Given that the last game was released just eight months ago, and considering that it wasn't very good, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Medal of Honor Heroes 2 on the Wii would be just another WWII first-person shooter with the same problems as its predecessor. That couldn't be further from the truth. Although the game doesn't break any new ground with regard to its story or mission structure, it improves on the last game in nearly every other way. In fact, Heroes 2 is so good that even Wii owners who have sworn off the WWII genre would do well to give the game a look.
There's a bit of a story to Medal of Honor Heroes 2, and it's told in the form of premission briefings that feature still photos and narrated voice-overs. Nevertheless, the plot is mostly inconsequential. You're an operative in the Special Forces and it's up to you to stop Hitler from deploying his new rocket, the V2. Over the course of eight missions, you'll perform the usual array of activities found in many a WWII-based FPS: You'll plant charges, pick up documents, fight in a church, launch mortar rockets, operate large cannons and stationary machine guns, and kill seemingly endless waves of Nazi soldiers. At this point the developer doesn't even try to explain where these soldiers are coming from. You can see them appear literally from thin air right in front of you on numerous occasions. Don't expect any advanced artificial intelligence from the game, either. Enemy soldiers will run right past you in an effort to get to their preprogrammed destinations. In a tremendous victory for equal-opportunity advocates worldwide, your fellow squadmates are just as inept; they'll stand mere inches from a bad guy without so much as batting an eye. They also love to shoot walls. But despite all of this, the game is still great. How?
Heroes 2 is able to overcome its mostly routine objectives by excelling in other areas. For starters, the game moves extremely fast--much faster than your typical Medal of Honor game. The series has always had an arcade edge to it, so speeding up the gameplay doesn't feel unnatural and serves only to make things more exciting. You won't spend your time traversing long, empty sections of terrain, and you won't have to inch forward to progress through a level. You can't just run through the levels willy-nilly because Nazi soldiers are good shots, but usually you just find some cover so that you can restore your health, quickly take a few guys out, and then scamper to the next group of enemies and mow them down.
The speedy gameplay wouldn't have been possible if this Medal of Honor shared the same poor controls as its predecessor, Vanguard. The controls aren't totally revamped, but they're definitely improved. You move with the analog stick, look around by moving the Wii Remote, and fire with the B button. There's always a reticle onscreen that turns red when it's over an enemy, so you can shoot via that method or press A to raise your weapon and use the sights. You can also tilt the Nunchuk left and right while in this view to lean in and out of cover. These aiming mechanics work just fine, but it's the new auto-aim feature (available only on the lowest difficulty) that works the best. Essentially all you have to do is focus your reticle on an enemy soldier and then press the Z button to lock on. You can then move and fire while remaining locked on to your target. It's not as mindless as many other auto-aim mechanics because it still requires some skill to line up that first shot, and it really works well with the fast-paced gameplay. It's just a shame that it can't be used on all the difficulty settings. There's also a control option that lets you use the soon-to-be-released Wii Zapper, but it's far inferior to the standard controls.
The fear with any Wii game that has roots on other consoles is that the developer will try to implement some half-cocked motion controls just because people expect Wii games to have some sort of unique remote-waving scheme. It's refreshing then that there are some truly interesting motion-sensing controls in Heroes 2. You get midmission information by going up to a radio and tuning in the appropriate frequency, which requires you to twist the Wii Remote like a tuning dial. The sound from the radio even comes through the remote's speaker, which coincidentally has just about the same fidelity as a 70-year-old radio, so it works perfectly. Using the shotgun is especially satisfying because you pump it by quickly raising the Nunchuk. It makes you feel like an action hero when you run into a room and start blasting a guy at close range and then pump your weapon with one hand. Even setting explosive charges is a lot of fun; you twist the remote like you're winding a timer and then you pull back as if you were pulling out the pin. At one point you'll find yourself holding a mine detector, and you'll have to wave the remote back and forth while listening for clicks from the Wii Remote to alert you of hidden danger. Of course, not all of the motion controls are great. Twisting the remote to zoom in and out with the sniper rifle while you're trying to aim makes it difficult to use. Likewise, holding the remote facedown on your shoulder as if it's a rocket launcher is incredibly unwieldy, not to mention that you look really stupid while doing it.
The single-player campaign probably won't take you more than five or six hours to finish, so it's good that there are plenty of other ways to stay busy. There's an arcade mode that is an on-rails version of the single-player campaign. You move through the levels automatically, and your only worry is to take out hundreds and hundreds of Nazis along the way. It's not as fun as something like Time Crisis, given that the game wasn't designed from the ground up to be played this way, but it's pretty entertaining. The Zapper does work well here, by the way.
Arcade mode will keep you busy for a few hours, but it's the game's online mode that will keep you coming back for more. Considering that most Wii games don't have any online components, it's impressive what EA has done with Heroes 2. Up to 32 players can duke it out online. The game modes aren't groundbreaking, but they're what you'd expect from a Medal of Honor game. The level designs are based on maps from the single-player campaign. They've been reworked a bit for multiplayer and are well designed. The multiplayer succeeds both because it moves really fast and because there are 32 players playing at the same time, so there's always some action. Our online experience went smoothly and suffered from very little lag, though it would have been a little more fun with voice chat, which is not supported. Even if Wii owners had other options for online first-person shooter play, Heroes 2 would be a worthy choice.
One thing that hasn't changed a whole lot since the last game is the visuals, but Heroes 2 does look crisper and runs smoother than Vanguard. It also has a bit more color than your typical WWII game. The graphics are consequently less dreary than what you may be used to, although the levels take place in the same sort of locations you've no doubt grown accustomed to: underground bunkers, a beach, a church, a small town... You know the drill. Other than offering up stereotypical locations, the only real knocks against the graphics are that enemy soldiers aren't very detailed and that they frequently clip through solid objects. Outside of some interesting uses of the Wii Remote's speaker, what you'll hear from Heroes 2 is what you've heard from Vanguard, Heroes, Airborne, and every other Medal of Honor game: good-sounding weapons; sparse, but fitting music; and soldier chatter.
Thanks to sharp controls, speedy gameplay, and an impressive online mode, Medal of Honor Heroes 2 is a battle worth fighting. It really is a great game.