Version tested: Wii
Released to a muted fanfare on Wii and PSP almost three months ago in the US, Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 is the filler release you're expecting. The apathy surrounding it is hardly surprising. After more than ten different MOH titles since the back end of '99, we all know the drill: shoot clueless Nazis, wander around linear levels, blow stuff up, meet objectives, repeat until dead/bored.
Even if you're somehow new to killing brain-dead Nazis, Heroes 2 is so by-the-numbers that you won't be satisfied. If that sounds cynical, it's a fleabite on the gelatinous flabby arse of this bone-idle attempt to reprise the World War II shooter. You'd have to really want to own another World War II shooter, and on the Wii, to find sustenance in the few crumbs of comfort on offer, although, to be fair, if you ignore the bland, predictable, linear environments, the atrocious enemy AI, the boring objectives and the same old same old same old, the Wii version's control system is worth inviting into your tent to snuggle and compare haversacks.
Waving and drowning
Unlike last year's irredeemably awful Vanguard, EA has realised that waving downward to crouch and waving right to do a 180-degree turn are silly ideas. Instead, Heroes 2 takes its cues from the much slicker Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, rather than, say, Red Steel, and other awful Wii game attempts at FPS controls. Aiming is precise, movement polished, and simple actions like crouching and zooming down the sights are bound to buttons rather than dance moves.
Leaning involves a little tilt of the Nunchuk in the appropriate direction, and you can easily peep over the top of cover by zooming in while crouched. Reloading is still performed with a little shake of the remote (complete with a workmate-baiting 'Clunk-Click' from the Wii remote's speaker when you do), but it all works, so we'll forgive this rather silly concession to gesture controls. Better still, the ability to tinker with look-speed and aiming sensitivity makes it possible to refine it to your tastes - always appreciated - while the addition of a Zapper configuration also takes care of those who feel the need to fashion a gun-shaped peripheral out of their controllers and go "pew pew!"
The Zapper doesn't really lend itself to full first-person controls, so the eight-mission Campaign mode feels far better played by the default method. On the other hand, the new on-rails Arcade mode works a charm with the Zapper, and is by far the most entertaining way to play. Taking place in the exact same levels as Campaign, and broadly involving the same objectives and enemy placement, you simply let the game take over movement and get on with the business of shooting those dastardly Nazis. The scamps. The other major difference is that ammo is unlimited, and so is health; so instead of the usual recharging system, you have to shoot health-packs scattered around to top up your health bar, just like Granddad did with Tom Hanks.
Fiddly on the roof
Sadly, not everything in Arcade mode works quite as well as it could. For a start, there's no option to play through it with a pal (unlike all the other Wii light-gun shooters to date). Elsewhere, the sniper sections are fiddly as hell. In Campaign mode you can take your time, duck down, replenish your health and generally pick enemies off at your leisure, but in Arcade mode they require unreasonable levels of quick precision and the ability to memorise enemy spawn points. Any dillydallying on the way spells your doom, or, at best, a sliver of health with which to take on the next section. Checkpointing in both Arcade and Campaign is suspect and occasionally unfair. In a game as already tiresomely familiar as this, the last thing you want to do is repeat things.
Still, there are a few cute touches among the dubious debris. For instance, tuning in the enemy radio and hearing the results emanating from the Wii remote speaker had everyone smiling quizzically, while turning the remote to set the bomb timer and yanking it up to set it off adds a pleasant touch of daft fun to what would have otherwise been simple button presses. But before we start extending too much kindness, let's be mean again: Heroes 2 is among the most uninspiring takes on World War II imaginable. With just eight levels to trawl through across Northern France, longevity isn't even on the menu - but, then again, that's probably a good thing.
If you're really one of the committed/determined, then there's also the spurious notion of 32-player online play (given the small number of players on the servers, that's more in theory than something you'll find on offer). In its favour, getting online is relatively simple, assuming you have an EA Nation online account (an ancient one I'd used ages ago for playing FIFA on Xbox still worked - just type in your email address and it'll ping you a message with your user ID if you've completely forgotten), and proves that the Wii is a perfectly capable online gaming system when it's not confusing the hell out of everyone with friend's codes you'll never ever ever ever remember.
If you can get beyond EA's beloved Ts & Cs, what you'll find on offer is fairly ho-hum, if perfectly serviceable in a 'my first online shooter' kind of sense. By that, we mean Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and, of course, our old chum Capture the Flag (called Infiltration here), with six maps for DM and two for CTF. As anyone who's actually managed a full 32-player sortie will attest, the maps are way too small to accommodate that many players, so if you like the idea of people respawning right in front of you and enemies that absorb lots of damage before they die, step on up. Voice comms aren't an option, so actually communicating with your team is a bit of a hassle - especially as stopping to call up the preset menu of text commands is a faff and likely to get you killed.
If it were not for the mildly diverting antics possible in Arcade mode (and, at a push, online play), Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 would end up yet another half-hearted attempt to cash in on the Wii's success. Next to ageing titles like Frontlines and European Assault, it feels soulless, hastily cobbled together and depressingly formulaic. In its favour, the controls are very solid, and the game has enough polish to drag it into the realms of mindless playability, but that's not nearly enough to mask the insipid level design, sloppy AI and all-round feeling of contractual apathy surrounding this thoroughly mediocre effort.
5 / 10