS3/X360] (2007)
  • Medal of Honor [PS3 / X360 / PC] (2010)
  • Medal of Honor: Warfighter [PC/PS3/X360] (2012)
  • Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond [PC - Oculus VR] (2020)

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