Medal Of Honor: European Assault was way too complicated. All that rhubarb about 'open battlefields' and adrenaline (which made you invulnerable for a few seconds) just got on our nerves. But Vanguard, and we don't say this often, is a welcome step backwards for the series. It's classic MoH, linear, simple and tactical - a cheese and pickle sandwich to Call Of Duty's walnut and stilton focaccia roll. The combat is measured and slow-paced: you dart from cover to cover and take control of the battlefield inch by inch, just as you would in a real war. We, er, would imagine.
The game follows the adventures of the 82nd Airborne, a brave lot who helped capture Sicily from the Italians and parachuted directly into Germany towards the end of the war. There's some semblance of a plot but it's pretty inconsequential, serving only to set the scene than craft any kind of driving narrative. As ever, the levels are all based on real battles - namely, operations Husky, Market Garden and Varsity in Italy, Holland Germany respectively. It's refreshing to shoot someone other than Nazis for a change. The first mission sees you slotting Italians, for instance. Radically different, we know. The objectives are comprised of assaults on Nazi strongholds, blowing up tanks and planting charges on AA guns. It's all a bit predictable and it's been done a hundred times before but it's strangely endearing, a good old-fashioned FPS without any sodding vehicle sections or ruddy rhythm action minigames.
Dull but adequate
Shame it's so drab, though. The levels are bland and featureless and the textures are so flat they might as well not even be there. There are some nice bits - the parachute drops for example, which boast gorgeous sunlight effects and draw distances - but it really does look awful and it'll put a lot of people off.
But don't be a graphics-obsessed fool because Vanguard is rather good. Some of the set-pieces are raucous, thrilling affairs, with bullets clattering all over the place and shells exploding. It's also got some of the best battlefield screaming we've ever heard - the desperate, echoing cries of the Germans is enough to give you nightmares.
Vanguard isn't a very exciting game. It's just a good one. But it's too short. There are only about ten levels and you can easily finish it in a day, leaving it feeling a bit like an expansion pack to a bigger, better game. In some respects it is, because the forthcoming MoH: Airborne on PS3 features the same locations and missions, only with a different main character and, obviously, next-gen innovations. Vanguard is like a warm-up for the MoH series' return to form Well, we hope it will be. Rent this and wait for the shiny PS3 version.
Overall A good old-fashioned FPS. It looks scrappy and it's short on innovation, but the combat makes up for it.