Pacific Assault offers many welcome changes to the series, and gets the job done well.
Pacific Assault puts you in the boots of Marine Tommy Conlin, and you'll find yourself island hoping around various different locations in a lengthy campaign set in the pacific during World War II. As far as plots go, there isn't really a lot to say other than the fact that you fight against the Japanese in the pacific theatre. You will see yourself in boot camp undergoing basic training (where you'll learn how to play the game), at Pearl Harbor fending the infamous attack, fighting in various jungles and airfields, and even piloting a plane. Most of the time you'll be fighting on foot though.
For me, Pacific Assault had a lot going for it because I could really see that EA were trying to go for a different approach gameplay-wise when compared to the previous games in the series. In previous games such as Allied Assault, Rising Sun or Frontline, you were basically a lone wolf; a one-man army and little tactics were required to get from A to B to survive. Pacific Assault on the other hand, requires you to rely on your squad to survive.
The biggest and most noticeable squad feature is your medic. Health kits are so rare in this game that you must rely on your medic in order to be healed. The medic only carries 5 first aid kits per mission, so you must be careful, and it's recommended that you only call for medical assistance when seriously wounded. This is a nice feature overall that adds a certain degree of realism to the experience. While it can be frustrating sometimes, such as when a medic is too far away to reach you in time, I thought in general the whole concept worked.
You can give basic squad orders in firefights, but unfortunately, this function feels quite limited and unfinished, and it's often difficult to tell whether or not your squad mates are actually obeying your command or not. I found myself rarely even using the orders function because even if you don't call them out, your squad members will still follow and look after themselves in combat. So really, the whole idea of commanding your squad was a little pointless considering that your men are actually quite smart and don't need to be told whether to flank, retreat etc.
Disappointing squad orders aside, I can't complain about the AI of your squad, but also the enemy. Yes, there are FPS's out there with superior AI, but on the whole, allies and enemies are both relatively smart in Pacific Assault. The Japanese will use jungle foliage to hide, they do use cover a lot and if you get to close, they won't hesitate to stick a bayonet in your stomach. When the enemy have reduced all your health, you hit the dirt helpless, and the screen goes grey, your vision blurs and your hearing echoes, and you don't have long to live. Unless your medic can reach you in time, you'll either die because you weren't saved in time, or you'll witness a Japanese soldier stamp on your face or bayonet you. This is a really cool feature, especially from a visual point of view.
As I stated earlier, most of this game is all about infantry jungle combat on several different islands, which is why the whole squad-based gameplay plays a major role in the game. There is a surprising amount of variety throughout each of the missions however, including one that involves storming a beach whilst under heavy fire, which makes it very similar to past D-Day missions found on Allied Assault and Frontline. One thing that was a relief to play was the Pearl Harbor chapter near the beginning of the game. EA's first attempt at recreating Pearl Harbor in the MOH series was in Rising Sun, and they failed to satisfy me there. Here however, is a different story. There's a great build up on land before the attack takes place which makes up an entire level before boarding a ship and fighting from thereon. Just everything from the endless planes that fly overhead and the sailors calling for help was excellent. EA did a great job with this section of the game, and it definitely felt like it was what they were trying to achieve with Rising Sun.
The plane section of Pacific Assault was pretty fun in the end, but a bit repetitive and felt too basic as it was basically just a point and shoot affair. It kind of felt like EA wanted to throw in a change of gameplay towards the end of the game, just to keep people interested, and this is OK, but personally I wouldn't have cared if they'd kept this part of the game or ditched it completely, and just stuck to jungle warfare. It did show a different side to the MOH series though I guess.
One thing I'd like to point out is that Pacific Assault is a challenge. Unlike most games in the series, you can rarely go in all guns blazing because you'll probably end up dead. This basically goes back to the whole squad concept. Occasionally, 5 health kits per level aren't really enough, and you'll probably die a fair bit throughout the game. That said however, in general, the game is fair, and is certainly possible to beat. Besides, the jungle environments provide plenty of cover from enemy fire. A lot of the firefights in this game didn't feel scripted either, which is a great thing of course. Also, you squad will plan ambushes and stealth attacks if you haven't already started shooting at the enemy. This was another nice feature too because it just added a little more diversity.
Weapons in the game are great as always. Naturally, all weapons are based on authentic counterparts from the time, such as Thompsons, M1 Garands, BARs etc, though there aren't lots of new weapons that were new to the series introduced here. They handle quite realistically when compared to how they used to, and using the ironsights is thoroughly recommended for better accuracy. This again, is another simple yet effective feature to improve on the game's level of realism.
Moving on, I want to talk about the games visuals and engine. Well first of all, this was, at the time, by far the best looking Medal Of Honor game out there, and it's no surprise that it only appeared on the PC. While there were better looking first person shooters out there in late 2004 such as Half-Life 2, Far Cry and Doom 3 etc, Pacific Assault has still got to be one of the best looking games visually of that year.
The jungle scenery is very well done, from the lush shrubs and palm trees to the long grass and impressive water effects. All the vegetation sways gently in the breeze, and it just feels well done on the whole. Weapon models look great, and character models look good too, and their animation can be excellent at times too, particularly when being healed by your medic. There's also many cut scenes throughout the game, and they are nicely animated too. The little effects such as the verge-of-death actions during gameplay also look spectacular. Understandably though, it only looks impressive when all video options are cranked to their fullest. With today's computer power, it's not an issue, but at time of release you needed one powerful rig to see Pacific Assault at its best.
The game's engine also offers up a physics engine, although I have to say I was a little disappointed with it. It is no where near as consistent and smooth as other game physics engines at the time such as Half-Life 2's or Far Cry's. Many objects just don't seem to move in a smooth way – they look like they run at a lower fps, compared to the rest of action. That said however, the physics engine is still relatively functional, and it still makes the movement of objects look better than worse. And to be honest, there are very few bugs in the game.
Ragdoll deaths are also there. What was strange however is the fact that the ragdolls are not set by default, instead a standard death animation is present among character models. The good news is that you can turn ragdolls in by typing in a code via the console…I think (I only had to configure it once, and that was very long time ago). Either way, it is possible to turn ragdolls on without any kind of mod, and they did enhance the way the game looked in my opinion.
Sound and music is, well, spectacular to say the least. The MOH series has always excelled in this category. The excellent score is orchestral as always, but it just suits the game so well it's scary. The sound effects too are immersive, from the great voice acting of your squad, your enemy's foreign speech, the weapon sounds, explosions and even the sounds of the jungle. It must be said that music rarely ever plays when fighting in the jungle as it wouldn't suit the whole guerilla-style warfare and atmosphere. That said however, when the music does play, it is superb.
Pacific Assault does offer a decent multiplayer mode with support for up to 32 players. There are also 3 game modes including the usual deathmatch and team deathmatches, but also the 'Invader' mode, which is more scenario-based and includes several objectives to complete on a map in order to win. I don't consider myself much of an online gamer, but I have played this game against others on occasion, and it is good fun, if a little laggy at times.
Medal Of Honor Pacific Assault is a fine World War II shooter that features many welcome changes to the series. As far as pacific-based WWII games go, it is by far the best one out there. It does have its niggles, and it can be frustrating from time to time, but at the end of the day it is a solid, well-made game that has a lot to offer, and is definitely worth any FPS aficionado's time and money. It's just a shame that EA ditched many of Pacific Assault's promising gameplay features with future games in the series.