Medal of Honor: Frontline

Medal of Honor: Frontline

Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers took the relatively mundane genre of WWII films to a new plateau by injecting a raw, visceral style focusing on the brutality and chaos of the battlefield. Your grandad’s war was suddenly hip, happening, and gory…and Electronic Arts was quick to capitalize on this violent renaissance by creating the Medal of Honor series. Like Steven Spielberg’s films, this is exciting—if decidedly melodramatic—warfare.

This third-person action adventure title, the first for next-gen platforms, plays out like a war flick highlight reel. Storming the beach at Normandy? Check. Sniper showdown in a bombed-out French city? Yep. Rustic country villages overrun with Nazi tanks? They’re in there. These stages look spectacular, drawing obvious inspiration from the aforementioned movies. Bullets scream past your soldier’s head, bunkers explode, and troops scurry into foxholes all around him. It’s so frantic and realistic, it’s hard to not get caught up in the action. The soundtrack also works overtime, scoring the action with a sweeping orchestral bombast. It’s truly Hollywood-caliber stuff, and heightens the game’s cinematic feel dramatically.

As undeniably successful as its presentation is, Frontline’s gameplay can’t quite match its slick exterior. Levels look dazzling, but the actual tasks you must accomplish in them are often so contrived that all the realism fades away. During the amazing opening sequence in which you storm the beach, the artifice is all too apparent. Instead of just running up the embankment and fighting for your life like a real solider, you must run around and find four fellow soldiers who need help. Fire a few shots near their heads to offer “covering fire” and they’ll move to safety.

Similarly unrealistic goals pepper many of the stages, and unless you pay very close attention to the objectives, you’ll likely miss some obscure goal as you progress. Nothing rips the illusion of legitimacy like reaching the exit of a stressful stage and seeing “All objectives not completed.” Hoofing it back through the stage to climb to the top of some random church or looking for documents in a clock significantly salts the thrill of video warfare.

Compared to the PlayStation 2 version released in mid-2002, this Xbox port doesn’t offer much in terms of new content; the only real addition is a Deathmatch mode for up to four players. The level designs are far too large for a small group of players, the options are limited and, due to the old-fashioned weaponry, battles often degrade into a game of who can reload his rifle first.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Xbox Nation.