Written by  :  agamer (75)
Written on  :  Jun 30, 2009
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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The Other Half of the War

The Good

The story was, while not exactly riveting, very good. I haven't played the non-Director's Edition so I can't say if there are any game-play differences between them. I suspect there aren't though.

But of the many, many...... many World War II themed FPS games I've played over the ye..... since "Saving Private Ryan" came out, I'll say this one is the best in terms of story. I usually just skip past narrative and get to the blowin' stuff up parts but I actually watched all the cut-scenes throughout the game.

I think that at its most fundamental level the strength of the story lies in the dialogue. The banter between the characters (many of whom are with you from beginning to end) was quite realistic. Tone, topics, flow... it all made sense in the context of the action. (A godawful lot of swearing would have made it even more realistic, and I'll never understand why you can shoot hundreds of people in the face with a .50 caliber machine gun in a game and it's a "Teen" rating, but a couple of f-bombs or realistic discussions between soldiers in combat on the finer... parts... of women makes it at least a "Mature" rating. But I digress.)

Like any good war movie (see "A Bridge Too Far" or "Band of Brothers") its not just about the action. It's about why the action is taking place. What's the point of taking these bridges or staking a claim on a particular part of a forest? Without a realistic and reasonable basis in story its just so much shooting and blowing stuff up. Which has its place, don't get me wrong. But I think in terms of a single player FPS based on actual events it is the drama that truly elevates the experience from mundane gameplay to interactive fiction.

I think the designers did a very good job of showing the humanity of warfare. Within the limited capabilities of a computer game perhaps, but they showed the characters as people rather than sprites. Though thinking about it, the game is pretty West-centric. I didn't get much of a sense of the Japanese soldier... the grunt in the trench who is out of bullets and commanded to charge at the enemy with what amounts to a pointy stick. Perhaps that was the goal? I can't say. I don't think (though again, this is from a middle-American perspective) the designers did the Japanese soldiers a disservice in their portrayal, they just weren't the focus.

The Bad

I have two specific gripes and one somewhat vague one.

The vague one first: I'm not new to FPS games but I'll admit I'm not what you'd call highly-skilled. I don't like to play online because it generally just frustrates me. Ultimately, my issue is that there were numerous portions of the single-player game that frustrated me severely and with no good reason. They weren't necessarily *hard* but the requirements for success were just too specific and the paths to completing them were just too vague. While I realize that almost sounds like I'm just not good at FPS games and am consequently whining about it having a hard time with the game, I'll ask you to pause for a second and think about your own experiences playing games in this genre. Ever get to a point in the game where you just don't know what to do next and there's really no clue as to why you keep failing? That's it.

The first specific gripe I have is with the level in which I had to fly a plane. This was one of the absolute worst and least enjoyable portions of any FPS I've ever played. The controls just plain sucked. I eventually threw my mousepad on the floor to make more room to madly flail the mouse around trying to target enemies. Ugh. I liked the idea of flying a plane and I do credit the designers with trying something different in an FPS, but they failed horribly when it comes to implementation.

The second specific gripe is actually quite minor. I spent about a half hour trying to beat the very first level of the game before it became apparent that I wasn't SUPPOSED to beat it. As a narrative feature I was supposed die. Okay, fine. But then when I got back to that point of the game towards the end... umm... what was the point of the exposition at the beginning of the game? Did the designers forget they'd done that bit at the start? It made no sense.

The Bottom Line

This is an above average shooter and it holds up very well given the time since its original release. Graphics wise I think it was about on par with the run-of-the-mill shooters for 2004. Not as good as Far Cry or HL2 perhaps, but pretty good. The sound effects were adequate, which in my view means they were unobtrusive and did the job. The music was excellent, though.

Really the high-light of the game is the well crafted story. It's on par with much of what's come out of Hollywood the last couple of decades.

I got this as part of the MoH 10th Anniversary Edition. I've played through and beaten the original (PC) game and the two expansions but I haven't played Airborne yet. At this point its worth twenty bucks just for Pacific Assault.