Medal of Honor Spearhead

Medal of Honor Spearhead

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 12/2/2002 for PC  

At the onset of this year I stated that Medal of Honor Allied Assault was my early choice for the game of the year. It was one of the few games on the market that not only managed to capture the look of World War II, but also the fear and emotion that it conveyed. It was almost as if all those long-winded stories that my grandfather told me as a child had come to life, beckoning me to fully comprehend just what the world’s most outrageous war was truly about. As I played through the game I began to understand what made it so great, it wasn’t the pleasing visuals or the outstanding sound effects, it was all about the substance and content.

Spearhead follows the events of the Second World War but instead of casting you as Lt. Powell you’ll assume the role of Jack Barnes. Because the game is in the same basic timeline of Allied Assault you’ll engage in some of the same missions, just from a different perspective. For instance, the first mission of the game revolves around Operation Overlord but instead of participating in the beach landing you’ll parachute around enemy forces and attack from behind the lines. This adds some more life into the game by allowing you a different perspective on some of the war’s more major events. While everyone remembers the landing not many people understood the impact of the paratroopers who had to land behind enemy lines, thankfully Spearhead sheds light upon this.

Much of the gameplay remains virtually unchanged although you’ll now be able to lean in the single player mode. If you can remember you could lean in Allied Assault but only during the multiplayer game. In addition to the new single-player campaign you’ll also have a few new weapons at your disposal. There’s a new rifle, a new pistol, a new sub-machinegun, some new grenades, but they suffer from being too similar to one another. Why do you need two rifles when they do the same job? Why do I need two sub-machine guns if they’re essentially the same? This has been the downfall of many FPS and it seems to hit this expansion pack as well. Thankfully the designers added a secondary fire option to the weapons to allow you to bash your opponents over the head with the butt of a rifle or pistol. This is an excellent addition that really helps you out especially when you’re low on ammo. In order to make the environment more realistic you’ll be able to handle much more of the machinery. You’ll take control of AA guns and flak cannons but the end result seems to be more of a novelty than a bonus.

This pack seems to be much more focused on the multiplayer aspects of the game as opposed to the single-player aspects. The multiplayer game sees new improvements in nearly every realm while the single player game seems kind of rushed and unfinished. The campaign didn’t even last me a day, that’s right, I managed to complete it in one dedicated night. Even with all of the frustrations, level loads and restarts, I put this game through its paces in about 3 or 4 hours.
The problem with Spearhead is that it forces the gamer to rely on memorization and sheer luck as opposed to any acquired skills. Too many of the levels depend on trial and error, an early level has you riding on the back of a truck manning the gunners seat. You’re in the Ardennes forest in December so visibility is basically reduced to zero. You’ll have to depend on the driver as he shouts out the location of the next enemy. This would work if only the enemies didn’t do so much damage to you and you were given more time to react. From the moment you hear “halftrack on the left!” you’ll literally have 2 seconds before you’re blown to shreds. Now imagine doing this for about 10 minutes and you’ll get the general idea. After a while I was beginning to have flashbacks of that dreaded sniper level from AA. It took me about an hour of concentrated playing just to get past this sequence alone. Afterwards I was expecting to be rewarded with what the game does best, pure first person shooting action but the next mission proved to be just as annoying.

In an effort to recreate the magic of Allied Assault’s Operation Overlord beach landing, the designers inexplicable decided to instill this same gameplay style into a much less exciting setting. Again, you’re in the Ardennes, this time it’s Christmas Day and the troops are celebrating the successful raid of enemy supplies by enjoying some well-deserved hot coffee. Suddenly the camp site is bombarded by enemy fire, bombs rain down from the sky and not surprisingly, the entire scene is scripted with specific triggers. You’ll have to travel to the front lines, all the while avoiding random explosions and enemy gunfire. After you learn that the commanding officer has been hurt you’re forced to travel to the very back of the camp to retrieve a medic, all the while jumping into fox holes to avoid getting hurt. This is nice and all but the problem is it just doesn’t have the same magic as Overlord does and quite frankly, it’s just not as fun. The explosions are entirely scripted so it’s all matter of watching the explosions and trying to figure out when it’s safe to proceed. For a first person shooter this is genre suicide, it’s like the jumping puzzles in Serious Sam Second Encounter, it’s just too much out of place.

The problems continue when you realize that the game requires one behemoth of a system to run properly. If you thought the original was a power monster than you haven’t seen nothing yet. It managed to bring my P4 1.5 Ghz Geforce 3 Ti500 system to its knees, showcasing frame rates that I haven’t seen since the 486 days. Seriously, if the original was chugging along on your system you can expect this to reduce it down to a moving slideshow. This was noticeable right from the start, the first sequence featured frame rates that were downright unplayable. I tried turning all of the options down in hopes of obtaining a reasonable frame rate but it just wasn’t in the cards. Of course this lead to many un-necessary deaths that wouldn’t have occurred had the game been able to run smoothly. Surprisingly, the game doesn’t seem to have improved too much from a visual standpoint so I’m guessing that the resource hunger comes from an increased in scripted events.

Let’s be fair here though, the action is amazing and barring the inclusion of these roadblocks, this would be an excellent single-player campaign. I’m telling you right now, if you loved the original game then you’ll definitely love what the single-player campaign has to offer, barring a few frustrating missions. I thoroughly enjoyed the first person action, it successfully adds more of the Nazi-killing action that gamers have been salivating for. Enemies AI is comparable to Allied Assault’s, they’ll hit the deck when they’re being fired upon, hide behind corners when they’re able to and they’ll call for reinforcements when possible. Sadly the extent of their intelligence ends there, it seems as if they’ve had a lobotomy since the last time we visited them. Sometimes you can run up to them and literally run circles around them without so much as getting a scratch. I suppose it’s serviceable but the challenge just isn’t there any more, they’ll hit you less often and while they’ll show some occasional flashes of brilliance, they’re just not all that bright. I suppose this isn’t too inaccurate though, I mean they did lose the war and all, twice.
The performance hitches are quite odd when you realize that the game essentially looks as same as the original. Not too much has changed, even some of the enemy models have been re-used. There are more fireworks though as nearly every single sequence results in you setting off a massive chain of explosives. I’m not knocking the game’s visuals here, the original was a very beautiful game and to keep up the status quo is just fine by me.

Speaking of keeping up the status quo, the expansion pack was faced with the daunting task of living up to the excellent audio aspects of the original. Amazingly enough, Spearhead manages to accomplish this feat and in some respects, tops Allied Assault in the sound department. Most of the effects seem to have been re-used, that means that all of the gunfire, creaks in the wood and shattering glass effects have been recreated with impeccable results. Where this game excels is in the speech, capturing the true franticness and confusion of the battlefield. I had the feeling that the actors were up to Hollywood caliber, accurately conveying the feeling of panic and alarm that only comes with being in the war. Of course having actor Gary Oldman voice the main character really helps the game move along as well. Crank up those speakers if you have them, you’ll be in for a treat.

Contrast these errors to the amount of positives in the multiplayer realm. From large things such as new maps and a new gameplay mode to small innovations like color coded messages that help you identify which team it pertains to, the multiplayer has been improved all around. There is a new multiplayer mode, Tug-of-war, that essentially plays like a game of Battlefield 1942, just not as well executed. The network code seems to have been improved as the game runs a lot smoother in the multiplayer mode, funny way to disguise a much-needed patch.

When you weigh all of the aspects of this expansion pack your final decision should ultimately rest on just how enjoyable the original game was for you. If you had a blast with the original then you’ll no doubt be craving more of the same action that pulled you in the first time. Likewise if you’re a huge fan of MoH’s multiplayer aspects then you should definitely pick this up to improve on an already entertaining experience. While there are quite a few problems that prevent this from being accessible to casual gamers, it’s a worthy addition to any MoH fan’s library.
An excellent expansion pack that expands upon the original while adding much more value to the online aspects. While the servers are meager, they’re more than enough to satisfy the hunger of the many MoH fans out there.

Rating: 7.8 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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