Sit old people down and ask them to tell the same story and you're generally in for a confusing time. Over the years what he said, what she said, times and places have become confused or expanded for entertainment value. The only rock solid facts that remain are the tale's foundations - whether that's to do with the number of bananas imported during the war years, or which of their neighbours put it around with the American Airmen.
Ask gamers of advancing years about what happened in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, development ancestor of this month's big release Modern Warfare 2, and you'll get similar responses. Everyone remembers the dash from cover to cover on Omaha beach and a few other notable scenes, but everything else is mired in things that may or may not have been in Call of Duty or Brothers in Arms, and the order in which it all takes place in-game will be entirely unstuck.
The deluge of WW2 shooters that followed Allied Assault (predominantly through the wares of Infinity Ward, the splinter group that had been a huge chunk of MOH creators 2015, or EA's attempts to spin out its franchise) has not only meant that gameplay locations in Northern France have been utterly rinsed, but nigh-on FIFA-esque yearly WW2 updates also mean that there was rarely any particular reason to go back to the game that first introduced the glorious ping of an M1 Garand reload.
So it was then that, to my mild surprise, I booted up Allied Assault to discover that it begins (after a bout of being shown how to duck under barbed wire, and how to throw grenades through Playschool-style windows) in the back of a truck in North Africa, and not in a floating metal tray somewhere on the English Channel accompanied by Tom Hanks. Allied Assault's lynchpin beach scene doesn't kick in until the third chapter, and there's a large amount of prisoner rescue, airfield destruction and undercover submarine base infiltration to get through first.
It's fascinating to play AA in the light of the Call of Duty wares that would follow it. Around two years earlier all the ingredients were in place - the swirling music, the hapless allies charging into walls of bullets, the vehicular joyrides, the Nazis playing cards in heavily fortified bunkers and a huge range of half-destroyed French farmhouses. When played through again today, however, the Hollywood bombast and the feelings of panic and chaos that COD would go on to specialise in rarely raise their helmets above the pillbox window.
It remains a great game, but an AA replay doesn't quite feel as rounded as a return visit to the first Call of Duty: not quite as much kicks off on-screen, deaths aren't quite so dramatic, environments become samey, vehicle chases feel remarkably slow and gunfire feels that little bit too precise to provide the same degree of COD-style gunspray-terror. Allied Assault's role as a stepping stone to Call of Duty, meanwhile, also means that what would later become war-gaming staples hadn't been invented just yet - with features like staring down raised gunsights and melee weapon shoves still nothing but a beautiful dream.
Let's stop criticising a game released in 2002 for being seven years old though. Allied Assault was released in the days in which gun emplacement sections and a Labour government second term were very exciting things indeed, and what's more it was a game that truly felt and played like an authentic period piece. For the first time, military weapons in a pure action game didn't feel like a numkey-guided tour from pistol to rocket launcher, with stops at shotgun and light machinegun in between.
Enemies, meanwhile, despite extremely selective hearing, appeared to genuinely fear your attacks - peeking out from behind corners and legging it away from your thrown grenades. Taking down a tank with a Panzerfaust from the windows of a steadily destroyed building, or frantically making your way up to a half-wrecked church across a graveyard with three machinegun emplacements pointing in your direction, were unquestionably epic moments - and still feel quite special today.
That mission in the French town with all the snipers though? That's more of a pain in the arse than it ever was. Elsewhere, however, the concentration on long-distance snipe-centric gameplay is still rather special. To my memory, Allied Assault is the first game that forced you to stare suspiciously at distant foliage to try to make out whether there was a Nazi helmet somewhere behind it. Ignoring a Nazi behind a bush, of course, will always end in trouble (just ask Western Europe). Allied Assault was not only made back in the days where healthpacks ruled the roost (good thing), but also where shooters were a lot more content to punish with little to no warning.
Something else that's grown hazy in the memory (and was slightly lost when the COD brand descended) is the emphasis on stealth gameplay. It was Call of Duty that really hammered home the feeling of 'en masse' warfare, yet in comparison much of Allied Assault comprises 'behind enemy lines' play that would sit well in a Commandos game. It's these levels, the ones that show off themes of sneaking and subterfuge, that shine through on a repeat play. The most notable section, for example, is the superb non-combat sequence that has you walk through a submarine base brandishing stolen identity papers, stealing extra ones as you go along. It makes you feel much like Indiana Jones in his ill-fitting stolen Nazi uniform at the close of Raiders.
Another rather freeform set-piece that remains fresh to this day has a Project IGI tang [Oh my god! Remember that! - Ed], which the Call of Duty games would also veer away from, having you take out the patrolling Nazis in the gardens of a mansion house and keeping anyone from slamming an alarm, before storming the various wings of the house itself to forage for documents and radio transmitters.
In terms of tracking the development route all the way through from Allied Assault to Modern Warfare, the clearest link are the guard dogs - dumped for the WW2 Call of Duties but restored to great neck-breaking effect for Infinity Ward's modern-day rendition. Generally placed in areas in which you're more disposed to calmly staring down your sniper rifle sights, the terror that the sudden appearance of a knee-hungry Alsatian could imbue back when in 2002 is still there today. You may have come on in leaps and bounds in terms of gaming ken, but it doesn't stop you running backwards, yelping, trying to switch weapons and then frantically spraying the ground with bullets if you haven't been listening out for the telltale barks.
Something else that's been prevalent throughout Infinity Ward's (nee 2015) works, however, are crap endings - and without a shadow of a doubt the very worst was contained within the studio's former work in Allied Assault. Running out of a bunker, jumping into a train carriage and watching the credits: it's an action sequence that wouldn't seem out of place in the Littlest Hobo. It remains a crushing disappointment, and it still hasn't been forgiven.
The warfare marathon is not, however, over. Check out our Call of Duty retrospective elsewhere on the site for more whooping, hollering and exuberance about Nazi death animation backflips. Join us, why don't you?