The online-shooter category may be dominated these days by the Xbox 360 and, to a lesser extent, the PlayStation 3. But that hasn't stopped Electronic Arts' studio in Vancouver from bringing frantic, large-scale action to the Wii and PSP with the forthcoming Medal of Honor Heroes 2, which is due to hit both platforms in the second week of November. The game supports 32 players in-game across six maps, which are set across a number of World War II-esque strongholds and crater-pocked battlefields. We went a few rounds online with both versions to see how things are shaping up.
On the Wii, the game has a pretty robust control model that seems as if it will afford you precise shooting when you get past its learning curve. You move with the analog stick and aim with the remote, as per most Wii shooters. You can also go to a view that zooms in through your weapon's sights, and when you're in this view you can twist the Nunchuk left and right to subtly lean in those directions, which will naturally come in handy for firing around corners. In the single-player campaign, you'll have a powerful melee attack that requires you to thrust both controllers forward simultaneously. That attack is still available in the online mode, but as you'd imagine, it can be hard to pull off while you're engaged in a firefight. So the designers have also added a weaker one-button melee attack that won't kill in one hit but is much easier to execute.
You'll get an exceptionally large crosshair in the multiplayer game, which sometimes makes it tough to gauge where exactly you're shooting at when facing an opponent. At first, it felt as if we were emptying entire clips at our opponents and hitting only air, but after a few minutes we were able to figure out where we ought to be aiming to score effective hits. However, even a headshot won't necessarily guarantee you a kill. Often when you get a headshot, you'll see your enemy's helmet go flying, accompanied by a satisfying metal clang sound. Once your opponent is bare-headed, your shots will certainly kill, but that helmet can sometimes make the difference between life and death when the action is moving quickly.
New to the Wii game's single-player campaign is a number of gesture-based control mechanics intended to enhance the realism of the combat experience. For instance, when you want to use the bazooka, you'll have to actually hoist the Wii Remote over your shoulder before you fire, as you would the real weapon. (The Wii will look for the remote to be upside down to verify you're doing it right.) There's also a pump-action shotgun that you actually need to pump to reload after each shot--by making a pumping motion with the remote, naturally.
These gestures have made their way into the multiplayer, but in a modified form. In a multiplayer match, you're permitted to fire the bazooka from the hip for a quick response time, but you'll lose some accuracy. On the other hand, you'll have full aiming precision if you hold it up over your shoulder. You can similarly disable the shotgun-pump requirement via a menu option if that seems too laborious for you during a fast-paced multiplayer match (as it did to us). There's also a motion-based grenade-toss mechanic that has you arm the grenade, then hit the fire button to designate a rough target, and finally make a throwing motion with the remote itself. The strength of your motion here will ultimately determine the grenade's trajectory.
There will be three modes--deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag--that will occur on the game's maps, and all of them play out exactly as you'd expect. Luckily, getting into a match will be much easier than with most online Nintendo-based games. No friend codes to be seen here--instead, you'll use EA's "EA Nation" Web portal to set up an account and then log in through the game's front end itself. The EA Nation login will let you browse for running games online, and you'll be able to jump into or out of games that are running at any time, rather than being required to join a game's lobby before it starts. The PSP version's matchmaking works the same way, though it's inherently less noteworthy there because Sony's online multiplayer strictures are less severe than Nintendo's.
It looks as if EA Canada has made a real effort to get solid multiplayer into Heroes 2, especially given that the game is on two platforms that don't typically excel at online multiplayer. We'll bring you the final verdict for both the multiplayer and the game's story-driven single-player campaign when it ships in mid-November.