Kill Germans in an FPS? Surely, you must be joking!
After many years of playing World War II FPSs, all it takes is the language of German being spoken to get my trigger-finger itching. Not that I have anything against Germans; I’ve lived in Germany, eaten their raw pork, enjoyed their monk-made beer, taken snapshots of them in stylish lederhosen.
[image1]But countless FPS games have trained me to shoot anything that utters a word of German. In fact, I wish Naruto spoke German. All of my murderous desires aimed at one small, loud-mouthed, Teutonic ninja. If only I could meet him in some deserted alley. He could even bring along some of his ninja buddies. More targets, yes? But my therapist tells me to avoid such fantasies, so I’ll leave the rest to your imaginations.
Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 has lots and lots of Germans. So I’m not sure it’s good for me—and any nearby Germans—to come across yet another WWII-themed FPS. At this point, the total number of game hours in all of the WWII games ever released far surpasses the duration of the war itself. The Call of Duty series recently peeked its head out of the past and into the present day with Modern Warfare, and the Battlefield series left the mid-century carnage behind a while ago. Medal of Honor, though, sticks resolutely to its Tommy guns.
You’ll find more story in Pac-man than in Medal of Honor: Heroes 2. Short cut-scenes full of vintage-looking photographs introduce the missions while a narrator explains something about something that needs to be blown up or captured. He never says anything useful or interesting, so I stopped listening to him almost the instant he first started talking. All you need to know about the “story” is that you are there to maim some Germans and destroy their property. It’s like Oktoberfest, but with guns.
Most missions consist of wandering through a brief level until you arrive at some gun, vehicle, or power supply. Once you get there, you plant a bomb, set a timer, and get the hell out of Dodge-berg. Usually, more enemies will then show up, a door will open that was locked before, and you exit. End level. It’s all very predictable, though you’ll come across some different weapons and environments. Otherwise, expect to complete the same mission types and fight the same enemies over and over.
The real question you’re all silently asking me, though, is how the Wii controls work. My honest answer is: it depends. The Wii’s controls have proven to be a mixed bag of promise, innovation, and disappointment. In the wake of Metroid Prime 3, we’re all waiting to see how FPSs will fare on the console. In Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, you move with the control stick on the nunchuck and point and shoot with the remote. If you’ve had a hard time adapting to console-based FPS games because you couldn’t ditch your mouse and keyboard setup, the Wii may provide a good compromise. You have to point the reticule at the edge of the screen to turn, but aiming is much more intuitive for you musophiliacs.
[image2]The aiming reticule is roughly the size of Hitler’s bunker, but that helps to diminish the sense of lag between the remote and the TV. Even on the hardest difficulty setting, the reticule remains big enough to drive a Sherman tank through. Any time you pass the reticule over an enemy that's within your weapon’s range, even if you can’t spot him with the naked eye, the reticule will turn red. So you can save yourself the enjoyable hassle of trying to be accurate and just fire whenever you see red. You’ll hit your enemies ninety percent of the time. It’s an incredibly undemanding aiming system.
The highlight of this game, though, is the incorporation of the Wii-remote motion sensors. Rather than coming off as yet another obligatory use of waggle or swinging, each weapon uses motion in different ways. With most weapons, you tilt the nunchuck left and right to lean and peak around cover. The sniper rifle’s scope is zoomed in and out by rotating the remote. The bazooka is used by placing the remote backwards over your shoulder and firing. The shotgun gets cocked by flicking the nunchuck. And so on. None of these extra touches feel gimmicky, and I was brought deeper into a game that would otherwise have been insufferably shallow. This reason alone is enough to give this game a shot.
Considering how fun using the weapons can be, it’s too bad that your enemies don’t put up more of a fight. These Germans are not smart. Not only will they stand out in the open and let you fire away at them, but they’ll also run right past you, even when you’re in plain view. I could approach an enemy crouched behind an object, and he’d just be staring blankly at the wall waiting for me to clobber him senseless. And when they’re not busy watching bugs crawl, the enemies like to stare at each other’s backs, providing a perfect row of easy targets.
Friendly AI is even worse. Your allies live shorter than a pi-meson, and have worse aim than an Imperial Storm Trooper. Your allies will often let enemies pass by, so don’t trust your buddies to prevent an enemy from flanking you. They won’t kill your enemies nor will they even slow them down. You’re fighting this war all on your own. Luckily, your enemies aren’t much brighter than your friends, so it’s still an unfair fight in your favor.
Multiplayer is totally standard fare. Team death match is de rigueur, and it’s very nice not having a voice chat option on the Wii. If there’s one thing that makes my trigger finger itchier than the sound of German, it’s the sound of “1337 gamurz” coming from my console. It’s also a real treat not having to enter a hundred different friend codes to connect to an online game on the Wii; you’ll have to register for EA Nation if you haven’t already, but once you do, it’s a smooth experience.
Graphically, the game hasn’t moved far past the days of Goldeneye on the N64. There’s no texture work to speak of. Almost every surface is a solid, drab color. Character models and animations are extremely limited. Enemies disappear in the midst of their death throes before they even hit the ground. If you don’t expect to be impressed, you won’t be disappointed. But despite some of its graphical shortcomings, everything moves at a consistently smooth framerate both on- and off-line.
[image3]On-screen sound is remarkably good for a Wii game. Bullets and voices suit each situation. At certain points in the game, you need to twist the remote to tune a radio to a communication channel in a limited amount of time, using the remote’s speaker to listen for the correct frequency. I generally keep my remote speaker turned off, so I had forgotten I even had a remote speaker. Needless to say, there’s little point to this strange mini-game, and I’m not a fan of the remote speaking to me. It sounds like some talking toy found in my cereal box. The weapon reload effects that come out of the remote speaker are a nice detail, though, and it just might convince me to leave the sound turned on (very low) in the future for other games.
There’s something comforting in the familiarity of this game’s clichés. Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 is an FPS aimed at the lowest common denominator of players. It’s as though this game was precisely calculated to meet the exact average of gameplay. It assumes that the player has problems aiming accurately and using standard FPS controls, and has no patience for very deep gameplay. The game does a reasonably good job of meeting each of these needs. Taken together, these gameplay concessions make for a moderately fun, easy, short, and shallow experience. Nicht schlecht.