Given the current popularity of war-themed first-person shooters, it's no wonder that one of the best WWII shooters, Medal of Honor Allied Assault, would get a second expansion pack. Medal of Honor Allied Assault Breakthrough takes you to previously unexplored parts of the European theater. Unexplored doesn't necessarily mean fresh, though, and while Breakthrough has a little more meat to it than the first expansion, Spearhead, it ends up being repetitious and stale.
The original Allied Assault consisted of several missions, which in turn had many levels. Breakthrough doesn't change this formula, and consists of about a dozen new levels. These comprise three missions, which will take you to North Africa, Sicily, and finally mainland Italy. The individual levels are varied and will take you about six hours to complete in total. You will destroy German artillery, rescue prisoners, and drive assorted vehicles, among other things. The individual levels don't fit together to form a cohesive whole--you're dumped onto a battlefield and given objectives, without any explanation as to your ultimate purpose.
The drive into Italy was important because it split German resources in Western Europe, especially when Mussolini toppled from power. You'd never know it from the game, though; all you ever get are cutscenes with war footage and famous quotations. Similarly, it would be nice to know how you are making a difference in the war as you complete objectives. Not that anyone will be there to notice your achievements--you will spend most of the game fighting alone. Whenever there are Allied soldiers nearby, they get killed more often than not. You can try to save their lives--we really tried--but these soldiers are just doomed to die. At any rate, only in the first part of the first mission and the last part of the last mission do you ever get a feeling that there's a war being waged around you.
These few intense battle sequences are actually quite fun. The sandstorm in Africa drastically limits your visibility, so you need to push ahead and try to find where gunshots are coming from. The next level has you protecting a minesweeper as it attempts to clear a minefield. The castle at the end of the game at Monte Cassino has Germans and Allies fighting all over the place, and you can hear gunfire and screams coming from all directions. You have to fend off wave after wave of German attacks in several key positions on the map.
The problem is that these moments are too few and far between. The majority of Breakthrough is rather forgettable because it is too similar to the previous Allied Assault missions. A lot of times you'll be riding on a vehicle shooting at enemies that pop up like targets at a firing range, or you'll have to lay explosives on artillery. You again have a mission in which you must use papers to fool the Germans and Italians so you can sneak around their base. Sometimes these recycled elements are made to be challenging, but they end up becoming save-reload moments. For example, you'll be stuck in a building and have to repel a tank assault. You have mortars to fend them off, but the problem is that there is a huge delay between when you fire and where you see the mortar land. It will take a few tries until you get the positioning correct for the first wave. But then more waves come, forcing you to figure out positioning again before the tanks breach the wall. There's a similar situation when you have to cover escaping prisoners from snipers. Having to save and reload until you figure out the exact pattern and locations of an enemy isn't what makes a shooter fun to play.
Breakthrough has other gameplay elements that are becoming outdated. One example is enemies spawning out of nowhere. You may see a health pack lying off the path where an MG42 is resting in a bunker. If you get the health pack, dozens of Germans will come at you in front of the MG42. But if you don't get that health pack and instead run off where the Germans would spawn, no one will be there to greet you. The AI is also substandard. Enemies will sometimes find cover, but they will just rush at you in open areas more often than not. You can just hide around a corner and wait for more of the enemies to run at you so you can mow them down. The game relies on accuracy to differentiate between the difficulty levels, but there's still a big gap between difficulty levels--which was a problem in the original Allied Assault and the Spearhead expansion. The normal difficulty is too easy because you can rush right into enemy locations and find many health packs. But the hard difficulty is nearly impossible without saving and reloading often. These gameplay elements just don't hold up in today's games, because the shooter genre has evolved so much over the past two years.
At least Breakthrough remains consistent with its inability to change. The graphics have not been noticeably improved, which is to say that the engine has seen better days. The weaponry is basically the same as well. The few new weapons in the game are just slight variations on weapons that were already in the original--there's no reason to get the game based on an Italian rifle that is functionally equivalent to the German ones you've already used. The game does look reasonably good, but not nearly as impressive as Medal of Honor: Allied Assault did when it was first released. On the other hand, the sound in the game continues to be very impressive. Medal of Honor Allied Assault Breakthrough sounds fantastic with its gunfire, bullets whizzing by you, and vehicle noises.
Breakthrough includes nine new multiplayer maps and a new multiplayer mode called liberation. Liberation is a team-based game where dead players are put in a jail with no weapons. Soldiers on your team can come and rescue you from jail. Once you step out of the jail zone, you are given back your weapons. Rounds can theoretically last forever if people are continually rescued, so teams must also defend their own jail to keep enemies from rescuing their dead. Like all team-based modes, liberation requires teams to know what they are doing. Oftentimes only one person will remain who will refuse to rescue his teammates and will instead go on a hunt to kill enemies. But overall it's a fun gameplay mode to complement the other multiplayer modes found in Allied Assault.
There really isn't much to Medal of Honor Allied Assault Breakthrough that you haven't already seen before, and it's definitely not a product that will make people go out and buy Medal of Honor Allied Assault if they haven't already. It's even hard to recommend to those who already have Allied Assault because of its $30 price tag, so unless you're dying for more of the same type of action that Allied Assault first offered in January of last year, you would probably be better off spending your time and money on something else.