Q&A: EA's Rick Giolito talks up Medal of Honor

EA LA vice president and executive producer Rick Giolito sheds some light on today's playable demo of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, as well as some choice details on the previously delayed shooter.

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Electronic Arts' Medal of Honor series has brought consistently popular World War II action games to market for years. The next game in the series will be Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, a 3D game for the PC with an entirely new engine. The game takes place in the Pacific Rim.

EA LA is releasing a playable demo and a new movie trailer for the game today. For more information on the game, we spoke with EA LA vice president and executive producer Rick Giolito.

GameSpot: What can we expect from the Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault demo?

Rick Giolito: The demo is a combination of two of the levels that will be available in the final product. In the first part of the demo, the player (playing as Private Tommy Conlin), is woken up during a Japanese infiltration of one of the marine camps surrounding Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The player must jump out of his bunk and join his squad in an effort to defend the camp against the Japanese forces that pour out of the jungle. This portion of the demo is a great place for players to try out our innovative new feature, combat squad control. This is a context-sensitive feature that lets players command their teammates through several critical tactical maneuvers while engaged with the enemy. The four maneuvers are advance, retreat, rally around the player, and commence covering fire.

As you come under enemy fire, icons appear in the upper-right corner of the screen that indicate which moves are available or are being executed. Combat squad control adds a dynamic variable to the game, resulting in a different experience with each play session. Those of you who are "old school" and want to play without combat squad control can simply ignore it. The AI is smart enough not to wait for you to tell them what to do, and it is not necessary for players to utilize to complete the demo level. However, I expect that the most advanced players will be able to use this increased control to strategically manage their response to the fury of their enemies.

Combat squad control is only available when your teammates are in a position to accept orders. The icons will appear or disappear, based on the tactical situation, alerting you to their availability, so stay alert!

The second part of the demo is a shortened version of the Henderson Field level. The Japanese are attacking the airfield both by air and by land. The sky is filled with zeros and enemy dive-bombers, while the airfield itself is being overrun by squads of Japanese soldiers. Your objective is to fend off the vicious enemy land attack, get your pilots to their planes, and, finally, man a Browning .50-cal machine gun and protect the US planes taxiing for takeoff. Zeros on strafing runs are trying to blast everything on the ground, especially the planes. Get your planes into the air so they can help hold off the zeros, and, finally, fend off the final air attack as vicious strafing runs and dive-bomb attacks converge on your position. Whew!

Oh, and by the way, here are a few secrets. The level is filled with physical objects. Try shooting those red 50-gallon drums filled with gasoline when the enemies are near them. And those acetylene-welding tanks make great torpedoes. I'll leave it up to the players to figure out how to do it.

GS: How is the game's development coming along? Will the game make its adjusted ship date of November? Has the demo affected the development schedule at all?

RG: We're still looking at a November ship date. Currently, we are in the final tuning phase of the product. We call it "spotlight review." Every day, I sit with the team of designers, engineers, and producers responsible for each level and review them, painstakingly, on a moment-by-moment basis: moving encounters, placing enemies, changing dialogue, defining and redefining the objectives...tuning, tuning, tuning. We want the experience to be the best it can possibly be.

The demo was always in our plans and was scheduled into the development cycle from the beginning, so it has not affected our development schedule. In fact, it's been a real positive for us, as we're able to wrestle down some pretty nasty bugs that we would've had to have taken care of for the final product. It was great to get rid of them early.

GS: We had heard that in addition to the demo, EA LA had plans to possibly release the game's editing and level-creating tools to the fan community in advance of the game. Will this happen?

RG: Funny you should ask, as I had a meeting with our COO, Steve Anderson, and my senior producer in charge of multiplayer, Matt Powers, about that very issue earlier today. Yes, this is our goal. We have focused a tremendous amount of our resources towards community support, including a software development kit (SDK) at launch. We recently held a Pacific Assault community day here at the EA Los Angeles studio where we wined and dined our community leaders from around the world. It was quite an event.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault demo, or about the game in general?

RG: Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is the first and only next-generation PC WWII shooter available in the world. Electronic Arts has made a tremendous commitment to the future of PC gaming by allowing the EA LA team to develop a completely new engine, called MOH-Tech, exclusively for the Medal of Honor PC franchise. This engine comes complete with all of the bells and whistles you'd expect in a next-gen product and then some: real-time physics, full DirectX 9 shader support (the demo features DX8), real-time adaptive enemy and player squad AI, and our newest feature, combat squad control. We've added an intense new multiplayer mode called "invader” with class-based gameplay and Punkbuster anticheat technology. Along with all of that, we're delivering the most ambitious and varied cinematic gameplay experience we've ever attempted. From boot camp to the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, from the steaming jungles of Guadalcanal to the controls of a dauntless dive-bomber high above the South Pacific, from secret commando missions on Makin Island to the desperate beach landings on the Tarawa Atoll, Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault lets players join the Allied crusade to defeat imperial Japan's bloody charge across the Pacific. This is a Medal of Honor unlike anything you have ever seen.

GS: Thanks, Rick.

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