Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
We've got the inside skinny on the Quake III-powered Medal of Honor game for the PC.
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Development on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault started eight months ago. Oklahoma-based 2015, which has previously worked on the add-on Wages of Sin, was contracted by Electronic Arts to put together a small demonstration of the proposed game using the Quake III engine. Two weeks later, the team of designers and programmers had created a prototype level of a devastated French town that was populated by a handful of Nazi soldiers. Although rough, the demonstration showed off not only the power of the Quake III technology, but it showcased the talent of the team at 2015 as well. Electronic Arts was sold, and Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was born. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be pleased to learn that Peter Hirschman, the original game's producer, is overseeing the direction of Allied Assault. Hirschman is a World War II buff, and he is extremely concerned with preserving the authenticity of the game. In fact, before work on the first Medal of Honor started, the entire design team was put through an abridged boot camp by Captain Dale Dye, US Marine Corps (now retired), the same person who trained Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Matt Damon, and the rest of the Saving Private Ryan cast before filming on that movie started. Most of the members of the design team who went through boot camp are still employed by EALA, and they are now working on Allied Assault.
The game's progression follows the United States' involvement with World War II in Europe. As a newly recruited member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), you'll start off in the deserts of North Africa in 1942, where the groundwork for the inevitable invasion of Europe is set. Gradually, you'll fight the Germans in Italy, France, and ultimately Germany itself. As in the first game, the missions are broken down into several individual levels, each with a number of primary and secondary objectives. In fact, Allied Assault will feature an interface that's very similar to that of the original Medal of Honor, complete with scratchy newsreel footage and briefings at Whitehall. As you accomplish different objectives, you'll receive different commendations like the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the highest honor the United States can bestow upon a serviceman, the Medal of Honor. These medals are all tied to your statistics at the end of each mission, including the amount of health you have left, the number of kills you had, time remaining, secondary objectives completed, and so on. Attaining some medals may even unlock hidden levels.
Levels and Environments
Even though Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was only recently announced, it's been in development for quite some time, and the build of the game we saw while at Electronic Arts was already several months old. Regardless, the game's level and environments are some of the most detailed and believable we've seen in any game - even in their current incomplete state. The most impressive of these areas was easily Omaha Beach, the landing point for the Allies' invasion of Normandy, France. Although the level was unpopulated by enemies, it was geometry-complete, meaning that all the terrain and level design was finished, which gave us a clear picture as to how the final product would shape up. After being dropped off onto the beach by landing craft, you and a group of other soldiers will have to pick your way across the obstacle-strewn sand while coming under heavy fire from fortified German gun emplacements. Scripted sequences will depict others in your group getting mowed down by machine guns, artillery fire will decimate the beachhead, and choking smoke will linger in the air as you attempt to seek shelter against the face of the bluff. You'll have to use bangalore torpedoes to clear barbed wire and then make your way through the trenches up the cliffs in order to destroy the bunkers that are cutting down your fellow troops on the beach.
It's no coincidence that the scene just described might seem familiar to some of you. Even by Electronic Arts' own admission, this mission clearly draws its inspiration from Saving Private Ryan and seeks to deliver the same level of intensity felt by the audience during the movie's opening 15 minutes. Obviously, capturing what it was really like on the beach underneath that gray June sky is impossible, but EALA and 2015 still feel very confident that it can recreate the same imagery of Omaha as it was depicted in Saving Private Ryan. In fact, Hirschman recently showed this very level to Steven Spielberg, who in turn was "blown away." Spielberg supposedly even gave the design team some insight on proper object placement along the beach. Even later missions are modeled after the settings in Spielberg's movie. One town we saw was laid out to mimic the "dueling snipers" scene in Saving Private Ryan, complete with crumbled buildings, piles of brick, and an empty clock tower. Another is modeled after the movie's last scene, where the final battle took place through the streets of a war-torn French town. Like the movie, you'll have to make and attach "sticky bombs" onto the treads of German Panzer VIs and hold the town until reinforcements arrive.
Every one of the game's 20-plus scenarios will require you to perform some seemingly impossible feat in order to move on to the next level. The game won't be so difficult to the point where it stops becoming fun, but it will certainly be challenging. After all, the game is simulating one of the most devastating wars ever fought in the history of humankind. Anyone who's played the earlier Medal of Honor games, especially Medal of Honor: Underground, can attest to that. The game throws a wide assortment of enemy soldiers at you, including Afrika Corps officers; Wehrmacht snipers and grenadiers; SS Hund-Patroller; SS Polizei; and Gestapo officers. In all, there are 19 variants on the standard Nazi soldier. But enemies won't be limited to the human variety, either, as you'll also have to take down Stuka dive bombers, Tiger tanks, and halftracks. One mission will even require you to infiltrate a German staging area and sabotage a salvo of V2 rockets before they're fired over the English Channel onto London. You'll also be able to hitch a ride on most vehicles you come across, even if they're being driven by enemy soldiers, and they include halftracks, motorcycles with sidecars, tanks, jeeps, trucks, and even a Mercedes or two. And naturally, you'll have a veritable arsenal of authentic American and German weapons at your disposal - weapons like the M1 Carbine, the Thompson submachine gun, the Panzerschreck, and a Mauser KAR 98K - over 24 weapons in all.
Electronic Arts is no stranger to the Quake III engine. American McGee's Alice was powered by this impressive technology, as will The World Is Not Enough and an unnamed first-person shooter currently in development at Ritual Entertainment. It's no wonder the company has chosen to use this 3D engine to power its recent and upcoming influx of action games: Even in Allied Assault's early state, the levels and character models look astounding. As we mentioned earlier, there are nearly 20 different types of foot soldiers you'll encounter, and each of these is modeled and textured uniquely. Adding even more contrast among the enemy models is the game's ability to visually display that enemy's primary and secondary weapon on its 3D model. In fact, each character model is so detailed that you'll easily be able to discern the enemy's facial expressions, and even their individual fingers, from a distance. Ironically, the most impressive aspect of Allied Assault isn't the character models, the many weapons, or the expansive environments. It's the game's vegetation. That's right, never before has shrubbery looked so good in 3D. The screenshots in our gallery don't do this aspect of the game any justice, but we were certainly amazed by the level of detail possessed by the game's trees, alone. What's so impressive about a simple tree? One of the levels had a courtyard with a number of trees scattered about the open area. When we walked up to the tree, we found that it literally had hundreds of branches and that many more leaves, all of which were modeled in 3D - the whole scene looked like a technology demonstration. Naturally, these great graphics carry over to other areas of the game like the vivid cobblestone textures, the snow that sparkles underneath a light source, the sky that reveals a tapestry of stars behind its moving clouds, and the light mist of a gray morning. Even the sun is visually different from other games. Staring at the bright globe will temporarily blind you in a brilliant whiteout effect. There's no gratuitous use of lens flare.
Sound will also play a very important role in the game. The designers want to capture the essence of war, so 3D sound technology will be taken full advantage of in order to make effects like a bullet whizzing by your head seem as realistic as possible. Even when the action immediately around you seems to cool off, you'll still be able to discern the deep rumbles of artillery and explosives in the distance. And like in the first two Medal of Honor games, the soundtrack in Allied Assault is receiving a significant amount of attention, and the game will undoubtedly feature dynamic music and an orchestral score.
Electronic Arts plans on including four unique deathmatch maps and two cooperative maps. The programmers haven't decided how many people the game will allow at once, nor what kind of protocol Allied Assault will support, though it's safe to assume that the game can be played over both LAN and Internet connections.
From what we've seen of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, we're sure that the game will please Quakeheads and war buffs alike. Electronic Arts will publicly debut the game at a Medal of Honor press event in the coming weeks and then again at the 2001 E3. In fact, Electronic Arts hopes that 2015 will have the Omaha Beach level completely finished and in a playable state by then in order to give show attendees a chance to take on the Germans at Normandy themselves. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault will release for the PC this October, following a PlayStation 2 release of a different Medal of Honor game this August.
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