Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault review

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The yomp through the sweatbox jungles of the Pacific makes up most of the experience. It's a different prospect from the previous games. Twitchier. There are no one-on-one encounters, just mobs of enemies, some in wooden camps, others in the naked jungle, waiting for your arrival and ready to swarm. These fights usually kick off with a massive charge. The Japanese soldiers are brave, handy with a bayonet and have unerring accuracy with pineapples. They're not perfect, though, with more than a touch of the kamikaze about their tactics if you get close enough. They also know how to move to flank you; and the first you'll know is when they've speared your kidneys or when you hear a warning from your squad.

Oh, yes - your squad. This time you've got constant companions: a group of fighters who patrol with you through the jungle. All you can ask of team AI is that they're dependable, and in this respect your band of brothers are worth their weight in hot lead. The group of soldiers lay down covering fire, toss grenades and call out accurate warnings. They also lead you to the next section when you get lost. There are no heroics in this theatre of war because the team precludes any need for them. Hell, even in the scripted scenes they take their place, mounting .50 cals and defending positions.

That's not to say they're to be relied upon to do your job - you're still the main strike force, and should kill more than they do. But when you're ambushed you'll thank Thor the squad's there to take up the strain. Particularly the Corpsman. He's the man you call when you're riddled full of bullets. There are no health pick-ups, instead you have to bandage yourself when injured enough to bleed. Then call in the medic to boost your strength. If one of your squaddies ends up like Swiss cheese then you must try to collect the body and cover the medic as he works.

One of the developments Pacific Assault brings to the series is group command. At certain points in the fighting, decisions need to be made, using a simple system of orders. Do you drag the squad forward into battle, tell them to fall back, order covering fire or rally on your position? The system can be tricky to learn, because it's not consistently available, and when there's a Japanese soldier happily bayoneting your belly, you may have other things to focus on. It's usually the case that you'll use the team to support your own actions, before you head off into the woods like a bimbo in a horror movie.

And so, deeper into the jungle we head. There's an obvious pattern to the fighting. You're forced down slim pathways that widen into clumps of enemies. You fight them en masse, then move on to the next clump. There are few alternative routes to pick out and when you do find them, they're little more than shortcuts. There's no strategic planning necessary - the Japanese soldiers are just up ahead and you have to kill them. And they know instinctively where you are. No matter if you're sneaking through thick trees, or behind walls, unless your fanatical foe is forced to deal with one of your squad, they'll always turn to you.

It's solid action, but lacks imagination when compared to the bigger set-pieces. Cleaning out an unremarkable village of prescient soldiers just can't compare to the night of Bloody Ridge, where you take up a mounted gun. The night starts humming with voices. Beginning quietly but building into a crescendo as the enemy charges headfirst into your encampment, screaming bloody murder. All the while your trenchmate shouts directions as you focus hot death into the deadly mass. Sweet.

Perhaps the on-foot sections would click together better if they were bigger. Loading scenes pop-up with alarming regularity, making it feel like a series of vignettes rather than a coherent experience. You'd also think, that since Allied Assault, the developers would have figured out a way to stop guns poking through walls, or prevent AI soldiers running into solid objects. They haven't. The much whooped-up physics also add little beyond windows that swing on hinges and some shaky barrels.

But the grumbles with Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault are focused on the minutiae. This new instalment addresses some of the problems of the previous titles but there are still some gameplay kinks to be worked out.

The bigger picture is rather more entertaining. A summer blockbuster with outrageous set-pieces. It could have been glorious but it's merely good. It won't win any awards for originality, but there's plenty of fun to be had.

Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault is released for PC on 19 November

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Alternative names"MoH Pacific Assault"