EA delivers a WWII shooter like you've never played before.
At this point, finding somebody who can approach a World War II first person shooter with a fresh perspective is like finding objective jury members for the upcoming O. J. Simpson trial; everybody's been there, done that. We know too much. I've stormed more beaches than David Hasselhoff. I've destroyed anti-aircraft guns, freed POWs, blown up bridges, captured villages, shot cattle just to see if they'd fall over, and pretty much every other thing you can do in the WWII theatre. So every time a new WWII FPS comes out, it has to work that much harder to capture my attention. I'm happy to say that Medal of Honor Heroes 2 has reignited my zeal for Nazi extermination. While the game content is merely serviceable, the controls are the best of any console FPS I've ever played, and they singlehandedly turn an average experience into a special one.
The main campaign mode hearkens back to the earlier Medal of Honor games, when you were a lone soldier moving through a linear battlefield. Here you play as OSS Operative John Berg, tasked with infiltrating Normandy and wreaking havoc on Hitler's secret plans. In its set up and execution, MoHH2 doesn't even try to be original. You go through the same waypoint-driven hurdle-jumping as all the WWII games of yore. The difference is that in Heroes 2, every action feels new and more accurate than ever before. The controls are similar to this season's previous FPS standard-bearer, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Use the thumbstick to move, the pointer to aim and turn, and gestures to accomplish certain in-game tasks, like setting a timer or aiming a mortar. Everything is responsive; this is the first Wii game I've played where my gestures were always recognized correctly. It makes for such an immersive experience that accomplishing objectives I've already overplayed in previous games feels fresh and fun again. Best of all, the developers at Team Fusion included options for customization that allow for players to set the sensitivity and range of movement to their exact preferences. Every shooter on Wii should have this set of options.
If only the rest of the game were designed with the same sophistication. Clearly, despite it being one of the better looking Wii games, design decisions were made with the PSP in mind, as the game was developed for both platforms simultaneously. Don't expect any screen-shattering, scripted events or vast, chaotic battlefields. The spaces are small, and the battles are mostly skirmishes, providing ample CPU power for the game engine to do its thing at a steady 60 frames per second. But it's missing the gritty realism you've come to expect from today's war games. Enemies are particularly unrealistic; their movement is too fast, like a Charlie Chaplin movie, and they take copious amounts of damage before dying. When they do finally die, they dissolve instantly and disappear. I don't have any real problem with disappearing bodies, but give me a few seconds to admire the work I just did. The whole thing feels kind of outdated in what it's trying to accomplish, but what it does, it does very well. It's like a fantastic game from a previous era.
One thing not at all outdated is the stellar audio. Nearly all of EA's Wii releases have shined in this area, and Heroes might be the best sounding yet. I actually found myself looking forward to walking onto different types of surfaces because i wanted to hear what my footsteps sounded like. More music during gameplay would have been nice too, but what is there is appropriately solemn and intense. The graphics, while not up to the lofty standards of the audio, are still quite good. MoHH2 is definitely the prettiest WWII shooter on Wii. Textures are sharp, and lots of bloom lighting and distance blur keep everything soft and smooth. It runs in 480p, but there are small black bars on both sides of the screen if you're using an HDTV and playing in widescreen. It's unfortunate, but you don't really notice it once you start playing.
While the campaign is a tad on the short side, there's much more game to be had. 32-player online battles are indeed a reality on the Wii. The graphics are simplified a little, but otherwise it looks and plays just like the single player mode. Needless to say, with FPS controls these good, all the developers really needed to do was create some basic levels and game types for fun to be had. Well, that's pretty much all you get: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. It's simple, solid, and surprisingly addictive. The lack of chat, which is Nintendo's fault more than EA's, is inexcusable in this day and age. Team-based gameplay is dependent on communication for success. But for casual and lapsed FPS gamers, the no-frills multiplayer is actually less intimidating with its options so limited.
And if that's not enticing enough for the casual gamer, there is an Arcade mode as well. Players are taken through the campaign levels in a camera-controlled, light gun experience closer to something like Ghost Squad. It's a great value as an extra way to extend the life of the game, but it's not involved enough to be considered a full game in and of itself, like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. No, the Arcade mode of MoHH2 is more like a guided tour through the campaign levels for those family members who can't grasp the concept of moving and aiming independently. It seems obvious that this would have made a great party game by allowing four players to play along cooperatively, but for some reason there are no multiplayer options in Arcade mode.
As with all game types in Heroes 2, Arcade mode can be played with the Wii Zapper. For a more detailed look at this accessory, be sure to check out our hardware review. Someday we're going to look back on the Wii as representative of a time when Nintendo, flush with blue ocean success, indulged their plastic accessory fetish to an unnecessary degree. The Zapper, a shell that holds the Remote and Nunchuk in a clunky, vaguely gun-like manner, detracts from gameplay more than it adds.
If I had to pick one game to compare this one to, it actually wouldn't be another WWII shooter. It would be Goldeneye 007 on the N64. From the shooting gallery feel of the campaign AI to the simple but addictive multiplayer mode, the similarities are undeniable. Goldeneye was a great game, and Medal of Honor Heroes 2 stands shoulder to shoulder with it in nearly every way. But a game released in 2007 really shouldn't be making me feel like it's 1998 all over again. When a developer is able to marry the perfect controls of this game with content and gameplay that are equally polished, we'll really have something. And judging by Team Fusion's admirable first effort on Wii, they might just be the developers to do it.