Today sees the arrival of Medal Of Honor : Allied Assault on this side of the pond, and although (as usual) the Yanks are arriving late, we'll let them off this time, because from what we've seen so far Allied Assault appears to have been well worth the wait. Three weeks ago we ventured down to London to help EA celebrate the game's completion with a launch party at the Imperial War Museum in London. As well as enjoying free booze and nibbles, listening to a live jazz band and getting to play both Allied Assault and a demo of the forthcoming PS2 Medal Of Honor game, we were also treated to speeches by executive producer Rick Giolito and military consultant Dale Dye, both very colourful characters in their own ways. And so without any further ado, here's what they had to say for themselves...
A Bridge Too Far?
The Medal of Honor series was the brainchild of Dreamworks Interactive (which was later bought by Electronic Arts) and Steven Spielberg, who was finishing work on Saving Private Ryan when he told the company "to focus on creating a game that portrays the sacrifice of the individual in World War Two". Released on PlayStation at the tail end of 1999, the original Medal of Honor was a critical hit and thoughts inevitably turned to bringing the game to other platforms, including the PC. "This was not an idea that was originally met .. I mean, there was some scepticism", Rick admitted. "Our industry is littered with the bodies of PC to console ports, so we really needed to be clear and focused on what we were trying to do. We had to be absolutely clear on our goals for the product. The question was, how can we create a game that would be able to rise above an already distinguished landscape of PC first person shooters." "The answer was to aim high; so high that the goal seemed impossible to reach", Rick continued, going into full Oscar acceptance speech mode. "To create a game that busted the genre, moving the player away from the Rambo style of run and gun gameplay and forcing him to think about tactics, to think about risks to himself and his squadmates, to think about moral choices. And to create a game so totally immersive, so deep in content and steeped so deeply in authenticity that the player becomes lost in the experience. More like a movie than a game, where you're just swept away and forget about time. And finally, to take one huge risk. To take on the challenge of representing the single most important event in the history of World War Two - D-Day - and deliver on it."
The Longest Day
Anyone who has witnessed the Omaha Beach missions from Allied Assault will tell you that this isn't idle boasting, and experiencing the landings on a cinema screen at the back of the Imperial War Museum was certainly quite an experience. And apparently we weren't the only ones to be impressed. "Last June I got a phone call from Steven Spielberg. He called me from the set of Minority Report, which he was shooting, and wanted me to come over and demo the product. He had heard about some line of people waiting three hours at E3 to see it and he was excited to see what we were doing. So I sauntered over to the set with Caleb and set up and waited for Steven to come over between takes." "We showed him the D-Day level, in front of a constantly growing crowd of DPs, grips, sound technicians and actors. And oh yeah, by the way, he had pulled along George Lucas, because he was working with George at the time. So here I am standing in front of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas demoing this game, going 'oh my god, what are they going to say'. Well, Steven's looking at it, and people are whooping and hollering, and George Lucas says to him, 'oh god, it looks just like Saving Private Ryan'. And Steven turns to George and says 'yeah, and I love it'. And when we were done, he turned to me and he said 'Rick, the studio's taken interactive gaming to a level that I never thought possible'. And that was one of the proudest moments of my career."
How I Won The War
As Rick left the stage to have the lump surgically removed from his throat, Dale Dye took his place. For those of you who haven't heard of him before, Dale is a retired US Marine who did three tours of duty in Vietnam as well as serving in Beirut and Central America. More recently he has put that experience to good use, acting as military consultant to Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan and the excellent TV mini-series Band Of Brothers. "War is not about, and I say this from first hand experience, war is not about firing a round down range or keeping the trigger pulled back on full automatic and watching somebody's head explode in a pink mist. That's not what it's about. That may be fun, and if you want to play that kind of game then I encourage you to do it. But don't get Medal Of Honor. Medal Of Honor is different." "We went to extraordinary lengths to do this. I went down and actually met the most outlandish bunch of pencil-necked geek techies I've ever met in my life. I took these worms out into the high desert in about 110 degree heat and I made them fire real weapons, live ammunition down range, so they could get the feel of reloading and recoil, and what a weapon would do. And I brought them back into the studio and they began to incorporate those things. Y'all will probably have seen Caleb, who's an experienced player. Did you notice every time he went to a new objective, what did he do? New magazine. Reloaded. That's what we taught him. That's one of the things you learn. There aren't any bottomless Hollywood magazines. There's a finite number of rounds that you can play with, and if you forget that you get popped. I saw a few of you playing on the PS2 over here. I'll send flowers..."
Band Of Brothers
"At any rate it's a difficult game. But it does tend to teach. Now what does it teach? Does it inure people to violence? Does it say everything's OK and war is fun? No it doesn't. It says that you have to make choices, just as you must make choices in your life." "I think this game is starting to teach people what that great seminal event World War Two was really about. I looked in my 14 year old daughter's history book and World War Two is covered in about four paragraphs. That's what people are learning today. Well we hope, along with being a terrific fun product and something that really gives you some sort of recreational value, we also hope that it makes you understand what soldiers may have to go through, and more importantly what all of them went through in World War Two, no matter what uniform they wore. Because remember, we owe where we are and who we are and what we are to those folks." "We think that the Medal Of Honor franchise has enormous value. I spent the entire year of 2000 over here in the UK with you wonderful folks, and when we were making Band of Brothers I had 65 actors, and every time I didn't have them actively working on the set, I knew where to find them - they were in the warming tent playing Medal Of Honor. They're fascinated by the game. But if the first Medal Of Honor was the individual soldier's game, this game is the squad leader's game. This is where what you do, which is true in combat, believe me, influences other people. So you learn to think, you learn to be careful, you learn some moral issues I think. But I'm making all of that sound too heavy and too oppressive. I really hope that you enjoy Medal Of Honor, because I can guarantee you that the EA team, Rick, Bruce, all of the guys, all of the pencil necks back behind the computer consoles that do the programming, these guys put a lot of sweat and a lot of effort into it, and I'm very happy and very proud to see how well it's doing."
Allied Assault should be available across Europe today, but that's far from the end for the Medal Of Honor franchise. A PlayStation 2 game is due out in the summer, and tomorrow we'll be bringing you a full hands-on preview of that. Dale also mentioned that another game is already being planned, telling the audience that "I won't announce right now what we're going to do next, but it will kick your butt". Judging from what we have seen of Allied Assault and Frontline PS2 so far, he might just be right.