Medal of Honor Vanguard
Here Wii go again.
It's Friday, you've just been paid and you want a new game for your Wii. We know, we understand; it's been a bit barren for the last couple of months, after all. So for the benefit of those popping in to see if we've reviewed MOH on the Wii before heading down to their local game emporium, here's the executive summary:
Don't bother. It's crap.
Got a couple more minutes on your hands? Allow us to explain.
There's a theory, as yet unproven, that the Wii will be a great console for FPS games, and occasionally we see a glimmer of that promise shining through. The otherwise utterly execrable Far Cry: Vengeance had a surprisingly well balanced control mechanism, let down somewhat by the fact that there was nothing interesting to see or shoot at. The upcoming Metroid Prime 3 has worked extremely well on its various demo outings.
So we think that FPS games might be pretty good on Wii, with a bit of tweaking to the mechanics of the hoary old genre. Unfortunately, like fat people shovelling pomegranate seeds into their mouths because some scientists somewhere said they might be quite good for you under certain circumstances, publishers have leapt on this cautious endorsement of the Wiimote for first-person blasting as a license to launch every FPS franchise in the arsenal on the console.
The result is predictable. It's the painfully average Call of Duty 3 - now with murkier textures and nonsensical control scheme! It's the utterly awful Far Cry Vengeance. And reduced to the role of camp follower for Activision's CoD series (despite being the daddy of the WW2 FPS genre), here comes Medal of Honor Vanguard - cresting the hill, and bringing with it perhaps the most generic collection of World War 2 videogame cliches we've ever seen in a single game.
That's not a good thing.
The idea behind Vanguard (aside from "quick, get a game out for the Wii! It's what all the cool kids are buying!") is that you are one of the grunts of the 82nd Airborne Division, who parachute in to soften up an area before the main assault. This, sadly, is basically an excuse to shuttle you around between the various generic encounters you'll remember from every WW2 game you've ever played. You'll find yourself hauling your way through a bombed out French village, clambering through trenches surrounded by snipers to clear a path for your unit, attaching charges to artillery guns, being handed a rocket launcher just in time to take down a couple of tanks, capturing a field command bunker and then defending it against an assault...
... Just like you have in countless games over the last ten years. If you've somehow missed out on the proliferation of Call of Medals For Brothers Honorably doing their Duty in Arms titles in the last decade, this may actually seem fresh and interesting - but you'll probably be far too busy marvelling at how blue the sky is now that you've moved that giant rock to care about Wii games very much.
As for those of us who have mown down the entire population of Germany at least seven times over in recent years, suffice it to say that not only does Vanguard offer nothing you haven't done five times before, it also doesn't do it remotely as well as other titles have. The AI of enemy soldiers is painfully, utterly, desperately stupid (and the AI of your colleagues is little better). The environments are dull, linear and uninteresting. The sole point of interest is the fact that you parachute in to the various encounters - which is quite cool, allowing you to control the 'chute by moving the Wiimote and nunchuck like the ropes of a real parachute. That, in fact, is the high point of the game. It's a shame it happens all of about, oh, twice.
But... It's a Wii game, right? So even if the levels are badly designed, the encounters are dull, and the objectives are exactly the same as 20 other games, surely the addition of Wiimote controls is an automatic injection of pure fun, distilled directly from the DNA of Shigeru Miyamoto himself? That's the magic of the Wii, isn't it?
Just in case the sarcasm in the above paragraph isn't quite apparent enough, the answer is "no".
The Wii control system used by Medal of Honor is badly conceived, and badly implemented to boot. It's not quite as painful as the system in Call of Duty 3, granted, and for the most part you can aim pretty accurately at the targets you're trying to hit - although then you just get frustrated by the fact that weapons in the game don't appear to be capable of shooting straight. However, in what smacks of a desperate attempt to shoe-horn functions onto the motion control system, EA's developers have also chosen to stick functions like reloading, crouching and jumping onto the nunchuck - with often tooth-grindingly frustrating results.
So for example, to reload in the heat of a firefight... Wave the nunchuck right. Riiight. To crouch, wave it down, to rise, wave it up. Credit where credit is due, the game also allows you to wave right to do an immediate 180 degree turn, which fixes a key problem with the turning speed in Wii FPS titles. However, it's all too easy to trigger these actions either by accident, or when trying to do something else. Developers take note; players aren't actually likely to see the funny side in trying to reload while behind cover, only to jump into the air and turn your back to the enemy instead. At least not when it happens for the fifth time.
While the Wiimote doesn't add anything to the game, largely because the developers don't really seem to have thought very hard about how to adapt their game to Nintendo's controller, the underpowered graphics hardware of the console definitely takes away from the experience. It should be very clear by now that gritty realism isn't what the Wii does, but MOH Vanguard insists on following the same dark-brown-and-grey colour scheme that every WW2 game has used since the original MOH - to disastrous effect. Textures are murky, ugly and low resolution. Animation is jerky, models are low-detail and blocky, and the whole thing runs at a low, albeit stable, framerate. The game aims for some kind of PS2 era excuse for photorealism, and comes out looking utterly awful.
On the plus side, the music is quite good - with the solid orchestral themes of the Medal of Honor series being repeated here in a competent and sometimes even stirring way. The presentation in general is solid, in fact; it's just that the package at the heart of it all is very, very poor.
Medal of Honor Vanguard gives us the worst kind of deja vu - bringing back memories of the dreadful games which were dumped unceremoniously onto the DS in the first year of its life, when publishers thought they could get away with putting weak ports of existing franchises onto the handheld. This is no different. EA has shoe-horned a PS2 game onto the Wii with little thought for what the platform is actually meant to do, and lo and behold - the result is a distinctly below average, derivative, boring and badly implemented mess. It won't hurt your Wii to gather dust for a while longer. Avoid this game.