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Medal of Honor Vanguard Review

Developer: EA Los Angeles Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 27, 2007 Also On: PS2

Nintendo’s new home console launched in November 2006 promising to revolutionize the first-person shooter genre on consoles. Not one stand-alone title has lived up to that standard, be it Red Steel, Call of Duty 3 or Medal of Honor Vanguard. Yet without that marque game, the system has still proven that it is more capable of precise control needed in a FPS than any other system outside of the PC. Medal of Honor Vanguard is not a perfect game, yet with this new and exciting technology we call Wii, an otherwise standard World War II shooter can be loads of fun.

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Medal of Honor Vanguard plays out in the European theater of World War II as so many other Medal of Honor games have in the past. Where Rising Sun was the ugly duckling and European Assault was the black sheep of the franchise, Vanguard returns the action back to where Frontline was leading things. I would describe Vanguard as mostly Frontline with a little bit of European Assault in its DNA.

Like Frontline, most of the action is relatively linear, especially in the cities. You don’t really have any options as to what your next mission is going to be, you just do it as the game tells you. Even though I liked the amount of openness and freedom you had in European Assault, I will admit that it didn’t feel like a Medal of Honor game. In that sense, it’s nice to see things return to normal. Like European Assault though, you can go back and choose individual missions after you complete them, and like European Assault, the game is relatively short.

In case you pay attention to this kind of stuff in your World War II shooters, Medal of Honor Vanguard’s single player campaign does have a World War II European history themed storyline. You will start out on the tiny island of Sicily and work your way to Germany. You play as Frank Keegan of the 82nd Airborne Division. The story plays out through black and white cut-scenes and takes advantage of historical World War II footage. Altogether, you will play through ten various levels across several operations, starting with Operation Husky. Other operations include Neptune, Market Garden and Varsity. Overall, you cover a lot of European territory. Still, it could have been longer.

The Allied invasion of Italy began with the largest amphibious landing of World War II on Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky. As part of the Airborne though, you’re going to be jumping out of a plane instead of landing on a beachhead. This is one of the highlight moments of the game, actually. Using your Wiimote and nunchuk, holding them upward, you control your parachute like you would in real life. You can turn left and right, slow down and speed up. Your goal is to land in drop zones for medals and special item pickups. You probably have never played anything like it in a video game. Even though it lasts fewer than fifteen seconds, the airdrops are quite entertaining. Unfortunately, there are only three of them in the entire game.

After you jump out of the plane and land safely, it’s time to jump into the action. The fact that you chose where to land on the playing field though changes how you will encounter the enemy. You may be in a good offensive position, or you may need to duck for cover the moment you hit the ground. This alters your experience slightly each time you play. Just remember that this is not Halo. Military shooters like Medal of Honor require a good deal of cover. Even though your health regenerates (there are no health packs anymore, another thing taken out since European Assault), if you don’t use cover properly, you won’t make it far in the game. Even when you do use cover, you’re going to run into instances where you will have a hard time getting out of the situation.

One of the things that I love about Medal of Honor Vanguard is the level of control you have. Not just using the Wiimote either, but you can customize pretty much the whole control structure to fit what makes you feel most comfortable. While there aren’t options to change button layout (the default is plenty good enough), you can change sensitivity, turn off nunchuk gestures and turn on this feature called “constrain view”. Constrain view is what really makes Medal of Honor Vanguard the best Wii shooter (as far as controls go) to date. Basically when you are pointing the Wiimote at the screen, you have a certain distance you can go up and a certain distance you can go down. You can’t view the sky or the ground. In other Wii games, doing this would simply throw you into a spiral. The camera doesn’t go crazy in Vanguard as it is set with the constrain view to avoid this completely.

Depending on how you setup your control settings (feel free to play around with it until you’re confident you have it perfect), Medal of Honor Vanguard should control something like this. Using your Wiimote you will aim your gun and move with the analog stick. You can jump with the C button and crouch/lay down with the Z button on the nunchuk. Pressing B on the Wiimote fires your weapon, while pressing A brings up the crosshair of your gun in a zoom view. Pressing right on the control pad will equip your grenades (press left to switch between guns), A will cook the grenade and B will lock the camera. After you press B and have a target locked on, you swing the Wiimote forward to chuck the grenade. Depending on how hard you throw it, the grenade will either hit or miss the target. The nunchuk serves to reload and act as a secondary jump/duck using gestures. All considering, they did a damn fine job getting the controls down and the grenade throwing, but the gestures need worked on.

Finally, there’s the multi-player. This is a mode that, aside from European Assault, has been lacking on the consoles since the franchise started. I was personally a fan of European Assault’s multi-player, and despite a lack of maps like that game, the experience is enjoyable, especially with three other friends. You can choose from a deathmatch, capture the flag, king of the hill and another mode that simply should not have been included. All of these can be played with teams (obviously 2-on-2 when you can only have four players total). Even though everyone wants it, there is no online mode. Don’t blame EA though. Nintendo doesn’t even have Wi-Fi Connect working with Wii yet.

Medal of Honor Vanguard is an above-average shooter made better with the use of Wii controls. After playing the Wii version, I never wanted to go back to the Dual-Shock analog stick on the PlayStation 2 version of Vanguard. It feels natural, it plays well and it’s fun. The last I checked, video games were meant to be fun to play, not just good to look at. Vanguard succeeds in that department, even though it’s not a sore on the eye either. I hope that EA puts the time, money and manpower into making a Wii-exclusive Medal of Honor that does an even better job of putting the system to its max potential in graphics, game design with longer missions and online play. Don’t overlook this game just because it’s another World War II shooter. Medal of Honor Vanguard deserves your attention.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.8
Written by Kyle Review Guide