June 1944. You land on the beach and before you can even aim your weapon, the bullets are whizzing past your ears. Then, with the shells pelting down on the sand, you have to meet up with your general before playing your part in the battle that was to change the course of the Second World War.
That was Medal Of Honor: Allied Assault, the game that was to change the course of EA's war series forever. Then came Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun, and although the Pearl Harbour opening level made a valiant effort to match the intensity of the D-Day landings, the subsequent jungle missions were very poor. So, shellshocked by that experience, EA went back to basics with Medal Of Honor: European Assault. Sadly, for its Wii debut, Medal Of Honor is playing it safe again.
Wii controls aside, Vanguard doesn't really offer anything new or exciting and it certainly can't match Call Of Duty 3 for intensity. Even the opening level - usually Medal Of Honor's forte - is a bit timid as you and your fellow 82nd Airborne Division troops parachute into Sicily at night. Pushing forward the Remote and Nunchuk you can choose where to land but that's as exciting as the parachuting gets. Upon landing, some soldiers will attempt to shoot you but if you were expecting the usual barrage of enemy gunfire you'll be disappointed.
Then you work your way through buildings with your team, shooting enemies and picking up weapons beforetaking charge of the boat house. It's all very linear but that wouldn't be a concern if, as in Call Of Duty 3, you felt like you were fighting in a real war. In a real war we'd imagine that you'd get killed if you ran out of ammo, but if you're careless with your bullets here you can just amble back through the level and look for stray weapons you might have missed.
As you turn your back on the battle your team will stay on the frontline. Yet when you return, nothing has changed - the enemy are still there and although your men haven't shot anybody, no one on your team will have been killed.
Your team will often get in your way, obscuring your vision when you're trying to shoot through a doorway. Then there's this ridiculous moment where you have to defend the safe house by shooting the Italians from the windows. So you take your position at an open window only to be barged out of the way by one of your men who's been scripted to go there. You might as well go solo.
The only time you'll actually feel like you're on the frontline of a real war is in the final mission, Operation Varsity. Suddenly, upon making your landing in Germany, the action steps up and it's hard work as you get stuck in some intense shoot-outs in tunnels and factories. With the bullets flying and explosions going off it offers everything a war game should but it's all too late and it leaves you wondering why this level of action wasn't on offer in the rest of the game.
Operation Varsity is the only place where Medal Of Honor: Vanguard excels, but that's not to say that it's the worst war game ever. The Wii controls are good, the old weapons still feel nicely cumbersome and it's always satisfying blasting a World War II tank with a bazooka or getting a one-hit kill with a shotgun to the head.
On The Frontline
Also, unlike Call Of Duty 3, there's a multiplayer mode with split-screen deathmatches and three different takes on the standard Capture The Flag idea. Then there are the medals and the resulting bonuses to earn by completing missions without getting killed or using all the weapons in a battle (and so on). It's hard to hate World War II shooters, as no matter how average the production it's always enjoyable fighting in famous battles we've seen so many times in the movies. But while Medal Of Honor: Vanguard is an okay wartime blast, it's an all-too familiar fight. With more new ideas, better visuals and more intense action it would have a chance, but at the moment Call Of Duty 3