MVP Baseball 2004 (2004)

CoD:  Worthwhile title or Medal of Honor clone?  Fine out inside.

Ever since
Saving Private Ryan had its heyday at the box office, the genre of WWII FPS's
has exploded, with the most well known series, Medal of Honor, profiting the
most. It's masterpiece, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, has created a standard
for quality shooters, with it's outstanding graphics, sound, and gameplay. Many
cheap Wal-Mart quality knockoffs were produced, none of which came anywhere
near the level that Allied Assault occupied. But in the intervening time
between Allied Assault and Medal of Honor's next big title, Pacific Assault, a
contender emerged, Call of Duty, and, somehow, dramatically improves on the
Allied Assault formula, guaranteeing it a position on any PC gamers must play
list.

 

Graphically,
the game is outstanding. Character models, both friendly and enemy, are
flat-out stunning, right down to the facial models, which do a great job of
syncing with the voice-overs. Weapon models are highly detailed and very
authentic, defiantly a notch up from Allied Assault, and come with great muzzle
flash and barrel smoke effects. The game environment is good, but not necessary
spectacular, and not too far beyond Allied Assault's environments, though
texture enhancements and careful construction of the war zone can be
appreciated upon close inspection. Some of the games more expansive levels,
however, like the crossing of the Vulga river, provide a awe inspiring scene of
a war torn beachhead, and can almost get you killed if you stop to look at it
for too long. Effects like grenade explosions and shell impacts are extremely
well done, throwing dirt and debris in all directions and leaving a nice cloud
of smoke in their wake. Animations are superb, with smooth and authentic
reloading sequences, and quite believable death animations. Effects like
anti-aliasing and anistropic filtering add to the eye candy, if your machine
can handle it. Hardware wise, you can always follow the bare minimum
requirements if you have to, but you won't need an Alienware rig to get a lot
of eye candy out of the game, either. I'm running a GeForce 4 Ti 4200 with 2x
AA at 1024×786, and I've only had brief frame rate issues with close quarters
battles with multiple baddies.

Sound is one
place where Allied Assault excelled, with distinctive gunfire sounds for each
weapon in the game, adding in whizzing bullets and exploding shells, all
combining to immerse you in the fight. Call of Duty adds little to this winning
combination, instead doing an extremely good job of replicating it. Each weapon
is carefully crafted with its own gun blast and reloading sounds, and makes it
easy to differentiate between weapons in multiplayer matches. Grenade pins
click when removed, footsteps thud on wood floors and crunch on dirt, and magazines
snap into place when crammed into an empty weapon. This is a game where it
really pays to have a good set of speakers, particularly 4.1 and 5.1 setups, as
the game makes full use of them with approaching planes and enemy gunfire. Some
effects, though, like the MG42, are a little bit too loud, which is probably
authentic, but can easily max out your speakers if your volume is too high.

 

Gameplay can
be summed up in one word: intense. Not hard or frustrating, mind you, but
challenging enough to always keep you on your toes and never allowing you to
let your guard down. Some scenes, especially, like when you're tasked with the
defense of a captured German bridge, are downright furious, always keeping you
running around blasting German infantry and picking up anti-tank weapons to
smoke the next incoming tank. The controls and interface are a strange blend of
Battlefield 1942, Halo, and Allied Assault. The game allows only two main
weapons to be carried at once, allowing the player to swap out spent or
insufficient weapons for ones off dead baddies or allies, along with a sidearm
and grenades. The WASD layout, as well as R for reloads and a use key is
borrowed from the standard FPS layout, but also uses lean, E and Q, to peek
around corners. The aiming reticule expands and contracts while moving, and is
also effected by what stance (crouching, standing, or prone) you're currently
in, showing how much your fire will spread out if you were to pull the trigger
at that moment. Perhaps the best feature is the "down the gun" aiming system,
which can be thought of as the games zoom mode, in which the player uses the
weapons built in sights, instead of the usual "off the hip style", as a way to
improve accuracy, at the cost of decreased movement speed. Also added in is the
ability to use emplacement guns, like MG42's and flak guns, to fend off the
hoards of enemies that come your way. Speaking of enemies, the AI is very
smart, and will do all it can to flank you, dive for cover, and smack you with
grenades. In short, it will never give you a break.

 

The fun
factor is defiantly high here, but is also challenging, and can be irritating
if the player does not pick up on key points, like using Panzerschrek rounds or
manning a flak gun to progress. Beyond this, the game is extremely
entertaining. Some of the games scripted scenes, for example one with has you
uncorking bazooka round at pursuing German motorcycles and trucks from a moving
vehicle is very gratifying, as is pulling off long distance shots on German
infantry commanders. The game maintains a fine line between easy and
irritating, never allowing a player to get sloppy, and only strays off this path
on a few occasions, namely a few scripted scenes which force a player to try a
few times to pick up on the pattern the game wants them to follow. If you don't
allow these few examples to ruin it for you, Call of Duty will be sure to
please.


The only place the game fails to excel is in multiplayer, where it adds almost
nothing to the typical FPS online play experience. The new gameplay modes are
nothing to shout about, and neither are the maps. If this is one of your first
FPS games, then defiantly go online, as you will probably have a blast. But if
you're an experienced online killer, than you will find little here to keep you
interested.


So
is it an Allied Assault knockoff? Sure it is, but it's a very good one, and
something that veteran Medal of Honor players owe to themselves to at least
try, as it adds many great factors to an already great genre.


Graphics:
18


Sound: 18


Gameplay: 20


Fun: 18


Replay: 15
 

OVERALL
SCORE (out of 100): 89

Copyright 11/26/03 by
Tyler Richardson