It's getting a bit old in the tooth now, but Medal of Honor: Allied Assault still stands tall among the best PC first person shooters. No wonder, then, that EA - the master of the mission pack - has another one up its sleeve for a September release.
Developed by Santa Cruz-based TKO Software, Breakthrough is again set in the thick of World War II circa 1943/4 and boasts almost twice the playing time of the rather disappointing Spearhead expansion pack, with 11 single player missions taking in the fight for Kasserine Pass, then onto Messina (Sicily), Monte Cassino and the battle of Monte Battaglia. Meanwhile, nine multiplayer maps make it into the package encompassing the streets of Messina and Anzio Beach.
Shoot Nazis in the face. For hours.
We had a blast at both during our whistle stop tour of EA's vast product portfolio at Camp EA, and although the game is still at a pre-alpha stage it gave us a taste of what to expect when it ships in around two months time. Perhaps the most heartening aspect of this new episode is that it will last players a decent amount of time, with around 12 to 15 hours gameplay promised for the average campaigner. After the way-too-short Spearhead, this can only be a good thing for fans of the series.
Typically with all of EA's pre-release code, it's in a far slicker state than what most other publishers would consider 'pre-alpha', and all that appeared to need addressing were some balancing issues, which product manager Dave Rosen was only too happy to admit. In every respect it once again looks like a top quality FPS, although it's naturally beginning to show its age these days next to the likes of Valve and Id's new goodies.
Flicking through the game's first couple of missions it's clear that the heavily scripted formula that made Allied Assault such a compelling game has been fully retained, and you'll start off riding on the back of a Jeep driving through a night time sortie in North Africa on the way to the battle of Kasserine Pass. In a level with more than a passing nod to the Omaha beach level in Allied Assault, you find yourself guiding US Army Sergeant John Baker through an insanely hectic battlefield scenario, with German bullets whizzing past you, deafening explosions, near misses and all the confusion of red desert dust whipping up.
Tense nervous gameplay
It's a predictably nervy, tense affair, and sets the scene perfectly, and before long you're driving around in a tank trying to break through enemy lines. The next level was another night-time affair, with a relentless assault of enemies appearing out of the darkness, with typically scripted events like the arrival of a jeepful of enemy re-enforcements to lend more drama to what is otherwise a case of more of the same. Aficionados won't be disappointed.
Multiplayer-wise, the most interesting addition is the new Liberation mode. When you or a team-mate gets fragged in Liberation, you end up as a POW, and its up to your buddies to break you out of jail [a lot like Quake II's Jailbreak mod, then -Ed]. If you all end up in choky, it's game over. The Tug-Of-War and Objective modes make a comeback, while players get the choice of playing with US, British, Italian and German skins in all the multiplayer modes.
As ever, an authentic selection of weapons are there for the taking, including the British portable mortar, called the PIAT. Various other new weapons make an entrance such as the Italian SMG, the Moschetto Automatico Beretta MOD .38A, while players can also call in artillery and air strikes. Groovy.
Gagging for more?
Breakthrough isn't pretending to be anything more than an exercise in giving the people what they want, so anyone gagging for a new campaign for a cracking, albeit ageing FPS will get good value for money when this arrives in a couple of months.